Usually, around this time of year, Google announces plans for its annual hackathon in which contestants from around the globe gather together to search for holes in Google Chrome and are awarded for their efforts with cash prizes. Last year, prize money totaled exactly $2.71828 million, "the mathematical constant e for the geeks at heart," Google explained. (Duh.)
This year, Google is radically shaking up the formula for its so-called Pwnium competition (the name is derived from splicing "Pwn," the act of breaking into a computer and owning it, with "ium," a play on the full name for Google Chrome, i.e. Chromium). Yesterday the company announced that in lieu of a single-day competition, the challenge will expand to become an around-the-clock, constant process, which means hackers can submit bugs whenever, from wherever (although the competition does bar residents from sanctioned countries, such as Iran, Syria and North Korea, from participating).
Additionally, in place of a contained sum, Google has changed the nature of the prize money at stake: "For those who are interested in what this means for the Pwnium rewards pool, we crunched the numbers and the results are in," Tim Willis, a member of the Chrome security team and a "hacker philanthropist," writes in a post announcing the news. "It now goes all the way up to $∞ million."
Awards now range from a minimum of $500 up to a new high of $50,000. With a cash pot of "infinity millions," at least for now, there is no limit on the reward pool, although Willis, in a footnote, cautions that the program is "experimental and discretionary" and can be scrapped at any time.
These changes, he writes, are meant to lower the barrier of entry, and remove the incentive for hackers to sit on discovered bugs until the annual competition.