Snap poaches machine learning star from Facebook

Key Points
  • One of the people who has contributed to Facebook's machine learning technology has joined Snap, which has faced competition from Facebook.
  • Last month Hussein Mehanna joined Snap as a director of engineering.
Snap snaps up one of Facebook's stars

Snap has hired one of Facebook's machine learning stars. The move comes as Snap staffs up its research and development division while it deals with Facebook copying some of its features.

Last month Hussein Mehanna joined Snap as a director of engineering. At Facebook he had been engineering director of the core machine learning group inside Facebook's applied machine learning organization, which in turn works with the company's highly regarded artificial intelligence research group.

Mehanna joined Facebook in 2012, before the company made a major commitment to AI by hiring Yann LeCun, a luminary in the field. Since then Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have brought on more AI talent right alongside Facebook.

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At Facebook, Mehanna's team built software for making sense of users' text and a system for running employees' machine learning workloads.

Snap launched its own research group in 2015. The head of the group, Jia Li, left and joined Alphabet in November. Her successor, David Salesin, joined in February from Adobe Research, where he led the creative technologies lab, and was followed by colleague Joel Brandt.

In the first quarter, Snap's research and development expenses ballooned, costing the company $805 million, up from $28 million a year earlier, primarily because stock awards associated with the company's successful IPO were paid out.

But Snap added "the increase was also driven by an increase in research and development headcount of approximately 260 percent."

In recent months Facebook has brought Snapchat-like camera and video features to its Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.