Well over 600,000 developers participate in a topcoder community that not only allows them to expand their development skills, but also gives them access to projects where they can get paid for participating. Now Appirio is looking to expand the appeal of topcoder to even more developers by not only making it easier to participate in a project by invoking an API, but also by adding support for HTML5 and the Node.js development framework to the site later this year. Following Appirio's acquisition of topcoder, the company announced it had folded its CloudSpokes crowdsourcing development platform within topcoder. Appirio claims that the volume of work and challenges on the platform have increased by 20% since it acquired topcoder last fall, and that last year participants earned more than $8.5 million in prizes.
Topcoder was originally written in Java a dozen years ago. The refresh announced today is designed to attract developers looking to work with more modern tools, says Dave Messinger, topcoder's chief community officer. Java, in contrast, requires developers to know a lot more about what version of Java is running where and when, which many younger developers at this point find to be a little anachronistic. In addition to modernizing the tools that are available to developers, Appirio is also in the middle of a multiphase shift to the cloud, says Messinger. The majority of topcoder currently runs on the EC2 cloud platform from Amazon Web Services (AWS), with additional documentation services delivered via WordPress. In the future, Messinger says, topocoder will run on cloud services provided by both AWS and the Heroku subsidiary of Salesforce.com. As the skills shortage becomes more pronounced and organizations become more comfortable with crowdsourcing of application development projects, Messinger says it’s only a matter of time before the number of active development projects on topcoder increases substantially. Rather than hiring developers as full time employees, it will be both simpler and more cost-effective for those organizations to tap into a global online developer marketplace, he says. Developers, meanwhile, will not only find more demand for their services, but will also find it easier to keep their skills current by participating in, for example, challenges that make it easier for them to learn new skills while working on an actual project, says Messinger. The degree to which developer networks replace traditional classrooms remains to be seen, of course. But Messinger notes that a number of relationships between topcoder and online learning programs already exist. In fact, most developers would rather get paid for learning new skills than pay for the privilege of attending a traditional class, where interaction with peers is confined not only to the size of a classroom but also to that classroom's physical location.