The five-minute CIO: Julien Codorniou, Facebook platform director

22 Jan 2016

Julien Codorniou, director, Global Platform Partnerships, Facebook

“I wish for everyone to have a software job some day,” says Julien Codorniou, director of global platform partnerships at Facebook.

The Facebook platform generates $29bn of economic activity every year and has created 600,000 jobs.

Codorniou serves as director of platform partnerships at Facebook, managing the team responsible for Facebook’s developer and partner relationships in EMEA, Asia-Pacific and North America.

He was previously director of business development at Microsoft where he created and launched the BizSpark programme. He started his career in the finance/VC industry.

Facebook employs more than 1,000 people in Dublin and recently achieved planning permission to build a $200m data centre in Meath.

‘Anyone in a garage with a computer can potentially build a billion dollar app’

Facebook is a coder company at heart, and now it is a platform company. How did this journey evolve?

Facebook is a platform. It was not always the case. It only became a platform in 2007 when we launched the Facebook platform, which was the possibility for any developer to build apps on I remember that Mark Zuckerberg said that one day there would be companies whose only product would be an app that lives within Facebook.

People at the time said he was crazy, me included.

But then things like Zynga and happened and we became a mobile platform. Most of the ecosystem that we manage now is an ecosystem of mobile developers.

My job is to consolidate and foster the Facebook ecosystem globally. We work right now with companies that don’t even have applications on the web [version of Facebook], just on the device.

So we went from helping developers build apps on Facebook to being a platform for mobile developers that helps them to build cross-platform apps, which is why we bought Ilya [Sukhar]’s company (Parse). The world has changed a lot but, as you said, we are a core platform company, a company of developers and we want to make developers

The world has changed a lot but, as you said, we are a core platform company, a company of developers, and we want to make developers successful because we do well when our partners do well.

If Facebook wanted to, it could be its own internet. Is that the vision?

The Facebook vision in 2007, that was it. But, right now, Facebook is mainly a mobile app and we make money by selling ads on mobile that take people from Facebook to somewhere else.

But this is also what we do with the platform, log in with Facebook, monetise with Facebook, so you have to see Facebook as a distribution, development and monetisation platform.

What defines our success is the success of our ecosystem, some of these apps are inside Facebook – like Candy Crush – but when they play it on mobile it is not on Facebook but you are using the Facebook platform outside Facebook.

We don’t do Facebook games. We could do. We could build games ourselves, but we let other companies do it or integrate Facebook outside Facebook. But that’s what really defines us, being a partnership company.

Apple has created its own programming language called Swift. Do you ever see Facebook going in the direction with a Facebook-defined software language? 

We contribute to a lot of open source groups and technologies, we have React Native that ships on mobile and we have the Open Compute Project for software-defined networks, so we do contribute a lot to existing or new programming languages and that has been the case for many years.

We think we can also help the ecosystem by giving other people some of the technologies we have been building ourselves from scratch like React Native on mobile, which is great for developers.

I am not sure we will have a Facebook programming language, but we do try to contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem this way in terms of standards and quality.

How would you sum up the economic impact of Facebook’s platform?

The Facebook Payments business is a marketplace of approximately $3bn dollars every year. Also, Deloitte’s economic impact study revealed that Facebook’s platform is a $29bn economy in terms of the economic activity that the platform creates. This has created 600,000 jobs and a third of those were in Europe. So, Europe is the biggest driver of the platform economy.

A lot of people think Silicon Valley is the place to be but that is slowly changing. The ecosystem we have in Europe is not just Berlin and London and Paris, it is Barcelona, Helsinki, Tel Aviv, it’s Minsk, Belgrave, Dublin, anyone in a garage with a computer can potentially build a billion-dollar app. The face of the European tech ecosystem has changed a lot and so, for us, the challenge is to identify these guys on day one before they start coding to be the platform they choose to grow.

Because of all this activity, what role does Facebook play in encouraging young people to learn how to code?

Our CEO tries to always promote coding and we also have the FbStart programme for young companies so they can get ad cloud computing resources and software from partners. We promote the job of being a developer in every talk that we do.

How do you think we can make software part of the human dialogue and what will this mean for the future of work? 

I remember the days when software was not a business and I also remember the day when I realised software could be a business, which meant that I could have a job, because I just wanted to do software when I was 10 years old. But a lot of people are trying to do it, getting kids to code and learn the languages as early as possible, it is the best thing we can do.

My two sons, who are eight and four, will be developers for sure, even before they learn French, they will be developers. This is because it can create a lot of value, it creates diversity, it can help countries, help new hotspots to emerge, make the world flat.

Look at when I first met Riccardo Zacconi five years ago he was the CEO of a 10-year-old company employing 50 people. He just sold that company for $6bn. He has hired many talents, these people will leave and set up their own companies. I’m talking about highly sophisticated jobs, not the kind of jobs you can localise overnight. I wish for everyone to have a software job some day.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years