Facebook, which is just turning six, has achieved a level of maturity most wags thought would never come. Somewhere along the road to becoming the platform of choice for 400 million users in every country on earth, the company grew up. Baby photos now dot the worktables at its Palo Alto headquarters. Chefs provide free gourmet fare in the company cafeteria. And the founder, who once coded the site while dashing between makeshift offices in a beat-up car that didn’t need a key, now mingles with his 1,200 employees, recruited and supported by a real HR person, in a new 135,000-square-foot office space. “We used to stand outside of Stanford looking for engineers to help us,” laughs Chris Cox, vice president of product, and creator of the original news-feed feature.

Today, Facebook feels the way Google, Intel, and Microsoft likely did at similar stages in their own life cycles — still agile enough to invent the future, but sufficiently stable to handle some real turbulence. In fact, Zuckerberg has been studying those companies, and their histories, closely. “There are advantages to being both bigger and smaller,” he tells me. “But the cool thing is, we’re in our sweet spot now.”

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