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How Much Did It Cost To Build Facebook? I’ll Tell You, But Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be Asking

Facebook Data Center


by Zach Ferres


Remember when Apple Maps first came out? Everyone slammed the navigation software for falling short of Google Maps, but actually, Apple Maps’ programming was much more solid than Google Maps was at that point in its development cycle. (This was long before Google sent its cars onto the streets to collect data for Street View.)


The problem was that people were comparing Apple Maps in its very early stage to where Google Maps was after years of enhancement.


But this brings up an important question: If one of the largest companies in the world couldn’t create something to compete with Google, what gives you an edge?


When you say you’re building the Facebook of X, be prepared to enter into an agreement with a naive developer or to get laughed at by a smart one for your measly offer to write 40 million lines of code.


Don’t understand? If you’re in the tech space — or any industry — for anything other than love, you’re going to buckle under the workload. Google and Facebook may seem like simple sites. WhatsApp and Evernote may look like simple apps. But they’re much more complex than meets the eye.


If you think you’re going to build anything that competes with them, consider the costs and resources these programs require. Replicating what Facebook has isn’t the best plan to start because:


1. You can’t afford it.

Just to give you some perspective, a million lines of code can cost between $20 million and $40 million to write. This is factoring in the salaries of all the programmers you’ll need to hire to write the code; the analysts you’ll need to test it; and the copywriters, designers, and project managers you’ll need to maintain it.


You could essentially build your own Antilia, and it would be cheaper than building Facebook with its estimated 60 million lines of code.


And that’s just its main site. While you’re trying to raise even the tiniest fraction of the necessary amount, Facebook and WhatsApp will have added more features to make you an afterthought. Using this math, you’re going to run out of room for the zeroes on the check to cover the costs of Facebook’s development. Just keep that in mind when you want to replicate the features it provides in your next web application.


2. You don’t have the users.

Even if you could afford to build the site, you have to attract users, which costs lots of money to acquire through marketing. Facebook has invested billions of dollars to attract its billion monthly users. Scaling to this level isn’t feasible for any company right away.


3. You don’t have time.

In the time it would take you to build the next Facebook or Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram will have taken over, and you’ll still be playing catch-up. The tech space moves quickly, and you don’t know who could be making a similar product. Unless you wrangled Chuck Norris for an equity gig, your underpaid developer and his intern won’t be able write the millions of lines of bug-free code quickly enough to beat the competition to market.


4. You don’t need a ‘real’ product.

Many businesses fake it until they make it. Dropbox released a video demonstrating the simplicity of the app on its site before the product was even close to complete. Coin started without even having a shippable product, and it has been collecting thousands of pre-orders. These are the companies you’re competing with for a shot at becoming the next Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or Tony Hsieh.


But these success stories didn’t happen overnight. Like every venture, you have to practice patience and take the right approach. It takes time to nurture a product and set it up for long-term stability in the market. Consider these tips for building a realistic product:


  • Launch with buggy code. Bug-free code is expensive and time-consuming. You’ll end up saving time and money by launching with minor issues in the code and correcting them as you go.
  • Think big, but start small. Create your minimum viable product, and test your core assumptions and concept before trying to compete with the big dogs.
  • Find users. Use a tool like InVision to create an interactive prototype to raise capital or test assumptions before writing code. This saves time and money.
  • Gain feedback. Hold social gatherings and events at local businesses to create a similar experience to get word of mouth started. Listen to feedback. For many of our projects, we recommend that businesses spend more on early-stage marketing for their new app than on its development.


Then, get a simple working product out on the market as fast as possible. Don’t rush through testing, but don’t dwell on it either. As soon as you get a tangible product in people’s hands, you’re on the ground and moving. You have a growth point. Focus on that instead of trying to become the next big guy.


The tech sector is difficult to break into. I don’t mean to step on your ambitions, but understanding reality will help you create a more realistic plan to get your web startup off the ground and secure capital. As a startup, you can adapt, innovate, and move faster in this cutthroat space. Use that to your advantage as you create the next big thing.


Zach FerresZach Ferres is the CEO of Ciplex, a full-service interactive agency that helps clients succeed online by creating award-winning digital solutions for online marketing, e-commerce and content management systems, and social network platforms. Follow the company on Twitter.


Photo Credits

Intel Free Press | Courtesy of Author

Author : Guest Post

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