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A Sneak Peek at What's Really Behind Facebook's Growth

The Growth team looks at terabytes and pentabytes of data, with the infrastructure and data centers to back that up, accounting for much of Facebook's operating expenses. This allows the analysts to be able to collect the data, analyze it using various tools, including Microsoft Excel, Tableau, and custom built dashboard systems, and then help product managers use the results to develop products.

The Messaging application is one example where Olivan and his team were able to make a serious change to the product, however seemingly trivial it might be. If users enable push notifications, it determines how you communicate with the other user, creating a very different patterns in users replies to each other.

With a seemingly never-ending trove of data at the company's disposal, privacy is a concern for outsiders, but not for Olivan and his team. "Every analysis is logged, and we've never had an issue," he says. "It's not about bigger and bigger, but about making it smarter. How you create a signal out of ever-increasing amounts of data and parse the noise out, that's where the value lies."

Though the journey is just 1% complete, and the company has managed to connect more than 1 billion users, the Growth team has some ambitious plans over the next few years. "We really want to help connect everyone in the world," Olivan says.

Recently, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg unveiled, along with the help of several other companies in the technology field, an attempt to get everyone in the world connected to the Internet. Facebook's Growth team will likely keep working to help solve that problem, accelerating its growth rate, which is growing between 7% and 9% per year.

For now, the team is focused on continuing to allow people to connect to their friends and family, giving them access to all these tools and the technology Facebook has at its disposal.

"It's both and an art and a science," Olivan says of using data, interpreting it, and coming up with the best solution to the problem. "You need the science to help you understand what's going on, but you need the designers to create these great products and experiences. That's precisely what we'll keep doing."

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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