The National Institute of Standards and Technology is holding a competition to design a new hash function to replace the current SHA family of functions and become SHA-3. The deadline for submissions was today, and the submissions will be evaluated over the coming years until a final proposed standard is made in 2012. Bruce Schneier posted some information about his team’s entry, Skein, and the whole selection process:
The selection process will take around four years. I’ve previously called this sort of thing a cryptographic demolition derby — last one left standing wins — but that’s only half true. Certainly all the groups will spend the next couple of years trying to cryptanalyze each other, but in the end there will be a bunch of unbroken algorithms; NIST will select one based on performance and features.
The Skein hash function is based on a the Threefish block cipher, which is also released as part of the submission. Source has been released to the public domain, which you can download from the Skein website.