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Facebook launches Instant Articles, touting faster mobile load times

A new feature aims to improve the frequently frustrating process of waiting for a story to load from users' news feeds.

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Facebook's Instant Articles promises faster loading news articles and interactive features on its mobile app. Facebook

Facebook on Tuesday took the wraps off a new feature it promises will yield faster load times for news stories and interactive features on users' mobile devices.

Facebook says Instant Articles aims to address the often frustrating experience of waiting for an article to materialize after clicking on a link in the Facebook feed. The social-networking giant says the new feature will improve the load times of news stories on its mobile app to as much as 10 times faster than most articles on the mobile web.

Along with the faster load times, the program will include a suite of features such as interactive maps, image zoom, autoplay videos and audio captions. Among the other sites partnering on the feature are The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian and BBC News.

"Fundamentally, this is a tool that enables publishers to provide a better experience for their readers on Facebook," Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said in a statement. "Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models."

The move is aimed at improving the user experience and keeping users more engaged on the world's largest social network. Previously, users clicking on a news story on Facebook's feed would be taken to the news publication's website, adding additional time as that site loads and taking users away from the social network.

As with all social networks, mobile is a key arena for Facebook. More than 85 percent of the people who log into Facebook's service each day now do so from a mobile device. Of Facebook's $3.32 billion in revenue derived from advertising for its first quarter, ended March 31, the company said that 73 percent came from ads shown on mobile devices. That figure was 59 percent a year ago.

Besides getting more prompt attention for their articles, content publishers should also benefit from increased ad revenue. Facebook's plan allows publishers to sell ads with their content and keep the money. The feature will also allow publishers to track user data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.

Facebook said it is launch the feature on its iPhone app but made no mention when it would be available on its Android version. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.