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Posted by Tom Grant on January 26, 2011
There are blog posts that you can write without doing any prior work (he says, looking meaningfully at himself in the mirror), and then there are blog posts that require real work. This very interesting post about how the Facebook development organization operates is in the latter category. Instead of pointlessly summarizing the author's findings, compiled from sources who know Facebook from the inside, I'll add a few reactions:
What does it all mean? Assuming we can take everything in this post at face value, it's a picture of Facebook's future potential and limitations. This model is a good way to continue shipping lots of new code, within the definition of what Facebook does today. It does not, however, show how Facebook might move into a different market or a different business model.
Let's say, for sake of argument, that Facebook wants to increase its footprint within the business world. While Facebook is now a place for cultivating business connections and managing brands, it's not a platform for business applications. (Neither is LinkedIn, for that matter, for a different set of reasons.) Employees may compulsively check Facebook throughout working hours, to the point where it makes some employers uncomfortable. Facebook is not, however, the page from which employees launch business applications.
If Facebook made a lunge for greater corporate acceptability, its current strengths might easily become its chief liabilities. Marketing, sales, and channel relationships would quickly outstrip the capacity of a company this heavily invested in R&D. Major changes might be needed to build new capabilities into the Facebook platform to host business applications, or integrate with other business systems, or build greater confidence in Facebook's security policies and capabilities. Those changes will take the form of mandates to the development team, not friendly suggestions about their next projects.
That's assuming, again, that we have an accurate picture of Facebook's development and operations teams. If the truth turns out to be slightly different, that might be a very good thing for Facebook's long-term prospects.
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