Is the competitive programming industry doomed to implode?

October 03, 2021

Disclaimer: much speculation. @ me on twitter to argue.

Competitive coding as an industry has really grown in the early 2000s. I am not sure who decided to adopt this format for interviewing. It's impossible to dig up any history on this thing. Search engines only spam me with a ton of resources on how to crack them as soon as I include any phrase like "coding interview".

Either way, ever since all the software leviathans adopted this format, it's been a booming industry. I am confident the popularity of competitive coding is mostly because they get you big buck livelihood. The number of people doing it because they actually enjoy it (in the way we have people in eSports) is likely to be miniscule.

Since scalable interviewing is a thoroughly unsolved problem, it's prone to changing trends and fads. There were periods where Microsoft's "Why are manhole covers round" type puzzles were the norm. These were replaced by the current standard. Who's to say another big buck business won't come around with a more effective format two decades from now. It's not hard to imagine we'd be having machine learning assisted interviewing that would bring in a new fad format soon enough. When that happens, I expect large masses of people to ditch this format and try to crack the next varietal of interview nut instead.

Where would this leave GeeksforGeeks, Topcoder, CodeChef, LeetCode etc? They can still serve the people doing it for sport. But this is a much smaller market. It doesn't help that these companies have their marketing around the fact that it helps you secure these big buck bois' offer letter. The best way to survive is to pivot to whatever new interview format comes up, but this is assuming it can be cracked reliably by anyone, like with the current format.

aside: btw competitive coding does not suck
Sometimes it's fun, if the problems are novel, and you don't have to worry about jobs. Advent of Code is an example of a related format that feels fun to me.