Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a "Space Hackathon" soon after the last employees moved into the company's new headquarters in Menlo Park. He wanted to encourage everybody to decorate the new buildings so that it felt like their own. Some Facebook engineers decided they wanted a "space hack" instead – something that made Facebook visible from space.
Facebook engineer Mark Pike commented on Zuckerberg's call to action:
Hack yeah! I'd like to paint a gigantic QR code somewhere so we can RickRoll online maps, or point people to our careers site, or send them to a 'Clarissa Explains it All' GeoCities Page.
By the end of the day, the comment had nearly 50 Likes. Pike wasn't sure if people were seriously interested, so he created a Facebook Group, and 100 employees joined. One of the engineers realized that the shorter the URL, the less complex the QR code needs to be (meaning less painting and a better chance that the code could be scanned from space). The group went ahead and purchased fbco.de and generated the QR code.
Last month at Hackathon 29, a couple dozen Facebook engineers, designers, and members of the operations team climbed up on the roof armed with chalk, twine, paint rollers, a few drums full of black paint, and some cold beer. Some engineers in the group determined the optimal orientation of the grid, consulting satellite print-outs and knowledge of local flight paths, while others got to work chalking out a 42' square with 2' pixels. They finished just before midnight, but it was too dark to tell if they had succeeded.
The next day, another Facebook engineer strapped a Canon SD790IS camera to a tiny quadcopter and headed up to the roof at lunchtime. The mission was a success: the QR code was scannable from space, or at least from a plane.
"Not only was this Hackathon project a great success, but it was also an awesome example of why I love working here," Pike said in a statement. "Even with an idea as crazy as painting a 42' foot grid on the roof of a building, nobody stopped us. All my co-workers reacted the same way: 'What can I do to help?' Whether it was the mobile engineer who worked on the QR code landing site, the application engineer with carpentry skills, the marketing intern who helped brainstorm our launch plan, or the facilities team who pointed us to the ladder, everyone came together for the sake of building something fun."
If you want to see how Facebook puts the QR code and resulting to URL to work, you can stay updated via the FB QR Code Facebook Page.