On Facebook’s Instant Articles
Getting media organizations to care about speed and UX is great.
However, what worries me is that platforms are building these great tools but only giving access to a select group of “brands.” If these tools aren’t given to everyone then it kills the web as a tool of free, accesible expression. It becomes an expensive, Pay-to-Play Premium Experience™, or one you can’t join unless you’re part of the cool-kid club with huge reach.
This doesn’t empower smaller voices — The people who make up those millions of MAUs — in these digital town squares. The social web was supposed to allow anyone to publish, give everyone a voice, but products like Instant Articles dampen the volume on everyone but the loudest.
It creates a class system. That, to me, is ultimately bad for the product. You need to have accessible paths to becoming a power user, and this type of platform-hosted content is inaccessible to the mom-and-pop blogs of the world. It means only established voices will get the speed & nice UX, which means more amplification. It buries the competition. You’d only even get to play with the tools if you are employed by a partner like BuzzFeed, National Geographic, or The Guardian.
It’s as if Facebook and Snapchat are trying to become more like a TV model. TV dominated for almost 100 years, but it was never truly accessible for letting the masses broadcast what they wanted. Yes there was/is public access TV, but the barrier to entry was restrictive enough. So when the Internet came along, it was accessible — instantly. People flocked to it, because it was open and because they could do what they want and reach other people with the same tools. It seems weird to me to take a platform that succeeded because of its openness and restrict it. You are shooting yourself in the foot, limiting your potential.
So while I’m excited by the design, and the focus media organizations will now place on speed and UX (long overdue!), I feel like this new evolution of exclusive platform-hosted media will be bad for public networks, the people in them, and for the foundational technology behind them. People will turn to anything that is more open, more inclusive, and gives us better access to each other, not just the branded news.
We should be building more tech and communities that empower everyone, not just the largest fish.
I normally hate it when people just point out flaws in something with no solutions. And while I have some ideas, I’m still formulating them for another post. If you have ideas on how to make media more open, accessible, and sustainable, I’d love to hear from you.