How Facebook uses Big Data in practice
With almost 2 billion people updating their status 293,000 times per minute, Facebook could, until recently, only hope to draw value from a tiny fraction of all its unstructured data – information that isn’t easily quantified and put into rows and tables for computer analysis. But now, deep learning is helping to change that.
Deep learning techniques enable machines to learn to classify data by themselves; for example, a deep learning image analysis tool can learn to recognise images that contain cats, without specifically being told what a cat looks like. By analysing a large number of images, it can learn from the context of the image – what else is likely to be present in an image of a cat? What text or metadata might suggest that an image contains a cat?
This helps give structure to unstructured data, which makes deep learning an extremely valuable tool for a company like Facebook. In just one example of how the social network uses deep learning to understand more about its users, deep neural networks – the foundation stones of deep learning – are used to decide which adverts to show to which users. This has always been a core part of Facebook’s business, but by tasking machines themselves to find out as much as they can about us, and to cluster us together in the most insightful ways when serving us ads, it hopes to maintain an edge against other high-tech competitors, such as Google, who are fighting for supremacy of the same advertising market.
The technical details
Most of Facebook’s deep learning technology is built on the Torch platform, a development environment focused on deep learning technologies and neural networks.
Ideas and insights you can steal
Deep learning will probably continue to play a key part in the future development of Facebook. And this, in turn, is likely to benefit countless other organisations – after all, Facebook provides other companies with access to its user data. This means even small companies with no data infrastructure of their own can potentially benefit from the most cutting-edge deep learning technology.
You can read more about how Facebook is using Big Data to drive success in Big Data in Practice: How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.