Facebook’s Gives 3 reasons why the company open-sources its Technology revealed yesterday that it’s opening Infer, a tool it uses internally to identify bugs in code before it ships mobile apps to users, for the development community to tinker with.

The result of an acquisition almost two years ago, Infer is used to quickly and autonomously scan code across the social giant’s suite of mobile apps — including Facebook itself, Messenger, and Instagram — so it can adhere to its “move fast and break things” principles while ensuring any serious bugs are caught prior to shipping.

By open-sourcing Infer, Facebook wants to improve the accuracy of the tool and “expand the places where Facebook Infer is deployed,” the company said.

“Open” isn’t perhaps a word that immediately springs to mind when discussing Facebook, but Infer is the latest in a long line of open-source projects Facebook has initiated. The company actually has more than 200 projects on GitHub; it recently open-sourced HipHop VM (HHVM), a virtual machine for executing programs written in PHP; and it also released React, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces, which has subsequently been used by the likes of Dropbox, Yahoo, and Adobe.

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But why does Facebook open-source so many of its projects? During a meeting at Facebook’s London headquarters earlier this week, James Pearce, the company’s head of open source for the past two years, explained why it seeks to align itself with the development community.

The roots of Facebook’s open-source credentials actually date way back to the company’s very beginnings, when a young Mark Zuckerberg used open-source tools to create what would become the world’s biggest social network. And Pearce reckoned this ethos remains tightly engrained in the very fabric of the company today.

The general idea is that if the wider industry is progressing, then Facebook will progress in tandem. What’s good for the industry is good for Facebook.

Ultimately, because engineers can see for themselves the kinds of things Facebook is working on, it makes it easier to attract the top talent. “It’s not all altruism, there’s solid business sense behind this,” added Pearce.

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Having open-sourced its artificial intelligence deep-learning tools back in January, and now Infer, the development community can likely expect more from Facebook’s coding vaults in the near future. Read more…

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