Some Of Facebook's Best Features Were Once Hackathon Projects


It seems that almost every major feature on Facebook started as a hackathon project.


Hackathons are all-night coding sessions where engineers get amped up on caffeine, brainstorm ideas, and build anything they want.

There's just one rule for a Facebook hackathon: You can't work on the same thing that you work on during the day.

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Facebook engineering manager Pedram Keyani is often mentioned as the guy who made hackathons a tradition at Facebook. The first official hackathon took place in 2007 after Keyani emailed his fellow colleagues to see if anyone would be interested in hacking with him the following night.

That hackathon, Keyani says, generated a lot of great projects and ideas. So the next day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg approached him saying how awesome it was. From that point on, Keyani made an effort to ask people every six to eight weeks if they wanted to hack.


As Ryan Tate documented in "The 20% Doctrine," a book about hackathons and other forms of in-house innovation, these hackathons developed an idea for "hack days" pioneered at Yahoo by Chad Dickerson, who's now the CEO of Etsy. But Facebook married the idea to the college all-nighter and came up with a formula that's now part of startup culture throughout Silicon Valley.

Where Facebook has proved especially strong in its implementation of the idea is turning hackathon work into reality.