Facebook checks in to London for first non-US development office

FACEBOOK yesterday unveiled its London engineering office, the company’s first outside the US.

The social network’s Covent Garden hub, opened by chancellor George Osborne, has around 20 staff working on a number of special projects, in particular Facebook’s smartphone apps.

However, the firm’s vice president of engineering Mike Schroepfer said there was potential to expand to the size of the three US engineering centres, each of which employ more than 100 developers. Schroepfer admitted that the company could have chosen other locations for the office, but said it had been attracted by “the level of talent” and “the eco-system of companies” in the capital.

Facebook’s choice of London will be a boost to Osborne’s campaign for the capital to become Europe’s technology hub. The chancellor said he had urged Facebook’s chief Mark Zuckerberg to set up in Britain, although he added: “I’m not claiming that made any difference.”

The office is being run by a veteran of Facebook’s Seattle hub, Philip Su, who worked on the company’s iPad app and the website’s integration with video-calling service Skype.

Despite the fanfare surrounding yesterday’s launch, Schroepfer admitted it had been a “difficult time” for Facebook, and that negative publicity around the company was “disappointing” for staff, but said the company was “coming out of the tunnel”.