Inside Facebook's open source program at RIT

Inside Facebook’s open source program at RIT

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Open source becomes more common every year, where it appears at government municipalities to universities. More companies turn to open source software too. However, some companies try to take it a step further, and instead of only using the software, they also support projects financially or with developers. Facebook’s open source program encourages others in Facebook to release their code as open source. They also work and engage with the community to support the projects too.

Christine Abernathy, a Facebook developer advocate and member of the open source team, visited the Rochester Institute of Technology on November 15, 2017. She gave the November edition of the FOSS Talks speaker series. Her talk explained how Facebook approaches open source and why it’s an important part of the work they do.

Facebook and open source

Some of the projects released as open source by Facebook, including React, GraphQL, Caffe2, and more
Some of the projects released as open source by Facebook, including React, GraphQL, Caffe2, and more

Abernathy explained that open source plays a fundamental role in Facebook’s mission to create community and bring the world closer together. The ideological match was a motivational reason for Facebook’s participation in open source.

Additionally, Facebook has unique problems and challenges to solve for their infrastructure and development. Open source provides a platform to share those challenges and help others avoid similar mistakes.

Open source also provided a way to accelerate innovation and create better software. It helped engineering teams produce better software and work more transparently. Today, Facebook’s 443 projects on GitHub have 122,000 forks, 292,000 commits, and 732,000 followers.

Lessons learned

Abernathy emphasized that Facebook has learned many lessons from the open source community and hopes to learn many more. She identified the three most important lessons that Facebook took from open source:

  1. Share what’s useful
  2. Highlight your heroes
  3. Fix common pain points

Christine Abernathy visited RIT as part of the FOSS Talks speaker series. Every month, a guest speaker from the open source world shares wisdom, insight, and advice about the open source world with students interested in free and open source software. The FOSS @ MAGIC community is thankful to have Abernathy attend as a speaker!

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