5 min

Facebook's Instant Articles do not help the Open Web

(Nor the #Indieweb which is the term that I prefer.)

I enjoy reading Dave Winer's blog posts that are related to blogging and other technologies. I don't have to agree with him all the time.

Two recent DW posts:

I think that Instant Articles only works when viewing Facebook on the phone.

I tested this last spring when Facebook made the initial announcement, and NatGeo had their bee article in IA format. I think that was the reason why I installed the Facebook app on my phone. I have since deleted the app.

Facebook's Instant Articles feature does not work when viewing Facebook with a web browser on a desktop/laptop. And IA does not work when using a mobile web browser.

IA only works when using a mobile app on a phone. I'm unsure about a tablet.

A native app is not the open web.

The web and the internet are not the same. The internet is the network, and the web is one of the many "programs" or protocols that use the internet.

The internet is the highway. The web is one of the automobiles, riding on the highway.

A native app uses the internet. The web uses the internet.

My May 2015 post about IA:


Instant Articles is only a mobile app.

Also from that May 2015 post, the initial supporters of IA:

When viewing those IA links within a desktop/laptop web browser or a phone web browser, the info gets displayed like a normal article post. Nothing special happens. When clicked, I'm taken to the publisher's website.

An internet-based native mobile app is required to view Instant Articles. This is not the open web.

I read DW's site by not going to his site. I read his content here, within JotHut by consuming DW's "normal" RSS feed.


JotHut offers the feed command to embed the content of RSS feeds within the site. (No space between the first and second opening curly brace.)

{ {feed=http://scripting.com/rss.xml desc}}

The "desc" attribute is optional. Without it, only the titles are displayed.

Some publishers, like DW, put the entire content of their articles in their RSS feeds. Some include only an opening snippet, like the Toledo Blade local news feed, which is embedded here with { {feed=http://www.toledoblade.com/rss/local desc}}


DW's Facebook-flavored Instant Articles feed is:

When I use DW's FB IA RSS feed here at JotHut, only the titles are displayed, even when I included the 'desc' attribute.

DW said:

Summary: Facebook is using open web technology to power Instant Articles.

RSS is the open web, but Instant Articles is not. Maybe we are both right.

If I'm required to install an app on my phone to read your content, then I say, "No thanks," and I move on. It's a big web. World wide, maybe. Plenty of web sites exist to read.

Is Instant Articles using a Facebook-flavored RSS feed?

DW now has two RSS feeds for his blog posts. Here is the feed that I use here to read his posts:

Comparing the two RSS feeds, the <title> tag is used the same way.

In DW's normal RSS feed, the article text is displayed within the <description> tag.

In DW's Facebook-flavored RSS feed, the article text is displayed within the <content:encoded> tag.

Obviously, the RSS/Atom module that I use here or my code is not looking for the content:encoded tag. If it's my code, then it would be a simple change. But I don't need to make that change.

Some indieweb publishers do not create RSS feeds. They use microformats within their HTML output. It's up to feed reader developers to adjust and support these different formats. I have not created a feed reader that supports parsing microformats. I'll just visit their sites directly. I'm still old school and prefer normal RSS.


Anyway, I don't see a <content:encoded> tag in the RSS 2.0 spec:

Excerpts from:

This is an example of an RSS 2.0 feed optimized for Instant Articles:

<description>This is my first Instant Article. How awesome is this?</description>
(The full content of your article, in HTML form.)

It used both the description tag and, I'm assuming, the Facebook-flavored <content:encoded> tag.

I don't know.

PageFrog authored the above Medium post. All users at Medium have an RSS feed.


Medium uses:
<![CDATA[ ...

No <content:encoded> tag.

DW wrote:

Here's a list of examples of services and products that I would love to see support IA.

DW wants other companies to support what I'm calling the Facebook-flavored RSS feed.

Twitter is a news system and RSS is a perfect fit for news. When I publish to my IA feed, I'd like Twitter to read it every three minutes, and post new messages to my timeline and update existing ones, according to what's in the feed, exactly as Facebook does. Twitter, is in this context, a consumer of IA feeds.

Medium can and should imho play the same role. That means I could tell Medium where my IA feed is, and it would keep it in sync with stories on their site. Medium does now support inbound syndication, but when a post is updated, the version on Medium is not updated, at this time. IA provides a perfect mechanism to do this. I would love to see them support it.

WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger should clearly support IA as emitters.

An RSS reader such as Feedly could support IA, for a better mobile user experience, perhaps

DW wants some services to consume and create Facebook-flavored RSS feeds.

How about Twitter creating a Twitter-flavored RSS feed, and Medium creating a Medium-flavored RSS feed, and so on?

We have a zillion flavors of Markdown, and that works great.

If Facebook Instant Articles truly supported the open web (indieweb), then IA would work within web browsers and not only within mobile native apps.

#socialmedia #web #mobile #app #blog_jr

By JR - 1007 words
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