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Facebook launches 2013 Hacker Cup

$10,000 prize on offer to tempt programmers to solve problems—fast

Facebook’s 2013 Hacker Cup is go. The social network describes the competition as an “annual worldwide programming competition where hackers compete against each other for fame, fortune [and] glory”, with a top prize of a cool $10,000. The online qualification round starts today and runs this weekend, and registration remains open; a FAQ provides further information about rounds and rules.

According to David Alves, a software engineer on the Facebook mobile team, coding competitions run deep within Facebook: “A bunch of us have done programming competitions in the past and enjoy getting together with the smartest coders in the world to tackle coding challenges. We run the Facebook Hacker Cup because we enjoy challenging like-minded people, and some of the competitors have gone on to work for Facebook, either as full-time employees or as interns.”

Facebook engineers write the puzzles for the competition, providing competitors with just a few hours to solve them. In successive rounds, problems get harder, and only the top coders advance to the final round, held at Facebook's headquarters in California. According to Alves, C++ and Java are the most common programming languages in the final rounds, “because it’s important your program runs as fast as possible,” although he noted earlier rounds often see wider variety, including Java, Python and Ruby. He also suggested the competition dovetails nicely with Facebook’s own penchant for rapid problem-solving and iteration: “Being able to solve problems creatively and implement your ideas in code quickly and correctly is definitely an important skill for someone working at a company that moves as fast as Facebook.”

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