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Facebook's Is Bigger Than Yours

Servers inside Facebook's Prineville Data Center.
Servers inside Facebook's Prineville Data Center.Photograph by Alan Brand/Facebook

Earlier this week, Jay Parikh, the vice president for infrastructure engineering at Facebook, walked a dozen or so reporters through some of the social media site’s inner workings. Give any Facebook engineer enough time, and he’ll start boasting about the site’s level of geek endowment. “Is your Hadoop cluster bigger than Yahoo’s?” a reporter asks. “Yes. It is,” Parikh replies with a wink and a laugh.

As of its latest count, Facebook claimed 955 million users. What makes Facebook so unique in the annals of Web history is the amount of time all those people spend on the site (at least a few hours per month) and the frequency with which they return to it (just about every day). To cope with the update-hungry masses, Facebook has pushed the limits of computer science in a few areas. In particular, the company is good at sucking in, analyzing, and sharing huge volumes of data at record speed so that users get new, up-to-date pages every time they visit Facebook.