Tech industry professionals were amused when Zuckerberg told them that the e-mail integration project was Facebook’s largest software development effort yet, with all of 15 engineers working on it. By contrast, Microsoft employs hundreds of developers for its Internet Explorer browser. The small size of the team is perhaps the most significant demonstration yet of how Internet-based software development has been streamlined by platforms, standards, and APIs—application programming interfaces that let engineers hook systems from different makers together—to the point where 15 coders can link Facebook with most present and future e-mail services on the planet.
What happens now? Two words: Privacy scare. Security and privacy advocates are already poring over Zuckerberg’s words to find ways that the as-yet-unseen mail system might compromise its users. But from past experience, security holes are unlikely to slow the Facebook juggernaut. “The only fatal shortcoming would be a very serious breach of privacy that would scare anyone from using it,” Bernardo Huberman, director of Hewlett-Packard’s Social Computing Lab recently told Technology Review. So far, though, it seems Facebook users mostly choose to complain bitterly about Zuckerberg’s privacy goofs while using his site nonstop.