Unlike a three-guys-in-a-garage startup, we don't have the luxury of scaling out infrastructure to keep pace with user growth; when your feature's userbase will go from 0 to 70 million practically overnight, scalability has to be baked in from the start.The project I'm currently working on, Facebook Chat, offered a nice set of software engineering challenges: The most resource-intensive operation performed in a chat system is not sending messages.The request gets reestablished if it's interrupted or times out.
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The secret for going from zero to seventy million users overnight is to avoid doing it all in one fell swoop.
We chose to simulate the impact of many real users hitting many machines by means of a "dark launch" period in which Facebook pages would make connections to the chat servers, query for presence information and simulate message sends without a single UI element drawn on the page.
Another challenge is ensuring the timely delivery of the messages themselves.