Facebook Engineering VP Cory Ondrejka, key in Oculus acquisition, to leave company

Ondrejka

Cory Ondrejka, Facebook’s Vice President of Engineering, announced Tuesday that he will leave the company on Dec. 22. Ondrejka led Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, the virtual reality company the social network purchased earlier this year.

Ondrejka announced in a Facebook post that he’ll start his own company, but didn’t offer specifics:

December 22nd will be my last day at Facebook. From high-performance javascript through mobile to virtual reality, I could never have predicted a journey quite like this one. I will miss working with everyone, but I am excited about building my next company from scratch. More on that in a few weeks.

It has been a privilege to be a part of this company and community for the last 4 years and thrilling to work with so many amazing teams. Rather than break the tagger, I will just say that you all have pushed and taught me more than I could have imagined – and I can imagine a lot. I look forward to seeing what comes next because “we are 1% done” will be just as true in 2015 as it was the day I joined. No one has a greater opportunity and capability to continue connecting the world than Facebook.

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Facebook’s Altoona, Iowa data center is now live

Altoona

Facebook’s fourth data center is now live. The Altoona, Iowa center opened today, with the next-generation architecture Facebook calls data fabric.

Brice Towns, site manager of the Altoona data center wrote about the opening in a blog post:

This is the fastest we’ve ever completed a first building at one of our sites, and we owe a lot of that to the people of Iowa. More than 950,000 hours have already been logged in the construction of the facility, and we have an average of 450 people — 80 percent of them from Central Iowa — here every day, constructing a second data center building on the site. As you may have heard, we like to move fast at Facebook — and we are grateful to everyone who’s helped us get to this point. We’re proud to call you our neighbors and our friends, and to be a part of the community here in Altoona.

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How does Facebook classify Android devices? By year

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While Android has imaginative names for their operating systems, such as Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich, that’s not how Facebook engineers classify Android devices.

In a blog post, Facebook’s Chris Marra and Daniel Weaver explains how Facebook optimizes its experience on Android by breaking up devices by year:

We call this new concept “year class” – essentially, in what year would a given device have been considered “high end” in? This allows teams around the company to segment the breadth of Android devices into a more understandable set of buckets, and as new phones are released, they’re automatically mapped into the representative year. For example, the Alcatel T-Pop I bought at a market in Mexico is immediately recognized as a 2010-class phone, despite its 2012 release. Overall, about two-thirds of the phones connected to Facebook are equivalent to something released in 2011 or earlier.

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How did engineers make Facebook Messenger more efficient?

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As Facebook unbundled messaging from the main mobile app, the company started making major improvements to its standalone Facebook Messenger app. A blog post by Facebook engineers Jeremy Fein and Jason Jenks shows how the social network made Messenger more efficient.

Fein and Jenks wrote that Messenger has decreased non-media data usage by 40 percent (developing a new service called Iris to power it). Users have taken note of improvements to Messenger, as there has been a 20 percent dip in the number of people who experience errors when trying to send a message.

Fein and Jenks wrote of what it took to revamp the Facebook Messenger app:

Messaging data has traditionally been stored on spinning disks. In the pull-based model, we’d write to disk before sending a trigger to Messenger to read from disk. Thus, this giant storage tier would serve real-time message data as well as the full conversation history. One large storage tier doesn’t scale well to synchronize recent messages to the app in real time. So in order to support this new, faster sync protocol and maintain consistency between the Messenger app and long-term storage, we need to be able to stream the same sequence of updates in real time to Messenger and to the storage tier in parallel on a per user basis.

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Facebook engineers open source ‘cookbooks’ for Chef framework

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Facebook is opening up its cookbooks — but these recipes won’t taste good from the kitchen. Chef is Facebook’s engineering framework, and Facebook engineers have decided to open source that technology.

Phil Dobowitz, a Production Engineer at Facebook, blogged about the company opening up its cookbooks:

People have been amazingly supportive of the tools we released, the ideas we presented, and the changes we proposed. We released some tools we thought were useful to the community, but we didn’t consider releasing our cookbooks because we believed they were too Facebook-specific. But a central theme in our talks was our cookbook design, and people started asking for them.

So recently we revisited that assumption about our cookbooks. In looking at how we built them, we realized that we had developed a different way of writing community-style cookbooks that succeeded — at least within Facebook — at doing what community cookbooks had failed to do outside of Facebook. And we started to wonder: Could this approach be applied not just to other organizations wanting to leverage our model, but also to writing community cookbooks the entire world can use?

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Facebook partners with Google, Twitter, others to launch ‘TODO’

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At the @Scale conference Monday, Facebook announced a partnership with Box, Dropbox, GitHub, Google, Khan Academy, Stripe, Square, Twitter, and Walmart Labs to launch TODO — Talk Openly, Develop Openly.

The organization will be a think-tank for the issues facing open source developing, offering discussion and best practices.

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Facebook for Android: now faster, smaller, less data-hungry

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To figure out how to improve its Facebook for Android app, Facebook engineers traveled to Africa to test the app on a low-bandwidth network.

They ate through their monthly data plan in 40 minutes.

So developers worked to make Facebook for Android less reliant on data and more logical for users in countries that don’t have major data plans. The company also made the app itself smaller, taking up less room on the phone.

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Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn combine to launch WebScaleSQL

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Facebook’s oft-stated mission, per Mark Zuckerberg, is to make the world more open and connected. The social network joined tech giants Google, Twitter and LinkedIn to make this happen faster.

The four companies announced Thursday the launch of WebScaleSQL, described by Facebook Software Engineer Steaphan Greene as, “a collaboration among engineers from several companies that face similar challenges in running MySQL at scale and seek greater performance from a database technology tailored to their needs.”

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A look back at the creation of Facebook’s Look Back videos

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It’s likely that many of you created a “Look Back” video during Facebook’s 10th anniversary extravaganza. But did you know that the feature was created by Facebook engineers in less than a month?

According to a blog post on the site, Facebook anticipated only 10 percent of people who saw their video would share it. Ultimately, more than 40 percent shared their videos just hours after launching. Facebook’s total outgoing traffic was about 20 percent higher than the normal peak. They also found:

  • More than 720 million Look Back videos were created, with 9 million videos created per hour;
  • More than 11 petabytes of storage were used;
  • More than 450 Gbps outgoing bandwidth at peak and 4 PB egress within days; and
  • Over 200 million people watched their Look Back movie in the first two days, and more than 50 percent have shared their movie.

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Class credit for hacking? Facebook expands Open Academy

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Facebook launched its Open Academy — an opportunity for college students to learn how to hack and develop software — last spring and has already seen great success. Now, as the program calls for winter 2014 applicants, the site’s engineers gave people a look at what students do and what they’ve accomplished.

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