Articles tagged facebook

In the years since Apple hastened the end of the Flash interface, and along with it Flash’s culture and community of user experience innovators, we have seen the mobile web evolve into so many uniform, joyless experiences that turn users off. This is the admission that Facebook made a couple weeks ago when it launched Facebook Instant Articles - its new proprietary publishing platform that is designed to free publishers from the constraints of the mobile web and to once again create immersive and innovative content that captivates users.

Because Facebook is the King Kong of distribution channels it has often found itself in the unique position of wanting to argue philosophically for an open web, while simultaneously having the most to lose in its failure to deliver a compelling experience. Financially speaking, Facebook exists to serve you ads, and while you wait for pages to load or leave the app entirely due to an amputated attention span, less ads are served. This chasm between low-grade mobile experiences and financial success has resulted in Facebook’s (and others like them) move away from standards-based mobile development, and toward more stable and desirable native Android and iOS experiences. Despite early promises to beach it’s ship on the receding tide of a standardized mobile web, Facebook has time and again drawn the same conclusion that we all have intuitively — users prefer a native app.

So for Facebook’s 745 million daily mobile users, the implications of Facebook Instant Articles are clear. Facebook is where most people go to get their news, and the news experience will be far better with Instant Articles. It will be faster, more intuitive, and more immersive. It will be closer to the experiences that the Flash community was imagining in the pre-Flex days, and closer to the experiences Apple was promising - to both publishers and to consumers - in the early iPad days. Remember Al Gore’s, Our Choice? Facebook Instant Articles will play to our natural lusts for images, videos, and the ability to “tap around” our news versus just reading it.

For publishers, the implications are fairly clear as well. The shared goal of Facebook and its publishers is to create more engagement with the content and thereby to lengthen a user’s session. The format and the tools for accomplishing this will open up new creative opportunities for publishers, and allow them to think outside the constraints of a standard mobile website. The downside for the publisher, however, is managing yet another delivery platform - this one based entirely on what Facebook decides to prioritize. Managing content across devices is already a significant challenge. Now publishers may need to start thinking about managing content across apps and operating systems, as well as the potentially more murky business arrangement between content owners, content distributors, and advertising partners.

And for Facebook, the implications are somewhat less clear. For certain, extending the user session accomplishes an important goal in Facebook’s business model. However, researching, building and maintaining a publishing platform of this potential magnitude seems like a significant step to take in order to achieve the reported 7-second shave off of average load times for news articles - a lag, by-the-way, that is so far technically inexplicable. It’s almost ridiculous to think that this miraculous new speed, along with better designed content, would be the only motivation for Facebook to make such an investment. It makes me think the real business-impacting news is yet to come.

So what about the mobile web? What are the implications for responsive web sites, mobile advertising, and non-native experiences in general? I asked my LinkedIn and Twitter communities to send me examples of mobile websites that they would consider innovative. I received exactly zero examples. It seems clear at this point that the mobile experience will be dominated by native apps, not mobile websites. What Facebook Instant Articles does is potentially hasten that end. Facebook will create an environment where some of the world’s largest publishers - most of whom are already publishing content to their own native apps - will be creating and delivering content using a proprietary set of tools on a proprietary content platform. If users love it, the shift will be significant.

Almost a decade ago, convinced of its monstrosity, Steve Jobs chased Flash up a windmill and burned it alive for running counter to an espoused HTML5/open web ethos. And in the years since, we have indeed seen the mobile experience evolve into fertile ground for innovation and engagement. This ground, however, does not exist in the open web as Jobs imagined, but rather in the walled gardens of so many native mobile applications. Facebook Instant Articles, as a proprietary platform, is a potentially significant land grab of valuable web content and with it, a significant new share of user attention.

’s not a unique situation. Google is laying its own fiber in various cities. Facebook is buying up dark fiber (underground cables that aren’t being used anymore) to better control data flow and to expand its network into new areas.

In other words, not only did digital service providers muscle telecoms out of lucrative digital services by using the telecom’s own pipe, now the digital service providers are now muscling telecoms away from the pipes themselves.

In more other words, the ones this time of Michael Murphy, president and CEO of telecom consultancy NEF in the above-linked Wired article, “It’s going to get interesting. Who is the real telecommunications provider? It’s going to take some of their business away.”

Video the Facebook Way

Posted by Jason Ocker

Internet video is pretty much on its way to becoming, well, the Internet. Cisco says Internet video will account for 84% of all U.S. Internet traffic in four years, up from its current 78%. According to YouTube, more than 400 hours of video content were uploaded to its platform every minute last year. And, of course, marketers have a lot to say about the topic. Here’s a mess of stats around it.

But I bring it up here not so much to talk about Internet video, but to talk about video on Facebook, which if Zuckerberg and Co. have their way, is also headed to being, “well, the Internet.”

Facebook seems to be changing how we consume video, in both small and large ways. For instance, here’s a surprising stat: 85% of video watched on Facebook is without sound. That’s right, Facebook is sending us back to the silent film days.

From a certain perspective this makes sense. We’re on the Internet approximately 100% of the time, but not always alone with it. Video sound popping up at work or on the bus or while watching TV is annoying to us and rude to others. So I can see us silently checking out the video, reading the closed captions, and moving on in our perpetual Internet grazing. But I also wonder how much of that 85% is just autoplaying video on devices with the sound turned down already (because who knows when random video ads will start playing on any tab we have open). Facebook users could be playing the video without even knowing it as they scroll through their feeds.

But it’s not just that Facebook is causing us to watch video without sound. Facebook wants us to skip ahead to the good parts…on live video. They’re doing that with their Facebook Live offering by measuring the comments and emoji reactions to the stream. When a part of a live stream gets a lot of reaction, Facebook marks it as a “good part,” and lets latecomers to the stream jump right there without having to sit through the boring bits.

And then of course, there’s Facebook’s heavy investment in virtual reality, what with the Oculus Rift and all, which will change video in ways that we can’t yet foresee.

But what these changes point to is that Facebook is making video more consumable. The worst thing about video on the Internet is that you have to consume it at the pace of the video, while the rest of the Internet is consumable at your own pace.

Now if we can only figure out a way around starting a video with a video ad.

Photo credit: Travis Ekmark

"One Second on the Internet"

Posted by Jason Ocker

Not much to say about this one other than your favorite expletive. The website “One Second on the Internet” purports to show and give some visual perspective to how much activity is happening on the Internet, in real-time. This includes reddit votes, Instagram uploads, Tumblr posts, Skype calls, tweets, Dropbox uploads, Google searches, YouTube views, and Facebook likes.

Let’s just say it’s a lot.

And I’m not sure if it’s a wave that’s fun to surf or one that will drown us all. Can be both, I guess.

Streams of Data Endlessly Intersecting

Posted by Jason Ocker

Streams of Data Endlessly Intersecting

On Friday, TIME columnist Joel Stein tweeted, “Quitting Facebook is just the new ‘I don’t own a TV.’” I’m not sure what that makes, “I’m not on Twitter,” but the comment stood out to me since two days before I’d read Farhad Manjoo’s Slate piece on how parallel TV and Facebook are…in the realm of advertising.

When we talk about Internet ads, the conversation generally devolves into phrases like click-through rates and costs per click and other phrases that shrink the collective soul of the human race by so many nanometers every time they’re mentioned.

Internet ads have historically (and I mean back to the time of King Richard III) been held to a different and unique standard not applied for billboards and television and newspaper ads and anything else you can’t click on (yet). And, of course, it’s a flawed standard, since it’s already turned cliché that the only time you click on an Internet ad is by accident.

And the same criticisms are often launched with demonic glee at Facebook ads. Except that Facebook ads work. Just not in the traditional Internet way…in the traditional advertising way. According to Manjoo:

In the 1970s and ’80s, advertisers and analytics firms like Nielsen came up with a variety of ways to analyze ads on the tube. Among other things, they instituted standardized measurements to compare TV to other media—like “gross ratings points”—and, after surveying consumers’ purchases, they figured out how people’s TV viewing affected their buying habits. Today, thanks to a practice known as “mix modeling,” the return on TV advertising is exquisitely measurable. Large advertisers like Procter & Gamble know exactly how much they’re getting out of it…

Now Facebook is trying to bring to the Web same rigorous metrics that have ruled brand advertising on television. “We’re trying to create industry standards around how people advertise online,” says Brad Smallwood, the Facebook vice president in charge of its measurement and insights team. At the core of this work is Facebook’s partnership with Datalogix…What they came up with was a Rube Goldbergian system that strips out personally identifiable information from the databases at Facebook, Datalogix, and the major retailers while still matching people and their purchases.

The truth is, ads work wherever there are enough eyeballs. And these days, there are more eyeballs focused on Facebook as on TV. Also, that we’re all just streams of data endlessly intersecting.

That tightness in your chest is just your soul constricting just a bit. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.

Photo credit: Trey Ratcliff, Flickr