Facebook's Area 404 -- what we know

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The manual workshop in Facebook's Area 404.

Credit: Facebook

The U.S. government has Area 51 -- Facebook has Area 404.

The main difference is that Facebook has told us what is in Area 404. And it doesn't involve aliens (that we know of).

Instead, Area 404 is a lab focused on hardware engineering. It has two distinct spaces -- one for electrical engineering labs and one for prototyping workshops. In it, Facebook hopes to create the next generation of hardware to help the company achieve the goals laid out in its 10-year roadmap. So what do we know about Area 404 so far?

In IT Blogwatch, we search for the answers. 

So what exactly is Area 404? Aaron Mamiit gives us some background:

Facebook has opened Area 404...a new 22,000-square-foot laboratory...located...in the main campus of Facebook's headquarters...The lab is where Facebook is planning to carry out fast prototyping and modeling of its new hardware products and their components.
...
Area 404 will focus on...Facebook's solar drones, including the internet-providing Aquila, internet-beaming lasers, virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift and next-generation servers.

But what was the impetus behind Facebook building the lab? Mikal Greaves and Spencer Burns tell us from Facebook's perspective:

Early on at Facebook..we opened individual hardware labs to support new teams...Today we have hardware labs all over the world...but...we started to see that when engineers from different teams came together and shared their expertise, we could make even faster progress on the projects they were working on...We wanted to create more opportunities for these teams to come together...So we built one.
...
This...lab is...outfitted with state-of-the-art machine tools and test equipment...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.

Are you still wondering why Facebook would need a lab like this, though? Martyn Williams shares an example:

Project Aries is a wireless base station that can serve 24 client devices at the same time. The idea is...more data can be sent at higher speeds to more phones, making better use of radio spectrum. Facebook cares about this because it wants as many people as possible...to be able to log into Facebook at the same time. Hardware like this all has to be designed and prototyped somewhere.

Now let's finally get to the important stuff -- why is it called Area 404? Brandon Bailey has the pertinent info:

The lab is dubbed Area 404...playing off the "error 404" message internet users see when they try to visit a web page that can't be found. Facebook...engineers had long talked about wanting such a workspace, but it couldn't be found because it didn't exist until now.
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