I met with a few people who work at Facebook today (my first meetings).
Learned some stuff:
1. Facebook’s first office was above Jing Jing in downtown Palo Alto, which Dave Winer made famous for Spicy Noodles. Of course we ate there and had Spicy Noodles.
2. The Facebook platform is getting a small update tonight (it’s updated once a week, I learned). Tonight’s update that developers will notice? That you can put different things into messages on the wall. If you haven’t visited my Facebook Profile yet, the wall is an area where you can leave messages for me and anyone else who visits my profile. Expected to come onto this? Music (iLike, last week, already added music choices to messages sent inside Facebook). Video. And other media types. The wall will be open to third-party developers to plug different media into and integrate into. This makes the platform integrate better into common pieces on the profile page. End users might not see a difference tonight, but developers will see new APIs. Developers should add the Developers Application to their Facebook Profile, which would bring you to the news about new APIs coming. To add the app, visit the Facebook Developers page and click “getting started.”
3. They are seeing a lot of growth. Both in usage, as well as employees. If you’re a hot computer scientist they are hiring.
4. They are continuing to move to a wider demographic than just college students, which should have been obvious to anyone who is following their moves over the past year. I told them that I have already seen that, most of my 3856 friends aren’t in college anymore. They are also taking over quite a few buildings in downtown Palo Alto near the Stanford University Campus (more than three buildings already, with more needed).
5. There is a limit to the number of friends you can have: 5,000. This is there because of technical limitations. After you reach 5,000 you have to remove someone before you can add someone else as a friend.
6. People with thousands of friends are called “whales” by Facebook employees. Only a small percentage of their user base has more than 1,000 friends.
7. They expect many more “useful” apps in the next few months. Apps aimed at just getting spread around (one I don’t accept is the Ninja app) are probably not going to be as successful as a new wave of apps that actually provide some value come on board (my favorite example there is the Google Shared Items App).
8. For employees who live within a mile of Facebook’s headquarters they subsidize your housing. Translation: if you hang around in Palo Alto chances are pretty high that you’ll meet someone who works at Facebook.
9. They are pretty careful about discussing future capabilities. I asked about new advertising platforms and other questions about the platform (like whether a new API would come out that would allow applications to talk with each other) and got “we can’t discuss future directions.”
10. The leadership at Facebook is young. I knew that since I remember listening to Chris Putnam’s music when he was 16 (he’s now one of Facebook’s best developers — his team built the video app, which is really awesome — and he just turned 21).
Anyway, I’ve come away even more impressed with the team here. This is definitely the most interesting company that I’ve met in the past few years and can’t wait to bring you more news from inside Facebook.
UPDATE: Some people are misunderstanding me here. The update will let users add new datatypes to their messages on Facebook walls. It doesn’t mean that apps will be able to write their own messages to walls.