Facebook makes FriendFeed tech open-source

Ronny Kerr · September 10, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/a81

Tornado, core technology to FriendFeed’s real-time updates, released to spur innovation

Today, Facebook is making available a highly valuable collection of code to the Web community: the very backbone of FriendFeed’s real-time functionality.

TornadoCalled Tornado, the Python-written Web framework is “designed to handle thousands of simultaneous connections, making it ideal for real-time Web services,” according to Facebook developer David Recordon. “While Tornado is similar to existing Web-frameworks in Python (Django, Google's webapp, web.py), it focuses on speed and handling large amounts of simultaneous traffic.” Tornado also supports templates, cookie handling, user authentication, security, localization, and static file serving.

Clearly, this is a powerful framework for any developer or team of developers interested in supplementing user interaction with real-time services.

After Facebook’s nearly $50 million combination cash and stock purchase of FriendFeed a month ago, everyone was wondering what the acquisition meant exactly for social networking, especially as Twitter and Facebook seemed to be becoming increasingly similar in terms of real-time usage.

Most concluded that the acquisition was essentially Facebook spending a lot of money on hiring the best possible team (the FriendFeed team) for optimizing and refining real-time search and updates. The idea is that, since real-time is supposed to be the next big thing, Facebook doesn’t want to be left in the dust by Twitter, whose central attraction right now is real-time.

What most didn’t expect is that Facebook would be sharing any of its new technologies with the rest of the Web community. But that’s exactly what they’re doing with the release of Tornado as open-source.

“We believe in releasing generically useful infrastructure components as open source” said Recordon, “as a way to increase innovation across the Web.”

Facebook users should be curious to see what developers do with this new source code, as it should result in some interesting applications.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.



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