You have to hand it to Facebook: Even if you never use its products or just dread logging in (by the way, feel free to Like the ARCHITECHT page
), the chances are it’s already improved your smartphone experience. And, based on what the company announced at its F8 conference on Tuesday, it’s just getting started.
I’m speaking specifically about the backend, not-at-all sexy stuff that doesn’t get most tech reporters or investors all fired up, but that does make Facebook and so many other websites and apps run. The kind of stuff that elicits this type of conversation:
Woman at rental car counter at PDX: What are you in town for?
Me: I’m visiting Facebook.
Woman: Oh, cool.
Me: Is it snowing in the mountains? I need to get to Prineville.
Woman: I thought you said you were visiting Facebook. What are you going to Prineville for? There’s nothing there.
Of course, there is something in Prineville. There’s a massive Facebook facility with three data centers. Next door, Apple also has a large data center. Which means lots of our photos, music, likes, interests, etc., are also in Prineville.
You can read the story from my Facebook visit here
, but one major takeaway is that the company invests a lot of effort into making sure its site and—more importantly today—its mobile app use as little power as possible while still delivering a plethora of capabilities. That might seem like a lot of wasted effort if you don’t use Facebook, but the truth is that we all probably consume a lot of Facebook tech without knowing it.
That’s because Facebook open sources so much stuff that gets widely picked up by so many developers, data scientists and software engineers. We’re talking everything from big data systems
like Cassandra and Hive back in the day, to interactive design frameworks like React. And as of yesterday at its F8 developer conference, React Fiber
But I think Facebook’s biggest contributions to the overall mobile experience might still be yet to come as artificial intelligence is integrated into more of our devices and apps. Here, too, Facebook has been a major open source contributor, releasing its work on popular deep learning projects (and sometimes creating them) such as PyTorch and Caffe2go
—a framework for deploying computer vision models on smartphones.
So, yeah, maybe Facebook is copying Snap. Maybe its website UX is far less than ideal. Maybe young people don’t use it. But as long as it keeps pushing the envelope in AI and elsewhere, especially via open source, Facebook will still be a very important technology company.