Chat face

One of the things I like most about working at Facebook is the ability to launch products that are (almost) immediately used by millions of people.

Unlike a three-guys-in-a-garage startup, we don't have the luxury of scaling out infrastructure to keep pace with user growth; when your feature's userbase will go from 0 to 70 million practically overnight, scalability has to be baked in from the start.

The project I'm currently working on, Facebook Chat, offered a nice set of software engineering challenges: The most resource-intensive operation performed in a chat system is not sending messages.

Each Facebook Chat user now needs to be notified whenever one of his/her friends (a) takes an action such as sending a chat message or loads a Facebook page (if tracking idleness via a last-active timestamp) or (b) transitions between idleness states (if representing idleness as a state machine with states like "idle-for-1-minute", "idle-for-2-minutes", "idle-for-5-minutes", "idle-for-10-minutes", etc.).Chat with friends is always much better than the common room.If you want to meet new people, Face Flow makes it really easy to meet people from all around the world.The method we chose to get text from one user to another involves loading an iframe on each Facebook page, and having that iframe's Javascript make an HTTP GET request over a persistent connection that doesn't return until the server has data for the client.The request gets reestablished if it's interrupted or times out.

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