How does Facebook run so smoothly?
LIKE IT or loathe it, Facebook has become an integral part of many people’s lives. In September, the site crossed a new milestone, reaching one billion monthly users.
But it’s not just membership, it’s activity. Every day half a billion people log in to Facebook. Each of these users has their own personalised news feed, with data drawn from their network of friends, and it’s refreshing from second to second.
Vice-president of engineering Mike Schroepfer’s job is to ensure the smooth running of Facebook. Large-scale outages are few and far between, so much so that when they do happen, it makes international news.
“Our goal is to make it not seem hard, so when you use the product it’s very seamless,” he says. “But there’s a lot of technical work behind it to make it scale.
“Everyone using the product gets a totally different experience, and even second by second it’s a different experience. As more people use Facebook, those interconnections get deeper, so there are more things happening in your network, updating more frequently.”
In 2008, Schroepfer moved from Mozilla, where he worked on the Firefox browser, to join the growing social network.
Back then, Facebook had only a fraction of the users it currently boasts. In December 2007, official figures put the site’s total at 58 million users.
Everyone who starts in Facebook’s engineering team goes through a process known as bootcamp, a six-week introduction to the company and how it works.
Staff are encouraged to work on projects that they are not only good at, but that interest them, which Schroepfer believes is a large part in building a productive workforce.
“This isn’t a recreational activity. We’re trying to run a company and trying to build products. We have a very strong opinion of what we think is important and what’s in scope and out of scope for the company, and we try to communicate that very clearly to new hires and the company in every instant,” he says.