Facebook Boston Grows to 100 People, Expands Networking Projects

Xconomy Boston — 

Facebook’s Boston-area office is about three years old, and seems to be hitting a critical mass. With a headcount of about 100, the engineering center is supporting some of the company’s most visible products—as well as leading projects that could pay off further down the road.

The local office—at One Broadway in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA—is adding 2,000 square feet, bringing the total space up to 18,500 square feet, says Ryan Mack, Facebook Boston’s site lead. The space could fit up to 150 people, Mack says, but there’s no specific plan to fill it yet. The team is currently hiring “senior technical talent,” he says.

The four main computing thrusts of the group are compilers (which translate programs into machine code), security, data storage, and networking. That last one is getting a boost today, as Mack is announcing three new projects in networking. The first is a telecommunications infrastructure project, to figure out how to build next-generation data networks with telecom companies. The second is on high-speed wireless Internet deployment for densely populated urban environments, using infrastructure like cell towers. And the third is on content delivery networks and “client-side traffic infrastructure,” which focuses on how to deliver robust and reliable video to wireless devices, no matter what kind of network they’re on. (That would compete with the likes of Akamai, which has been pushing into other areas like cloud security.)

The first two are longer-range projects “about connecting the world,” Mack says; indeed, global connectivity is on the company’s 10-year roadmap. But the one about content delivery is meant to impact today’s Facebook users who are accessing video on different types of devices and networks.

Mack declined to say how many local employees are working on networking, or on the other efforts. He did say, “It’s an area we are looking to grow aggressively.” And he adds that Facebook is “trying to build a technological underpinning that doesn’t exist at this cost point or scale,” and that “this isn’t going to be landing in the next few weeks.”

Asked how Facebook Boston is currently impacting the mothership, Mack gave a few examples, mostly around supporting product development and deployment and improving the efficiency of software development. Facebook’s Marketplace, which rolled out this month to help users buy and sell things locally, uses the Boston team’s work on data storage and location-based features, he says. And Facebook Live’s interactive comment stream depends on the Boston group’s work on “low-latency” communications and its efforts to “make sure we’re globally consistent,” he says.

Bottom line: as it grows, look for more technical infrastructure advances from the Kendall Square branch of Facebook. But here’s guessing it won’t make your friends any less insufferable.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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