SOCIAL NETWORKS

Barcelona is IT city as Facebook brings "hackathon" to Spain

Firm invites teams all over the world to design new concepts for its webpage

Searching for the next big thing: Facebook
Searching for the next big thing: FacebookTHOMAS HODEL (Reuters)

At Facebook it's important to hack. For many this term means entering IT systems without permission, but for the social network it means solving problems. The California-based company doesn't have a R&D department, because programing and software development forms an integral part of its culture. "This," explains engineer Simon Cross, "is our form of innovation." Once a month all employees dedicate 24 hours to thinking up and developing solutions. From these "hackathons," multiple innovations, such as Facebook's "Like" button and the Timeline, have emerged.

Now Facebook wants to "transform" hacking culture through World Hack 2012, an event that the company is holding in 12 cities worldwide, including four in Europe. On Tuesday, it was Spain's turn. A team of engineers from the social network disembarked in Barcelona to run the first hackathon on a national scale, in the city that spawned Social Point in 2008. The social games made by this developer "seduce 4.5 million users of the social network on a daily basis," explains the company's founder, Andrés Bou.

The 170 programmers, divided into 22 teams, had seven hours to create an application. Not much time, but enough for a jury to value the work. Just for taking part each team received 250 dollars - some 190 euros - in Facebook advertising credits. The global winner, chosen between the best creations in each of the 12 cities, will travel to the Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, California.

Each team went to Barcelona with their own computers, while Facebook provided the workspace, food, "a good internet connection" and introductory talks about their platform Open Graph, a solution devised to service 955 million clients worldwide.

Livebidr.com is one of the ideas to come out of the Barcelona heat of the hackathon, which was celebrated in the Palo Alto Foundation. The idea of the application is "to load auctions at real time via Facebook," explains Alex Moreno from Alicante, one of four team members.

 The creators of Edustudy, meanwhile want to bring all the people who are studying the same thing in one place into contact. And the viral marketing agency What If Living Digital worked on a "geographical positioning system for consumers" app, which measures which products are successful in a particular area.

But not all of those present were directly participating in the hackathon. Some went to check out the talent, while others had technical questions for the engineers. The majority wanted to find out first hand where the company is headed. Cross sums up Facebook's new objective: "We want to be the social layer of every application."

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