Facebook Puts Focus on Hardware at New ‘Area 404’ Lab

Today, Facebook officially took the wraps off what co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the "biggest and most advanced hardware lab" in the company's history.

Designed for Facebook engineers and designers working on everything from improved data center equipment to virtual-reality cameras, the Area 404 lab covers 22,000 square feet, "the size of half a football field," at the company's offices in Menlo Park, Calif., Zuckerberg said. The facility takes its name from the standard HTTP 404 error message delivered when a requested Web page is not found by the server being queried.

The lab was "named for our teams wanting a space just like this one, but one wasn't found; now it's found, and we lovingly refer to the space as Area 404," Facebook's Spencer Burns and Mikal Greaves wrote today on the company's Code blog.

Aimed at 'Connecting the World'

Despite being known first as a software-heavy social networking site, Facebook also puts significant amounts of research into hardware of many kinds such as server and data center technology, virtual reality, holographic computing, wireless networking, drones and more. For example, through Oculus -- the virtual-reality firm it purchased for $2 billion in 2014 -- Facebook has developed and taken to market the Oculus Rift VR headset, which began shipping to consumers this year.

"Over the next 10 years, we're building everything from Oculus headsets to solar-powered planes," Zuckerberg wrote today in a post on his Facebook page. "We've always had labs for each team, but our new lab will be a hub where engineers can work together to make even faster progress towards connecting the world."

Ahead of Area 404's debut, Facebook yesterday gave journalists a tour of the new facility. The lab houses a variety of highly specialized and, in some cases, potentially dangerous equipment such as a...

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