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Google and Twitter Team Up to Offer Their Own 'Instant Articles' -- With a Twist

Like Facebook, Apple and Snapchat -- but different.

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Google and Twitter are working together to help publishers show “instant articles” to people who use their services on mobile phones.

The plan, which is supposed to launch with a small group of publishers this fall, is an effort to make it easier for publishers to distribute their stuff on mobile devices. It is also a response to similar pushes from Facebook, Apple and Snapchat.

The idea, according to multiple sources, is that Twitter users or Google search users who click on a link while using their phones will see full articles pop up on their screens almost immediately, instead of having to wait several seconds.

One big difference between those efforts and this one: Google and Twitter are creating their publishing tools as an open source project, and hope to convince multiple tech companies to adopt it.

“The world needs an answer to proprietary instant articles, and Twitter and Google could provide it,” said a person familiar with the companies’ thinking. Google and Twitter reps declined to comment.

Another difference between the Google/Twitter plan and other mobile publishing projects is that Google and Twitter won’t host publishers’ content. Instead, the plan is to show readers cached Web pages — a “snapshot of [a] webpage,” in Google’s words — from publishers’ sites.

That distinction may not mean much to users, but it may be important to both publishers and the tech companies that show their stuff — and particularly for Google, which is sensitive to charges that it is trying to host more content instead of sending search users to other sites.

European publishers, in particular, have been pointedly hostile to Google’s practice of placing snippets of news stories in search results.

UPDATE: Another upside for Google is that the cached Web pages will display the original ads the publisher sold next to the story, says a person who has discussed the idea with Google. In theory, that makes the ads — which could have been served by Google, or by other ad vendors — more valuable. Or, at least, it helps them retain their value. That’s important for Google as Facebook swallows up an increasing amount of the mobile ad market.

Unlike projects like Facebook’s Instant Articles or Apple’s upcoming News app, Google and Twitter won’t present their answer as a branded product. Internally, the companies are describing the plan as “accelerated mobile pages,” though that name may change before launch.

Google, Twitter and the publishers they are talking to haven’t hammered out business terms yet, say people familiar with the discussions. Facebook and Apple let publishers keep 100 percent of the revenue for ads they sell on their hosted articles, and give publishers the majority of the ad revenue for the ads the tech platforms sell.

The fact that Google and Twitter are working together — which they have also done before — is likely to generate more chatter about the possibility of Google acquiring Twitter. But that doesn’t mean a deal is likely.

This article originally appeared on

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