Inside Facebook’s World
In February of 2004, Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook. His workspace, such as it was, consisted of a PC, a desk and his beloved whiteboard, all crammed into his less-than-tidy quarters in Suite H33 at the university’s Kirkland House. His collaborators-Chris Hughes, Eduardo Saverin and Dustin Moscovitz-were fellow Harvard students, and therefore close at hand.
Fast forward to 2012. Facebook now has 3,500 employees and more than 901 million members around the world. The site which Zuck cobbled together to help his classmates keep track of each other has changed how human beings communicate with each other, and continues to do so.
And yet some fundamental things about Facebook haven’t changed at all. I recently visited its new headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., and found an environment that was in many ways like a king-sized recreation of Suite H33. Employees were toiling at tightly-packed desks strewn with coffee cups and other detritus of creativity. Whiteboards were everywhere. So were blackboards, as well as artwork and slogans applied directly on walls. The public spaces outside weren’t exactly Harvard Yard, but they were full of people who weren’t all that much older than Harvard students.
[PHOTOS: Take a tour of the new Facebook campus, and check out some of its former homes.]
Except for the sheer scale-the new headquarters is on a 57-acre plot of land, and the company already has plans to expand beyond that-the general personality of Facebook’s workplaces has remained surprisingly consistent as it’s repeatedly outgrown offices and moved into new ones. A photograph of Facebook employees cranking away at its cramped quarters in downtown Palo Alto in 2005 looks very much like what I saw at the new premises.
“Tons of us are still here because it still feels the same way,” says Naomi Gleit, who started as a newly-graduated assistant in July of 2005, when the company had around 20 employees and the simplest way to describe it, as she explains, was to say, “It’s like MySpace.” Today, she’s the company’s longest-serving staff member other than Mark Zuckerberg himself, responsible for the service’s continued user growth as a director of product management.
“Even though it’s big, it feels small,” Gleit says of Facebook circa 2012. In part, that’s because of the effort the company has poured into retaining its startup spirit, but it’s also because its ambitions continue to outstrip even the awesome resources of its new home.