Facebook's Area 404

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Facebook’s ‘Area 404’ is just a building inside Facebook large headquarters complex in Menlo Park, California. Don’t allow anybody or some headlines to tell you differently.

Facebook's Area 404
Facebook Area 404

What makes Area 404 unique is that it belongs to a company that is known for doing business in the virtual world of the internet and softwares. Hardware is not Facebook’s thing. At least, not it’s main thing.

That is why Area 404 is not just any other building. It is a hardware building belonging to one of the biggest software companies. So what is a software tech firm doing with huge hardware machines?

Facebook interest in hardwares is not a new thing though. At least the world knows about the gigantic solar-powered drone Aquila, which completed its maiden flight recently. The virtual reality world is still getting to terms with Facebook’s Oculus, another impressive hardware project.

Facebook's Area 404
Inside Area 404

Other hardware project linked to the social forum giant include Terragraph, Project Aries, Surround 360 camera and the Open Vault storage project . So you now get the point. Facebook has many hardware projects going on that are sort of hidden from the public view.

This is why Area 404 is important to Facebook. Most of the divisions in charged of these hardware projects are scattered around the world. For instance, Project Aquila hangar is based in the UK.

The need to bring all the projects under one building became vital due to the time wasted by engineers traveling to various corners of the globe when they wish to brainstorm about things that are common to the various initiatives.

Facebook's Area 404
Jay Parikh, vice president of engineering inside Area 404

Apart from that, having all the engineers under one roof with futuristic gadgets as work tools, means that engineers can learn from each other easily.

Basically, it is bringing some serious scientists under one roof. And when you have so many hot heads in one room working close to each other, the results can only be imagined.

Facebook though is not leaving anything to the imagination. They are sure having all hardware divisions under one roof would accelerate the pace of some projects being undertaken.

So when Facebook invited a group of journalists for a tour of Area 404 earlier this month, expectations were high that mind-blowing gadgetry would be revealed. And so it proved.

Some of the gadgets used in this huge building are better seen to be believed. For a better understanding of the level of sophistication of Area 404, it’s best to head here and view some of the breathtaking images from Area 404 (or watch a short video clip at the end of this piece).

Here is how Facebook described the reason for the construction of Area 404:

With this new space, we can now handle the majority of our modeling, prototyping, and failure analysis in-house, decreasing each iteration of the development cycle from weeks to days. Even more important, the space has room for all teams, with more than 50 workbenches in the main area. Connectivity Lab, Oculus, Building 8, and our Infrastructure teams can now work collaboratively in the same space, learning from one another as they build.”

If you are wondering why the name Area 404, you are not alone. Sometimes I crack my skull wondering how these tech firms come about certain names.

Facebook's Area 404
Work stations inside Area 404

But thankfully, a Tech Crunch journalist at the event had the good sense to ask the question of how they came about the name.

Because Facebook engineers (prior to the construction of Area 404) were always looking for and not finding the tools to design new devices, they came up with the number 404 in reference to the ‘Not Found‘ computer error code. In effect, Not Found is now a thing of the past as all resources are available under one roof.

Here is a little tit-bit for you: Area 404 is the only building in Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, is not allowed to enter.

The reason has nothing to do with aliens or highly secret jobs being done there. It is just that the gadgets and machines used there are very dangerous. Nobody wants one of the most influential man in the world to suffer a freak accident.


image credit: techcrunch.com; mercurynews.com; Facebook