Open Source is the Next Focus on Facebook's Agenda

By Joe Rizzo December 05, 2013

Facebook has spent quite a bit of time making sure that everyone knows that it is a mobile company. In fact, it spent close to a year and a half in doing so. This was the first step on Facebook’s agenda. It seems that the second step is to be an open source company.

James Pearce, from Facebook’s Open Source team, revealed that the next front is to push all the retooling and development that Facebook has been doing over the past 18 month period to the open source community.

On Dec. 4, Facebook had an engineering whiteboard discussion to which the press was invited. According to ZDNet, it was here that Pearce suggested that Facebook's motivation could be described as "enlightened benevolence," meaning sharing "what we're working on with the world of developers."

On the mobile side of the agenda, I will put out to you want Facebook has said and you can be the judge as to what kind of sense it makes. Christian Legnitto, who is manager of the mobile release team at Facebook, talked about the company's most recent SEC filings. These filings indicated that Facebook has already experienced 874 million monthly active users and 507 million daily active users to-date.

He then went on to say, "This means that Facebook is mobile. But it also means that mobile is Facebook." I’m not exactly sure how having 507 million daily active users definitively relates to be “mobile” but Legnitto’s theory is that the growth of either depends on a now-symbiotic relationship.

Facebook has built quite a few resources in-house. One example that was sited is Buck. It is a build tool for Android and generic Java support. The platform is supposed to be able to build Instagram in less than 20 seconds.

Another in-house resource is Rebound. This is a tool for developing spring animations for Android and the Web. It is designed to seem "natural." It is said that the most obvious reflection of this for most Facebook users is Chat Heads. It is a tiny image representing Facebook images that can be tossed across the screen haphazardly.

Facebook is not only developing in-house resources for Android. It also has a very heavy iOS user base. Legnitto expressed grief over the fact that mobile development tools made for Apple are focused on individual developers and teams up to five people or so. Legnitto commented, "At our scale, stuff like that starts to fall down.”

Two of the open source resources that Facebook uses are Git and Buildbot. These are used for continuous integration, they designed to look for bugs before “a human hand can get them.” Legnitto said, "Facebook really wants to ship. We want to move fast and iterate."

According to Pearce, “We’re only one percent done.” This is in relation to the number of open source projects that Facebook is currently working on. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 public projects already in Facebook’s portfolio with 65,000 watchers, 15,000 forks and 2,600 contributors from 56 companies.

Most of these projects are currently out on GitHub. There are also a couple of open source projects out on Bitbucket and Apache.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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