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Facebook opens office in Cambridge

Facebook Inc. has opened an engineering office in Kendall Square.

Facebook Inc. has opened an engineering office in Kendall Square.

Nine years after Facebook got its start in a Harvard dorm room, the social network is back in Cambridge.

Facebook Inc. has opened an engineering office in Kendall Square, in the heart of the area’s growing tech community and in the same neighborhood where other West Coast software giants Amazon.com Inc. and Twitter Inc. have recently established beachheads.

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The office will give a permanent home to a handful of Facebook employees in the area who have been working remotely, and provide more room for a growing number of local employees. Facebook refused to provide details on the size of its office or on how many employees it plans on hiring.

The Globe’s Scott Kirsner reported in August that Facebook was moving into a Kendall Square office, but the company has not confirmed the office until now.

“We are in Boston because there is really great, deep technical talent, and great start-up culture,” said Ryan Mack, who will lead the Boston team for Facebook. “This is just a really exciting time to be in Cambridge and Kendall Square, in particular.”

As Facebook’s size has ballooned to 1.2 billion users, its needs for engineering brain power are growing, said Mack. “We really have to invest heavily in hiring really strong talent.”

Facebook’s Cambridge outpost will focus on some of the company’s harder engineering challenges such as networking, storage, and security issues. It is Facebook’s fifth engineering office, including the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

Even though Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard University and fled to California to grow the company, the social network has maintained strong ties to the local area. It has recruited heavily at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but until now most hires were relocated to California or one of the company’s other offices.

Facebook’s return to the area is another piece of evidence that this region is a wellspring of computing smarts, said Cathy Wissink, director of technology community engagement at Microsoft Corp.’s Innovation & Policy Center in Cambridge.

“It really speaks to the strength and diversity of the broader Boston tech community that a company like Facebook is coming in,” she said. “The tech industry as a whole benefits when there are more voices in the conversation.”

Facebook has not just opened in the middle of hot Kendall Square, but in a building that is the focal point for much of the local start-up community. It is on the 8th floor of the high-rise that is home to the Cambridge Innovation Center, a shared working space that includes more than 300 entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“It’s very emotional for Cambridge and Greater Boston to have Facebook come back,” said Tim Rowe, chief executive of the Cambridge center. “It’s the one that got away.”

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.
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