Facebook Secrets of Web Performance
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 9:25AM
Todd Hoff in Example

This is a repost of part 1 of an interview I did for the Boundary blog.

Boundary: What is Facebook’s secret sauce for managing what’s got to be the biggest Big Data project, if you will, on the Web?

Hoff: From several presentations we’ve learned what Facebook insiders like Aditya Agarwal and Robert Johnson, both former Directors of Engineering, consider their secret sauce:

All these principles work together to make a self-reinforcing virtuous circle. You can’t move fast unless you have small teams who have control and responsibility. You can’t know how your changes are working unless you get those changes into production and measure results. You can’t move code into production unless people feel responsible for moving out working code. You can’t handle the scale unless you figure out how to scale horizontally, move fast and measure everything– that all comes down to good people.

But the above is not the whole of the story. Not so obvious is the role of opportunity. A pattern we often see is that companies on the leading edge see problems before everyone else, so they solve those problems before everyone else. We see a blast wave of innovation coming from technological hotspots like Google, Netflix, Twitter and Facebook.

Boundary: What other major websites do you think are doing a great job of scaling with demand, keeping users happy and response times high?

Hoff: We have a great industry. People are constantly willing to share their experiences, share their code and talk about what works. My wife is a tax accountant and they definitely don’t have the same vibe which is a little sad. There are a lot of unbelievably smart and passionate people in this field and total quality only rises the more people talk about how to build great stuff.

It’s also pretty obvious to me that having a quality site and willingness to share are linked. There are many companies I could list that fall into this category, but these stand out: Twitter, Etsy, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Amazon and StackExchange. Some other important contributors include: Airbnb, Tumblr, Instagram, TripAdvisor, Heroku, Prismatic, 37signals, Pinterest and Yahoo.

There are literally hundreds of others that could be mentioned, but these companies have continually and enthusiastically contributed to advancing the state of the art in Web performance. I feel bad already, however, because I know I’m missing some.

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