Facebook is holding its annual F8 developer conference in San Jose this week, but Seattle is well represented.
During Tuesday’s keynote, the company announced a flurry of new tools and features for third party developers, and many of those new products can, in part, be traced back to the social network’s Seattle engineering office.
A big chunk of Facebook’s Platforms team is based in Seattle. When Facebook first made its way to the Emerald City in 2010, Platforms was one of the first groups to start moving and hiring workers here.
“We are kind of ahead of the other orgs in terms of critical mass, the other roles we are hiring, so we continue to churn out a lot of the products talked about in F8 coming up,” Vijaye Raji, Facebook’s Seattle engineering director, said.
Now seven years later, Facebook’s Seattle office is in explosive growth mode. It boasts more than 1,000 employees, Raji said. Less than a year after moving into a huge new building in the techie South Lake Union neighborhood, it turned around and leased another big complex and one more office building.
Seattle has been a big part of the development of Facebook Analytics, which helps businesses and users track engagement with social media and how it could affect the bottom line, since it was launched two years ago. Josh Twist, Facebook Analytics product manager in the Seattle office, pointed to two new features — omni-channel analytics and Automated Insights — as important additions to Facebook Analytics.
Omni-channel gives users the ability to measure interactions, such as post likes and shares, on a Facebook Page compared to other activity on the company website, app, or bot. This would users see if people who like a post featuring an item go on to view that item on the website, or purchase it in the app. Automated Insights uses machine learning to make it easier to find data and automatically identifies and flags trends and anomalies, like how sales are impacted by an updated store app, or how engagement varies in different cities.
“We’ve seen our analytics tools used to establish and grow an app’s reach, which in turn connects people in meaningful ways and in some instances has a positive impact on the offline community and economy,” Twist said.
Platforms, along with mobile advertising and infrastructure are among the three largest groups in Seattle. Though Raji mentioned that the Messenger group is growing fast as well.
Seattle was Facebook’s first engineering office outside of Silicon Valley, and it remains its largest. Raji said the company wants its office to have autonomy from the home base, with the ability to build things from start to finish in Seattle.
“What I like to see is more of these orgs setting up critical mass here, so they can build new projects, come up with new ideas and execute on them totally from here without having to be tethered to headquarters,” Raji said.
The main reason Facebook came to Seattle back in 2010 is the same reason more than 80 other out-of-town tech companies have opened up offices here: talent. But it’s a double-edged sword, as Facebook has to compete with fellow tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Apple, as well as numerous startups, for the best people.
Raji said Facebook’s best asset for recruiting and retaining talent is its culture of encouraging employees to pursue passion projects. Facebook will get behind any great idea and put it on the fast track to be released if it makes sense.
“All they have to do is come up with an idea, execute on it and launch it,” Raji said. “We Make it easy for engineers to build up ideas from the bottom up.”