A look inside Facebook's open source program

Facebook developer Christine Abernathy discusses how open source helps the company share insights and boost innovation.
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An intersection of pipes.


Open source becomes more ubiquitous every year, appearing everywhere from government municipalities to universities. Companies of all sizes are also increasingly turning to open source software. In fact, some companies are taking open source a step further by supporting projects financially or working with developers.

Facebook's open source program, for example, encourages others to release their code as open source, while working and engaging with the community to support open source projects. Christine Abernathy, a Facebook developer, open source advocate, and member of the company's open source team, visited the Rochester Institute of Technology last November, presenting at the November edition of the FOSS Talks speaker series. In her talk, Abernathy explained how Facebook approaches open source and why it's an important part of the work the company does.

Facebook and open source

Abernathy said that open source plays a fundamental role in Facebook's mission to create community and bring the world closer together. This ideological match is one motivating factor for Facebook's participation in open source. Additionally, Facebook faces unique infrastructure and development challenges, and open source provides a platform for the company to share solutions that could help others. Open source also provides a way to accelerate innovation and create better software, helping engineering teams produce better software and work more transparently. Today, Facebook's 443 projects on GitHub comprise 122,000 forks, 292,000 commits, and 732,000 followers.

open source projects by Facebook

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

Lessons learned

Abernathy emphasized that Facebook has learned many lessons from the open source community, and it looks forward to learning many more. She identified the three most important ones:

  • Share what's useful
  • Highlight your heroes
  • 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.

The photograph is a headshot. Pictured is a white man with a beard looking upward.
Justin W. Flory is a creative maker. He is best known as an Open Source contributor and Free Culture advocate originally from the United States. Justin has participated in numerous Open Source communities and led different initiatives to build sustainable software and communities for over ten years.

1 Comment

When I heard facebook + open source i got very very upset. So basically you saying we use open source tools to build closed source applications.

If you are so proud that your company uses open source, why do you not use the same proud to open the facebook applications source code?

My suggestions are :
1. We can't because our code is full of shit and everybody will laugh at us
2. We can't because part of the code sends reports to people that shouldn't have that kind of information
3. Both of them

Which one is it?

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