Facebook making new friends in Northern Virginia

Facebook plans on beefing up its presence in the Washington DC metro area to capitalize on the region's entrepreneurial talent and connections to the federal government.

Facebook currently has a "huge" data center in Chantilly, "and we want to put more in Northern Virginia," Facebook public policy director Tim Sparapani said on a panel in Tysons Corner this morning. "We have people here looking at that."

"Facebook is about jobs--not just in Silicon Valley but particularly for a place like Northern Virginia that is poised to take advantage of what's happening," he said.

He said Facebook, which adds 5 million users every week, is really a platform on which other companies can build and innovate to create an "application economy."

There's an opportunity for companies in this region to build applications that cater to the federal government and help users interact with agencies, he said. Facebook currently has about 400,000 applications available to users.

"Because Northern Virginia has relationships with these folks, you can have conversations with people in agencies and the government. Silicon Valley doesn't have that ability," he said.

The federal government has budgeted about $35 million for social media projects in the 2010 budget, he pointed out. Sparapani thinks that figure will likely increase in 2011, partly due to the urging of federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra.

The panel was put together by the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Stay tuned for more details from the discussion on privacy issues.