Informative interview with Facebook employee: Security and soon, Hyper-PHP

By HTMLGoodies Staff

The social networking site Facebook has over 350 million users. This informative interview with a Facebook employee talks about security issues and a new Facebook that uses Hyper-PHP for a faster user experience.

In an interview with an anonymous Facebook employee published on The Rumpus, the Facebook staffer admitted that they save literally every move a Facebook user makes, including when they upload a photo, click on someone's profile, update their status, change their profile information, essentially saving the viewing history of every Facebook user. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone familiar with the terms of use on Facebook, but it reminds us how much information is stored about our every move.

More interestingly, Facebook takes snapshots, which includes every viewable screen, essentially a picture of all the data on all of their servers, every hour of every day of every week, 365 days a year. This data is stored on four data centers, including one in Santa Clara, San Francisco, New York and London. Each data center houses approximately five to eight thousand servers, which is about right considering they have 200 million active users (users who have participated on the site within the last month).

Although the employee mentioned that they once had a master password that allowed them to access any account on the site, that is irrelevant considering that all the data, including private messages, emails--everything--is stored within those databases. So anyone with access to those databases has access to the information stored within them.

The new useability testing they are doing is likely to raise some eyebrows--literally. They are using what is essentially "eye-tracking" to see where users look while they browse Facebook. When they introduce new features, such as adding a "click next" link above a photo, it increased the number of pageviews by 77%, made the page load quicker, generated more clicks and reduced their bandwidth. Makes sense to any web designer, and it made sense to them.

As far as the programming behind the site, Facebook is working on revamping the site by upgrading it from standard PHP to what they call Hyper-PHP (HPHP), which turns it from a scripted language into a compiled language, which should speed up the site by reducing the CPU usage on their servers by 80%, which will speed the page loading time and make the end-user experience more pleasant. Which means more users, more pageviews, more clicks, and more revenue. This change should occur within the next two months, according to the anonymous employee.

The interview at The Rumus is well worth reading--it's a bit long winded, but informative not only for users of Facebook, but developers and programmers who may gleam a bit of insight into the inner workings of the largest social networking site in the world.

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