Hackers, Start Your Engines: Facebook Opens Registration For Its Annual Hacker Cup Competition

Facebook today announced that it has opened registration for the Hacker Cup, its annual competition for programmers with a $10,000 top prize, up from $5,000 last year, for the best of them all. Facebook holds the Hacker Cup in rounds, starting first online and then culminating in a final onsite round at Facebook’s HQ in Menlo Park, CA for the top 25 programmers. This years preliminary rounds will be held between January 25 and February 16. Facebook will fly the top 25 for the onsite final round that takes place March 22-23.

The Hacker Cup is important for a couple of reasons. For one is shows that, although Facebook is pushing past one billion members of its social network and is now one of the world’s biggest public tech companies, it is committed to trying to staying close to its Hacker Way roots.hacker way t shirt

This is important for it to stay innovative, but it also helps keep Facebook in touch with the world community of top, smart programmers — an obvious route to tapping for top engineering talent.

Facebook says that those who registered for a previous year are automatically registered for the competition year, although they still need to check their information is up-to-date.

There is no limit to the number of people registering for the competition, as long as you sign up by the end of the first round, on the 27th of January.

But there are a few limits on who can participate. Facebook notes in its rules and regulations that you need to be registered on Facebook yourself, you need to be 18 or older, and you cannot be resident in Quebec (!) or any other place where these kinds of competitions are prohibited by law. You also need to provide your real name, postal address, phone number, email address, and date of birth, which may weed out a few Anonymous types, as brilliant as some of them may be.

The competition will follow the same form as in past years. Rather than free-form hackathon-style hacking, contestants are given problem sets that they need to solve. Answers come by way of source code and an output file to show how it works. They will be judged on how well they can come up with the solution in a set period of time, via a timer in the input set. They have six minutes to submit the source code and output file — and they can submit multiple answers in that time.

Last year, the Hacker Cup attracted 8,000 hopefuls from 150 countries, but the final 25 came from a relatively narrow list of countries — Russia, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S., with the winner, Roman Andreev, hailing from Russia. You can read more about him and last year’s competition here. Just as it is telling that Facebook runs a Hacker Cup, it will be telling to see how many enter this year and how the country spread for finalists compares.