Facebook is bringing Instant Articles, which launched back in May on iPhone in the U.S. and Western Europe, to Android devices in India as of Monday. This, according to comments given to Mint by two Facebook executives.
Instant Articles enables faster loading of articles for selected publishers within Facebook news feeds, as well as high-resolution photos that users can zoom in on and explore by tilting their phones. It also includes interactive features such as auto-play videos, maps, and listenable audio captions.
Andy Mitchell, Facebook’s director for news and global media partnerships, and Michael Reckhow, Facebook’s product manager for Instant Articles, said the five publications chosen for the India launch are India Today, The Quint, Aaj Tak, Hindustan Times, and The Indian Express. More publishers will be invited to join from early next year.
As a reminder, Instant Articles launched in the U.S. on iPhone with the following nine publications: The Atlantic, BBC News, Bild, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, National Geographic, NBC, The New York Times, and Spiegel. That number has since grown to around 20.
The choice of India as a launch market for Instant Articles on Android is a no-brainer. Facebook now has 130 million users in the country — an emerging market dominated by cheap Android devices rather than the more premium iPhones. And, like many, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is very bullish on India.
“We are launching in India on Android, as the country is a heavy Android user market. Besides, Android is designed to be fast; so articles load quickly on Android and thus can be quickly read,” Reckhow said.
It’s not yet clear when Instant Articles will come to iPhones in India, though Facebook did hint at a wider Android rollout back in October. India appears to be the first wave of that promise.
“We at Facebook are really excited to be rolling out Instant Articles in India on Monday,” Mitchell said. “We are working with a publisher ecosystem that is varied, and we are excited to see how this product will resonate with Facebook users and publishers in India… We have just started our Android beta and are immediately coming to India with great partners, which is a big milestone for us.”
It’s not all been smooth sailing for Instant Articles, though. According to The Wall Street Journal last week, Facebook is “experimenting with new advertising approaches for its Instant Articles platform, after publishers encountered challenges generating ad revenue because of restrictions imposed by the social network.”
We’ve reached out to Facebook for further comment on the India launch.