SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has opened its first engineering centre outside the US in London to focus on mobile.
The centre was opened today by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at Facebook's existing UK commercial outpost in Covent Garden.
Also speaking at the event were Facebook's head of engineering Philip Su, VP of engineering Mike Schroepfer and Jay Parikh, VP of infrastructure engineering.
Parikh said that Facebook's London engineering centre will focus on three main areas: mobile, platform and machine learning.
Schroepfer explained that mobile is the "fastest and largest technological shift" for Facebook, with the firm's challenge to deliver "a fantastic experience in your pocket".
"London is obviously a great place to build a mobile team because of the local talent in mobile, especially on the Android client with all the start-up energy we see," added Su.
The engineering team in London will be mainly focusing on server side performance enhancements in mobile, something that Facebook values due to the 600 million users that log on to their Facebook profile every month using a mobile device. This is obviously a key growth area for the social network.
Su said that for London there are three area of mobile that the team will be focusing on. The first is server side performance enhancements.
"We are reducing net latency - how fast it comes back and doesn't give you the spinner when loading," Su said. With this, the team will also focus will be improving the amount of bandwidth the app consumes.
The second area the engineering office will focus on is the Android infrastructures, specifically in relation to power management. Su said the Facebook app might be one of the most used apps on your phone in terms of power consumption, so the London team will handle that for the entire company.
The third focus area for mobile is Apple's IOS operating system and general performance improvements.
The office started up less than three months ago with a small team of 12 from the US. The firm has since recruited a "handful" of UK-based engineers.
Su said that London is also a great place for focusing on platform development due to having the world's second highest concentration of Facebook registered third party developers.
As for machine learning, Su said there is "PhD-level talent" in research in institutions around London, so the firm's machine learning team expects to be able to work with some of the world's best people in that domain.
Su made clear that future plans for the centre are not to grow into lots of different areas and become a general office catch all, it's to focus on strategic and opportunistic areas that are key to Facebook's focus for the next year.
The centre will be Facebook's fourth engineering base after the main Menlo Park headquarters in California and the newer sites in Seattle and New York. Su said London was chosen out of all other cities in the world due to working with a lot of developers in the city.
"When we looked at opening an engineering centre, we first started looking in Europe because we already working with a lot of people there and there is also a very large developer presence here," Schroepfer said. "We were looking for a centre that had a large tech base and it became apparent very quickly that London was above anyone else."
Osborne concluded the opening by saying that the addition of Facebook's engineering office is a "vote of confidence" for London and the UK and "reflects [the] attractiveness of the city as a place to do technology business". µ
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