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Building Mobile-First Infrastructure for Messenger | Engineering Blog | Facebook Code

Messages have been part of Facebook for many years, beginning as direct messaging similar to email (available in your inbox the next time you visited the site) and then eventually evolving into a real-time messaging platform that provides access to your messages on a number of mobile apps or in a browser. But until recently the back-end systems hadn't evolved much from early iterations, and Messenger's performance and data usage started to lag behind — especially on networks with costly data plans and limited bandwidth. To fix this, we needed to completely re-imagine how data is synchronized to the device and change how data is processed in the back end to support our new synchronization protocol.

The version of Messenger we released at the end of last year was the first taste of a “mobile first” experience for Facebook Messenger. For the past year, while our app developer teammates have been improving the UI and expanding Messenger's feature set, the Messaging infrastructure team has been working to make the platform more reliable on the back end and use less data. As a result, we created a new Messenger sync protocol that decreased non-media data usage by 40% and developed a new service called Iris to power it. By reducing congestion on the network, we've seen an approximately 20% decrease in the number of people who experience errors when trying to send a message.

The clients

The original protocol for getting data down to Messenger apps was pull-based. When receiving a message, the app first received a lightweight push notification indicating new data was available. This triggered the app to send the server a complicated HTTPS query and receive a very large JSON response with the updated conversation view.

Instead of this model, we decided to move to a push-based snapshot + delta model.

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The version of Messenger we released at the end of last year was the first taste of a “mobile first” experience for Facebook Messenger.

Facebook messaging: "Switching from JSON to Thrift reduced our payload size on the wire by 50%."


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A little fish in a big-ass pond

I am a software developer in South Africa. An avid online gamer and technology enthusiast.