Over the past 15 years, Facebook has changed the way we keep in touch with friends, how we feud with family members, how we think about privacy, and how we consume Russian propaganda—not always for the better. But Facebook also changed computing. From Netflix to Uber to Walmart's website, many of the apps and services we use every day are built with technologies that Facebook developed and then shared with the world.
As the company grew to accommodate millions, and eventually billions, of users, it had to create tools, from data storage software that can handle mind-boggling amounts of user information to hardware designs for data centers that host those databases. More recently it created new ways to build interfaces for its web and mobile apps. Crucially, Facebook didn't keep these creations to itself. It released much its work as open source, meaning that anyone else could use, modify, and share Facebook's inventions.
"Facebook has been a driving force in open source for years, sharing many critical pieces of technology with the broader community," says Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation. The foundation hosts an organization dedicated to GraphQL, a programming language created by Facebook to handle communications between apps and servers that is now used by many other companies.
Because of Facebook's openness, many of its technologies have become industry standards. "Facebook has played a tremendous role in shifting not only in the way we build our servers, but also how we write code for browsers and phones," says Adam Neary, a tech lead at Airbnb. "The entire ecosystem is driven by technologies that Facebook pioneered and then open sourced."
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