Hackathons are part of Facebook’s ethos as a company. Every year, Facebook holds a number of global events and individual offices are encouraged to host their own hackathons.
Engineers have produced some of the tools Facebook users see every day at company hackathons and use the events to improve existing features. Facebook uses these hackathons to encourage everyone in the company, regardless of position, to think about and build ways to improve its products.
Facebook this morning released a blog post looking back at all its hackathons in 2016 and picking out a few of its favorite things that came out of them. Here is a list of Facebook’s favorite inventions this year:
The prototype for what eventually became the Voyager transponder was developed at Facebook’s first hackathon of the year and its 50th overall. The transponder is a data center technology that helps transmit sophisticated pieces of data like photos and videos quicker across a single wave length.The technology is necessary, Facebook said, because people are sharing more photos, videos and other large data files than ever.
- A group of Seattle engineers used the technology behind Facebook Live to build a group video streaming feature within the company’s Messenger platform. This idea eventually found its way into Messenger for third party calls and Facebook’s virtual reality platform Oculus under the Rooms and Parties features.
- Though Facebook’s Safety Check fell victim to a fake news story recently, it remains one of its more helpful civic features. The original idea came out of a hackathon several years ago, and this year multiple Facebook teams added to the feature, allowing for more customization, including adding links to help people find local resources during a crisis
- An addition to Facebook’s Account Kit, which lets people login to apps with a phone number rather than a username and password, moves the company away from SMS messages for account verification. Because text messages can be unreliable, the Instant Verification feature uses people’s active Facebook session to see which phone numbers they’ve verified.
Facebook Recommendations lets users set up an interactive map of an area, and when their friends contribute, those recommendations get pinned to the map. At a hackathon in New York City, one team sought to build on this concept by making it possible to upload photos to a shared album, create a crowdsourced video of an event, and play a collaborative game, all by commenting on a post.
- This one is a little inside, but seems important for the Facebook staff, so we’ll just give it to you straight from the company: “Nuclide is Facebook’s open source integrated developer environment for iOS, React Native, and web development. During our three-daylong summer hackathon, one engineer decided to hack on top of Nuclide to integrate support for the (Apple) programming language Swift.”
- Nuclide was built on top of Atom, an open source desktop text editor. At one hackathon this year several Facebook engineers began a project to make Atom more mobile friendly. That project is ongoing, but the engineers did build a set of scripts that repackages Atom’s source allowing it to run like a web app.