What kind of development team will we need?


How many developers would it take to build another Facebook? Or at least a trimmed down version. Can one good developer do it, or would we need a large team? I have three partners, none of us has much tech experience aside from building the occasional Joomla or WordPress site. Our inexperience is painfully clear. Our idea is a social network with many of the same features as a Facebook, however very different as well. We are finally at the point where we are ready to start looking for a developer/s and we are trying to figure out what kind of team we need. Any help and/or input would be greatly appreciated!

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asked Jun 15 '12 at 14:12
164 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • what kind of team? solid, eager to learn, never give up! – Kalingga 9 years ago

5 Answers


It all depends on how many users you expect and how quick you grow. Facebook has millions of users and this reflect on the data storage (among others). While you can use a simple MySQL database for a Drupal driven site, you need to think different when developing a Facebook clone. You probably need to look into software like Hadoop which is highly complex and requires devs with good skills in math. Scaling software in that dimensions is not easy.

I do not know what features you want to see, but I would say three devs is a minimumwhen starting with such a software:

  • one operating systems, deployment, build, clustering etc
  • one building backend including hadoop
  • one building the frontend

All the devs must know how to work in such an environment. They should be able to discuss problems in each others fields, even when they are not working in it. You'll soon realize that once the bootstrap system runs you might need more people to operate.

Facebook btw does currently employ 3000 people. Please do consider that and the fact that Facebook is one of the biggest software clusters out there.

On a side comment, I really hope you have evaluated your market well. It will not be cheap to develop this and others - like Google with G+ - wrote "something like facebook with similar features but better" too. I can imagine a more niche related social platform is a bit easier to develop, because you don't need to think in clustering, Hadoop and other complex terms.

answered Jun 15 '12 at 16:23
3,590 points
  • Extremely helpful..thank you! We are not developing another Fb, it is a niche related social network. Again my lack of knowledge shows though here, which is exactly why Im asking. We are just trying to get an idea of what kind of team to build, what it will take, how many developers we will need, and what kind of costs to expect. We are expecting (hoping) for a big launch, fast growth, and a decent membership base, as we do have a good marketing plan. I think we may use Amazons hosting services. I wish I new more about scaling! Again thank you for your detailed answer. Derek – Derek 9 years ago


Building ANOTHER Facebook? How many developers would you need to build something that can be launch-ready? With today's tools, most likely less than 5 initially but that's not the main reason I decided to answer.

Some people successfully achieve failure. Suppose you do manage to build a site, and that technically speaking, it works. Now what? Fast forward to the point of launch and think that building ANOTHER Facebook, or even something of a much much smaller scale, is not a technical problem but a marketing problem.

answered Jun 15 '12 at 17:23
4,166 points
  • Marketing isn't so much of a problem depending on the purpose of the social network. Building another Facebook that works wouldn't be a show-stopper either. The problem or expensive part here is making it all scale. – Anonymous 9 years ago
  • Nowadays, with today's tools, scaling is never a technical problem. In fact, most start-ups WISHED they had a scaling issue... – Frenchie 9 years ago
  • Are you kidding? Scaling to the size of Facebook or Google is a massive technical problem. This guy did ask what it would take to build a Facebook *clone*. – Anonymous 9 years ago
  • Amazon EC2 makes scaling a non-issue. Of course, it's cheaper for Facebook to build their own Amazon EC2, after all, it's just an `apt-get install` away in Ubuntu. 82 packages result from `apt-cache search ec2` :) – Chris K 9 years ago
  • @Anonymous- are YOU kidding?? It's super hard to draw hundreds of millions of users to a site. If you or someone you know can build a business that has the scaling issues that Facebook or Google have, I'll give 200 of my rating points! My answer stands: it's NOT a technical problem; it's a business/marketing problem. – Frenchie 9 years ago
  • @frenchie - I never said it wasn't hard, I was completely on-topic with my comments. It does take a great deal of expertise to build a fully-scalable Facebook clone **like he asked**. – Anonymous 9 years ago
  • Thank you for your input...appreciated! First, our idea is NOT another Facebook or clone. Its a niche social network. I asked the question above because it will have many features that Fb does, IE walls, friends, etc. We have a good marketing plan, we pretty much have the site and its features designed...now we need a development team! Which is, our biggest weekness since we dont know exactly what we should be looking for. So we are doing as much info gathering as we can. Thanks again...and any additional input would be helpful! – Derek 9 years ago
  • Btw...on the scaling issue. Im glad that you guys brought it up and started debating! We are thinking about using Amazon to host. Would that solve our scaling issues? Are there other scaling issues that we should consider? – Derek 9 years ago
  • @Derek - I understand that Amazon is great for handling bursts of traffic when you're not sure what to expect. I would start out there, then when you have a rough idea of the resources you'll need and your growth to move to a fixed hosting solution (whether that's just one dedicated server, or whatever else). – Anonymous 9 years ago
  • @Derek: agreed with Anonymous about cloud hosting; it's the way to go. Check out Azure if you want to use .net – Frenchie 9 years ago
  • Thanks again. One more question. Is there a downside to cloud hosting such as Amazon and Azure? – Derek 9 years ago
  • Not really; cloud computing is the future, no need to maintain servers to deploy apps. The only thing is that the more time you spend developing against a certain framework, or deploying with a certain vendor, the more your application will become tied up with that vendor. If you're still free to choose which framework to choose, I'd recommend spending some time thinking about MS .net and Azure. – Frenchie 9 years ago
  • Frenchie...thank you. Your input has been very helpful. – Derek 9 years ago


OK, so the question isn't about building another FB clone (MySpace ? - of course that came first though, maybe Google+). but about resources to build something that scales to FB size. Assuming you can cover the hardware/hosting costs (which could be enormous for such a user base), then really it depends on how quickly you want it.

FB is not technically very difficulty - if you remove the apps etc, then its not difficult at all. The real prize is the scalability - this means good database design (again ignoring the hardware/load balancing etc). I would suggest a minimum (i.e. without time constraints - say over 6 months to a year) - Project manager, systems analyst/dev lead/designer, good DBA, backend DB coder, backend service designer/coder, web coders (a least 3 of), graphic artist/designer and testers (can reuse, but better to not test what you code). That is just technical staff, on top of that, good (legit) SEO company, publicist/pr/advertising company, lawyers (can be temporary), accountant, business analyst/manager/you.

The real hurdles is not recoding it - you could outsource that for a few thousand dollars probably, but building a paying user base (or non paying user base and paying advertising user base) and scaling it to accommodate a large user base.

answered Jun 17 '12 at 23:40
191 points
  • Extremely helpful and insightful answer. Thank you very much for investing the time to help. You gave me a very clear vision of what we will need. – Derek 9 years ago


Facebook is a complex product, and one of the major challenges is handling the scalability of millions and near billions of users. That's a very significant challenge. You won't have that problem for several years, I'm guessing, especially if it's a niche product.

What I'd advise, is build the simplest possible thing you can, and figure out other ways to get the idea out to real users before spending tons of money building it just to find out that people aren't interested in exactly what you built, but rather something like it.

That being said, for any decent web app, I'd recommend at least the following:

1 Illustrator/Graphic Designer for making stuff pretty

1 Web Designer for making the layout of your pages beautiful and flow from page to page
2 Backend Developers for actually building the logic
1 SysOps Guy to handle setting up all your servers and installing software etc. to save your devs time
With this team working full-time, I'd expect you could have something for beta within 3 months, and a product ready to test on the market by 6 months. It won't be the best thing ever, but it will have decent functionality, and your illustrator/designer will make it look really shiny so you can grab those customers, and get them to give you a chance.

By the end of your first year, your 2 backend developers will be starting to be overworked, so you'll probably need to hire a few more, based on your customer base.

Get traction first and foremost, and good luck!

answered Jun 18 '12 at 00:25
John Z
216 points
  • Thank you JohnZ! Great answer...very well written and easy to understand. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer. One more question for you; In terms of scalability, at what point in a websites growth does scalability become a serious issue. In terms of size...500,000 users? An 5 million? Sorry for the dumb question. Im sure that the answer is probably different for every application, but for a social network like I described above? Thanks again! – Derek 9 years ago
  • Derek, no problem, I love to help! I would say from what I've read on many stack overflow questions and other forums, etc. that once you get to a million users, you're starting to spend significant time worrying about scalability. My gut feeling is if you hit 10 million users you'll probably be spending 1-2 full-time devs on researching, installing, programming and rewriting pieces to handle the load. At least if the thing is written in PHP. If you use some other language, you may get more runway. Good luck! – John Z 9 years ago
  • JohnZ...thank you again. Very helpful. – Derek 9 years ago


I won't answer you question but I would ask myself What does this Facebook clone do that isn't already there? A major trick in startups is rather than fight in existing markets, define new markets. However sometimes you have to fight in a existing market and if you do you have to have something that no one can offer or no one else can do as cheaply.

I would sit down and define exactly what you want this Facebook clone (let's call your app - MyApp) to do. Then I would research what is out there that can partially or wholly do what MyApp is theoretically going to do. If you find that there are things then tweak MyApp specifications.

Once you have that done, then research what is the most effective way to craft MyApp (I am oddball in that I view application development as a work of art, not building a bridge).

After that then decide how fast you need it done, and how skilled of employees are you going to need.

Then you will have the answer to your question.

answered Jun 16 '12 at 05:00
Orion Darkwood
99 points
  • Thank you very much for your response. I think I should have been a little more specific in my original question, as our idea is not another FB clone. Its a niche social network with some of the same features as FB. We lack experience in the development area, and we are just trying to gather as much info as we possibly can. How do we build a good team?! lol Any additional input would be very appreciated. Thanks again! – Derek 9 years ago

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