Facebook Opens First Non-U.S. Engineering Center In London, With Focus On Mobile

London called, and Facebook listened: The social network Tuesday opened its first engineering center outside of the U.S., with a focus on mobile.

London called, and Facebook listened: The social network Tuesday opened its first engineering center outside of the U.S., with a focus on mobile.

Digital Spy reported that U.K. Chancellor George Osborne participated in Tuesday’s opening, calling it an important milestone in the government’s push to attract leading technology companies to the U.K., and adding:

Our ambition is that the U.K. leads the world as a technology hub. We hope that you (Facebook) will build your base here, and then others will come.

Software Engineer Philip Su is leading the new engineering center, and Digital Spy reports that Su is overseeing a mix of 12 Facebook engineers who relocated from the U.S., and about eight London natives, most of whom are recent graduates, for a staff of about 20.

Su told Digital Spy the office will focus on “building great products” for Facebook, for both mobile and the social network’s platform, adding that it has already made some minor tweaks to improve Facebook’s performance on mobile devices and saying of his strategy to attract new talent:

If we like someone, then we just say, “Come join us. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Su said a key area of focus will be performance improvements to Facebook’s applications for iOS and Android, including reducing net latency to speed up the apps and lower the bandwidth they consume, adding that power management on various mobile devices is “arguably the biggest question” for the social network, with some 7,000 different mobile devices accessing Facebook.

Facebook Vice President of Engineering Mike Schroepfer offered more details on Facebook’s mobile challenges and plans, telling Digital Spy:

Our approach to mobile started with just reach … we invested a lot in Web technologies, as it was a way to get to market very quickly. But when we looked at the user feedback, we realized that it didn’t have the level of polish and performance that users had come to expect. It didn’t scroll easily, and so on. So we just realized that we had to go native on the mobile devices. We are huge believers in HTML … and we will continue to invest in it. But we are pretty technology-agnostic and will just use whatever technology is best to reach our users.

You may have a weather app that you check once, maybe twice a day. It doesn’t matter if it takes a few seconds to open or crashes. But Facebook is used on people’s phones probably more than anything. So if that takes seven seconds to open, that is going to be a problem. We have to make that service run right.

For us, ads should be all about relevant to you. Mobile is different to desktop as we know more about you and what you like. If you already know that I like coffee, then you can show me where the best coffee places are, and then that will be more of interest.

The reason we are really here hasn’t changed: We want to make great products. What really hurts is when people have a bad experience with our products. When our app was slow and people were giving it two stars, that hurt more.

But I see us now coming out of end of the tunnel. I am really excited about the products. We have the most advanced infrastructure out there, we are ahead of everyone else in terms of processing an immense amount of data, and we are well-positioned to deliver a more personal experience to our users.

Readers: Have you noticed any improvements in your Facebook mobile experiences?

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.