Facebook unveils London tech hub for UK engineers

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Facebook has taken the wraps off its first UK engineering hub, which will partly focus on the development of products that provide its members with a better mobile user experience.

The social networking giant's new engineering centre in Covent Garden, London, has approximately 20 engineers, 12 of which have been brought over from the US.

The centre is the first engineering hub the firm has opened outside of the US, where it has similar sites in New York and Seattle.

We provide a free product that people are under no obligation to use, so we need to add value to them.

Speaking at the London launch earlier today, Phillip Su, head of the UK engineering, said his team will focus on developing new mobile, platform and machine learning products.

On the mobile side of things, Su said part of the group's work will centre on "server-side enhancements" that will improve the overall Facebook user experience.

"Everyone of you knows Facebook can make great improvements in [the] responsiveness of its mobile applications...only half of that problem comes from the client-side application," said Su.

"We're [also working on] reducing net latency...and being much more conservative with the bandwidth we consume."

Making Facebook apps less of drain on the battery life of Android devices is also a priority for Su, because Facebook is often "the most used thing on your phone", he explained.

"Power consumption of the Facebook application is arguably the biggest question when it comes to worldwide use on mobile devices," he added.

Speaking at the event, Mike Schroepfer, vice president of infrastructure at Facebook, said delivering a great mobile experience for end users is important because they have limited time and attention.

"We provide a free product that people are under no obligation to use, so our primary aim is to add value to you so you use our products," said Schroepfer.

He also admitted that Facebook mobile users had expressed disappointment at the quality of the experience in the past, because it did not provide them with the "performance and polish" people expect from the brand.

"If you look at the history of our approach to mobile on these things, it started with just getting a Facebook experience on a mobile device," said Schroepfer.

"We invested a lot in web technologies because it was a way to [deliver] an experience to all those devices and we used the same technique for smartphones very quickly...and we have started to explore and improve that."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.