(continued from previous page)
And will your Parakey plans still come true?
Hewitt: I think it will still happen if Facebook enables us to do what we want to do. They gave us that network to leverage and that's a huge advantage definitely. Now we just have to get our moms to join Facebook.
You worked on Firebug at the same time as Parakey?
Hewitt: Firebug is actually one thing we did shift from Parakey, although that wasn't our goal when we set out to build Firebug...It was a means to help us build Parakey and in the process I realized it would probably be really popular with a lot of people if I released it. And so I decided to take the time, probably at Parakey's expense. I took the time to release it and give it away for free and I've been really happy with that decision. At least it made a lot people happy and people have done great things with it.
Why didn't you make it into a commercial product?
Hewitt: We did consider that for a while. As I was building, I figured I probably could sell and make some money off of it. But in the end I felt like I didn't want the Parakey business to be developer tools and I didn't want to focus on Firebug as a business. I felt it would probably have more of an impact if it was free and everyone can use it. It became like a commodity. There are lot of other companies trying to sell Firebug-like tools right now and you can tell their market is very small. They might make a lot of money actually even on that niche market, I don't know. I'd rather affect more people than make a profit. Now I really haven't worked on Firebug in about six months, but I did release it out of second source. It's on Google Code and there are some people who have actually taken it over. They've been actively developing it in my absence. I think they're working on a new version that might come out soon.
You did other stuff free for users, like the iUI for the iPhone?
Hewitt: The iUI was a fun accident. I still can't believe how many people are using it because it was just like an overnight thing. Everyone at iPhoneDevCamp was going crazy and I said, "What the heck is going on here?" I just created it the night before. It was four in the morning and before I passed out, I uploaded it to the Google group with a little note saying "here it is." When I woke up the next morning, it was all over the place. I didn't even finish it and polish it off. I didn't worry about all the things that you normally do when you're releasing software that a lot of people are going to use. But I guess people are just so eager, and the iPhone is such an incredible, exciting new thing that people just ran with it.
Even Apple is now promoting it. They are telling people to use it. I guess they're taking their time in building something like that, so they're happy for now to just tell people to use this thing that some other guy built and maybe someday it will be crushed with their own big product. I don't know.
A lot of people have been saying that Apple should have done what you did.
Hewitt: I totally expected them to do it actually, which is why I didn't really set out to try to make a standard iPhone framework. I figured maybe the next week Apple was going to release one so I'd just do something real quick for the DevCamp that weekend and for my own kind of fun experiment. Here we are a month and a half later, and it's all there is.
The iPhone has been the center of your attention even after you joined Facebook.
Hewitt: When I got here, on my second day I was kind of free to dig into the Facebook experience. However, it made sense since I have been so absorbed with the iPhone development, to build Facebook for the iPhone. I'm using Facebook nonstop, so it was kind of annoying to have to use it on the iPhone (and) pan and scroll things to use the site. So I thought, why not? I really didn't know how far I was going to go with it initially. I built something to browse photos and update my status basically, and a few days of carrying it around with me I just started getting addicted to it. A lot of the iPhone sites to this point have been small snippets of the overall Web site, like Digg or ESPN. I'd say 95 percent of the stuff that people do commonly on Facebook you can do on the iPhone. And I imagine at some point, time permitting, we'll flush out the rest of it.
So now that you've launched your project, what will be the next one?
Hewitt: I'm not so much on the platform team. I'm really interested in the overall user experience of the Facebook site. Blake and I are both looking at the entire site and what parts of it could use a little sprucing up and what things could be rethought. I'm really focusing on that right now and probably less so on the nuts and bolts of the platform in the near future at least. I wish I could say more, and I've actually never worked with a company before where people care about what I was working on. When I was at Netscape, everything we did, it was open-source and so everyone always knew what I was working on. I find the fishbowl effect here at Facebook a little weird, but it's just like when I'm reading the Apple rumor sites: Everyone loves to speculate about what Apple is doing and I love to read it. And I always wish that they would drop a hint and tell me something.