The Companies That Support Linux and Open Source: Pinterest

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Pinterest — “the world’s catalog of ideas” — is built on open source, according to Jon Parise, technical architecture lead and open source program lead at the company. In this interview, Parise explains how adopting open source has changed the company and helped the company’s engineers design software that is more modular, reusable, and well-documented from the outset.

Pinterest also frequently open sources technology they build “as both a way to give back to communities and because it’s the right thing to do,” Parise says. Read on to learn more about how Pinterest uses and contributes to open source.

Jon Parise, technical architecture lead and Open Source program lead, Pinterest

Linux.com: What does Pinterest do?

Jon Parise: Pinterest is the world’s catalog of ideas, used by 150 million people every month to discover and do things they love.

Linux.com: How and why do you use Linux and open source?

Parise:  Pinterest is built on open source. From our first lines of Django code over six years ago to the release of Rocksplicator, our latest open source project, we’ve directly benefited from open source projects and the supportive communities surrounding them. In turn, we’ve made significant contributions to the open source technologies we use and have pushed the limits of technologies like HBase. Internally, open source is part of a product cycle. We frequently open source the technologies we build as both a way to give back to communities and because it’s the right thing to do.

Linux.com: Why did you join The Linux Foundation?

Parise: The Linux Foundation is home to Linux, Node.js and other mission critical projects that form the backbone of modern internet services, including Pinterest. Joining the Linux Foundation is great way for established companies like ours to support those communities.

Linux.com: What interesting or innovative trends in your industry are you witnessing and what role do Linux and open source play in them?

Parise:  We’re excited about three big technology trends: machine learning, computer vision and rich media.

Almost all machine learning efforts at Pinterest rely on open source components to some extent. Our data processing pipelines run on Hadoop, Cascading and Scalding. We use TensorFlow, Caffe and XGBoost to train our models, and R and Python are widely used for analyzing the results produced.

Our Visual Search team uses open source libraries for deep learning and computer vision. Caffe, TensorFlow and OpenCV are critical building blocks at Pinterest and allow us to actively publish our algorithmic and implementation findings for building performant visual search systems.

Lastly, our video and image platform leverages libraries like FFmpeg, GraphicsMagick, and ExoPlayer to power efficient media processing and playback.

Linux.com: How has participating in open source communities changed your company?

Parise:  As we’ve grown and are better resourced, we can now be a better contributor to open source by designing our software to be modular, reusable and well-documented from the beginning. In addition to making it easier for us to open source parts of our software down the road, that mindset benefits us in our day-to-day work as engineers inside the company, too.

We also strive to be additive to the greater open source community by filing bug reports, contributing patches, publishing papers, hosting tech talks and meetups, and speaking at conferences. Those are important things everyone can do, both as individuals and as employees of companies that benefit from open source.

Linux.com: How do you participate in the TODO Group and what have you learned from the experience?

Parise:  It’s early for us as members, but we’re excited to participate in a group of like-minded companies committed to open source. In particular, TODO focuses on how companies can run effective open source programs both internally and externally. Pinterest has already released over 30 open source projects, and with untold more to come, the benefit of TODO’s collective experience has already proven invaluable.

Learn more about Linux Foundation corporate membership and see a full list of members at https://www.linuxfoundation.org/members/join.