A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects. Occasionally, there is a hardware component as well. Hackathons typically last between a day and a week in length. Some hackathons are intended simply for educational or social purposes, although in many cases the goal is to create usable software. Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, which can include the programming language used, the operating system, an application, an API, the subject and the demographic group of the programmers. In other cases, there is no restriction on the type of software being created.
Origin and history 
The word "hackathon" is a portmanteau of the words "hack" and "marathon", where "hack" is used in the sense of playful, exploratory programming, not its alternate meaning as a reference to computer crime. The term seems to have been created independently by both the developers of OpenBSD and the marketing team of Sun; these usages both first happened in 1999.
OpenBSD's apparent first use of the term referred to a cryptographic development event held in Calgary on June 4, 1999, where 10 developers came together to avoid legal problems caused by export regulations of cryptographic software from the United States.
For Sun, the usage referred to an event at the JavaOne conference from June 15 to June 19, 1999; there John Gage challenged attendees to write a program in Java for the new Palm V using the infrared port to communicate with other Palm users and register it on the Internet. The event was dubbed "the Hackathon".
Starting in the mid to late 2000s, hackathons became significantly more widespread, and began to be increasingly viewed by companies and venture capitalists as a way to quickly develop new software technologies, and to locate new areas for innovation and funding. Some major companies were born from these hackathons, such as GroupMe, which began as a project at a hackathon at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 conference; in 2011 it was acquired by Skype for $85 million. The software PhoneGap began as a project at the iPhoneDevCamp (later renamed iOSDevCamp) in 2008; the company whose engineers developed PhoneGap, Nitobi, refocused itself around PhoneGap, and Nitobi was bought by Adobe in 2011 for an undisclosed amount.
Hackathons typically start with one or more presentations about the event, as well as about the specific subject, if any. Then participants suggest ideas and form teams, based on individual interests and skills. Then the main work of the hackathon begins, which can last anywhere from several hours to several days. For hackathons that last 24 hours or longer, especially competitive ones, eating is often informal, with participants often subsisting on food like pizza and energy drinks. Sometimes sleeping is informal as well, with participants sleeping on-site with sleeping bags.
At the end of hackathons, there is usually a series of demonstrations in which each group presents their results. There is sometimes a contest element as well, in which a panel of judges select the winning teams, and prizes are given. At many hackathons, the judges are made up of organizers and sponsors. At BarCamp-style hackathons, that are organized by the development community, such as iOSDevCamp, the judges are usually made up of peers and colleagues in the field. Such prizes are sometimes a substantial amount of money; a social gaming hackathon at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference offered $250,000 in funding to the winners.
Types of hackathons 
For an application type 
"TV Hackfest" events have been held in both London and San Francisco, focusing mainly on social television and second screen technologies. In TV Hackfests, challenge briefs are typically submitted by content producers and brands, in the form of broadcast industry metadata or video content, while sponsors supply APIs, SDKs and pre-existing open source software code.
For a specific programming language, API, or framework 
Some hackathons focus on applications that make use of the application programming interface, or API, from a single company or data source. Open Hack, an event run publicly by Yahoo! since 2006 (originally known as "Hack Day", then "Open Hack Day"), has focused on usage of the Yahoo! API, in addition to APIs of websites owned by Yahoo!, like Flickr. The company's Open Hack India event in 2012 had over 700 attendees. Google has run similar events for their APIs, as has the travel guide company Lonely Planet.
The website Foursquare notably held a large, global hackathon in 2011, in which over 500 developers at over 30 sites around the world competed to create applications using the Foursquare API. A second Foursquare hackathon, in 2013, had around 200 developers.
For a cause or purpose 
Various hackathons have been held to improve city transit systems. There have also been a number of hackathons devoted to improving education, including Education Hack Day  and on a smaller scale, looking specifically at the challenges of field work based geography education, the Field Studies Centre hosted FSCHackday.Random Hacks of Kindness is another popular hackathon, devoted to disaster management and crisis response.
For a demographic group 
Internal company hackathons 
Some companies, such as Facebook and Google, hold internal hackathons to promote new product innovation by the engineering staff. For example, Facebook's Like button was conceived as part of a hackathon.
Developing a single application 
In some hackathons, all work is based around improving a single application, such as an operating system, programming language, or content management system. Such events are often known as "sprints" or "code sprints", and they are especially popular for open source software projects, where sprints or hackathons are sometimes the only opportunity for developers to meet face-to-face. Unlike other hackathons, these events rarely include a competitive element.
The annual hackathon to work on the operating system OpenBSD, held since 1999, is one such event; it was a pioneering hackathon that may have originated the word "hackathon".
Some hackathons have no restrictions on content or attendees, and are simply a contest to generate interesting software applications quickly. SAPO Codebits, sponsored by the Portuguese internet service provider SAPO, is one example.
AngelHack is a San Francisco-based global hackathon company, that since 2011 has hosted events in 30 cities around the world. AngelHack events have been sponsored by major technology companies including Google, Facebook, PayPal and Amazon. AngelHack has a global demo day where the top teams from around the world are flown to Silicon Valley to compete in front of top judges for funding and prizes.
Trademark issue 
- The Hackathon Is On: Pitching and Programming the Next Killer App, Steven Leckart, Wired, March 2012
- PhoneGap: It’s Like AIR for the IPhone, Dave Johnson, PhoneGap Blog, 18 September 2008
- Adobe Acquires Developer Of HTML5 Mobile App Framework PhoneGap Nitobi, Leena Rao, TechCrunch, October 3, 2011
- Hackers Get Hired At Bletchley Park, HuffPost Tech UK, September 19, 2011
- AT&T Mobile App Hackathon 2011
- Music Hack Day homepage
- Android Hackathon
- iOSDevCamp 2011 Hackathon
- N9 Hackathon
- Nordeus 2011 Game Development Hackathon
- TV Hackfest homepage
- Article on TV Hackfest San Francisco
- PDF of Feature article on TV Hackfest in AIB The Channel
- HTML5 Hackathon – New York, August 1, 2011
- Pune Rails Hackathon: July 29-30, 2006
- Open! Hack! Day!, Flickr blog, September 3, 2008
- Purple in Bangalore – Inside Yahoo! Open Hack India 2012, Pushpalee Johnson, August 11, 2012, YDN Blog
- Google Hackathon – January 22nd, 2011
- Melbourne Hack Day: List Of Presentations And Winners[dead link]
- The hackathon heard round the world!, Foursquare blog, September 20, 2011
- If you build it, they will come. Check out all the cool new things you can do with Foursquare! #hackathon, Foursquare blog, January 8, 2013
- Open government hackathons matter, Mark Headd, govfresh, August 24, 2011
- In #HackWeTrust - The House of Representatives Opens Its Doors to Transparency Through Technology, Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation blog, December 8, 2011
- All aboard the transit hackathon express, Roberto Rocha, The Gazette, December 16, 2011
- Education Hack Day
- NASA, Microsoft, Google Hosting Hackathon, Elizabeth Montalbano, InformationWeek, June 7, 2010
- Female Geeks Flex Their Skills At Ladies-Only Hackathon, Jed Lipinski, Fast Company, September 14, 2011
- Welcome to the First European Perl Hackathon
- Hac: The Haskell Hackathon
- Scalathon: The International Scala Hackathon
- Drupal NYC Hackathon
- MediaWiki Events