Since it's creation by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, Facebook has become a central cog not just of the internet but of society in general.
This role has only increased as the social network embraced mobile and digital platforms. However, the reach of Facebook on smart-phones has yet to be translated to revenue dollars; this was made clear by the company's disappointing share value performance post-IPO. However, it's likely that Zuckerberg is eyeing an elegant solution to this problem: a Facebook smartphone.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that the company "hopes to release its own smartphone by next year," in an article sourcing multiple Facebook insiders including employees, recruited engineers and those familiar with the company's vision. All sources spoke on the condition of Anonymity, demonstrating the high level of secrecy typical of Facebook.
A phone would be the internet company's first attempt at selling the public on a physical product, and Zuckerberg has brought more than six former Apple software and hardware engineers on board. Five of the new employees worked on the iPhone, while the sixth contributed to the iPad.
According to the Times, one former Apple engineer met with Zuckerberg, who "peppered him with questions" about how smartphones work, and asked about "intricate details [like] the types of chips used." The engineer noted that Zuckerberg's questions sounded like more than pure curiosity. Another former Apple employee said they met with a Facebook executive who admitted Facebook has plans to build and sell hardware.
The move comes as no big surprise. Facebook is a newly public company, and must find new ways to make money.
"Mark is worried that if he doesn't create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms," a Facebook employee told the Times.
Responding to growing rumors that Facebook was working on a mobile phone, the company told AllThingsD last year:
"Our mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We're working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world."
Facebook has attempted to design a smartphone before, three times in the past three year, according to a former recruit. What separates the company's most recent attempt to its previous failures is the realization that designing a phone requires designers with previous smartphone-making experience.
Back in 2012 TechCrunch reported that Facebook was working on a smartphone, but quoted several few engineers who had worked on it and admitted that the project fell apart when Zuckerberg and his team realized how hard it is to create a smartphone.
"Building isn't something you can just jump into," Hugo Fiennes, a former Apple hardware manager for the iPhone who is currently starting a new hardware company, Electric Imp, said "You change the smallest thing on a smartphone and you can completely change how all the antennas work. You don't learn this unless you've been doing it for a while. Going into the phone business is incredibly complex."