back to article Amazon's 'schizophrenic' open source selfishness scares off potential talent, say insiders

Amazon is one of the most technically influential companies operating today – but you wouldn't know it, thanks to a dearth of published research papers and negligible code contributions to the open-source projects it relies on. This, according to multiple insiders, is becoming a problem. The corporation is described as a " …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon can't live without opensource

    and it can't live by opening it's source, otherwise they wouldn't be leading.

    Nothing to see here really. Anyone even slightly business minded would see the logic behind their decisions.

    Opensource hipster coders need not apply? I'm pretty sure plenty of better talents will work without relying on opensourcerers (just look at the financial automated trading desk coders, they've done some impressive real-time system work that dates back a decade that only now the larger internet is begining to adopt).

    That said, they should really contribute fixes to opensource projects if it is really just simple fixes.

    "In many cases in the big companies and all the small startups, your Github profile is your resume" <-- this is only a trend begining in the past 4 years by the likes of Twitter and other hipster startups, it's sure is helpful and I see the appeal as an employer, but if your company isn't big on open sourcing and revealing codes that costed millions to develop then frankly as an employer you'd have to look at the candidate twice for fear they might have a tendency to leak, I would rather see a portfolio of closed but cutting-edge source developed by candidates and ensuring to ask candidates to identify and describe specific security minded codes / procedures to ensure they're up to speed themselves on writing secure codes.

    I love opensource, I don't think anyone in business can live without opensource softwares now-a-days, so contributing back should be a given, but if you've built something on top and you want to commercialise it, what exactly is the problem? We can't all be a charity. And what I've noticed more and more today coders (usually under 30) that has a large repository of opensource projects are just expanding more and more projects to get noticed by companies that are big with opensource, more often than not their projects are worthless in commercial value or technology output.

    1. conan

      Re: Amazon can't live without opensource

      "Anyone even slightly business minded would see the logic behind their decisions"

      I'm not sure I agree here. For example, Amazon are competing directly with Netflix, who open a huge amount of incredible code on GitHub (, and they're absolutely destroying LoveFilm. All the best developers I know would like to work for Netflix, whereas I've never heard anyone say anything positive about working for Amazon. Talks given by Netflix folk like Adrian Cockroft do a huge amount to promote the company within the wider tech community.

      Netflix don't release their latest code straight away - they admit there is usually a few months between a feature going live and them contributing it back to the community, partly so they can fix it up, but mainly (I'd guess) because they don't want to be sharing their latest and greatest functionality with everyone. But they realise that tech grows old fast, and old tech isn't what keeps you ahead - it's the new stuff that counts.

      From my perspective, I've had many arguments in the past against exactly this attitude - that if we wrote it, why should we give it away for free? My response to that is always the same - if it isn't our core business, what do we gain by keeping it secret? If I'm working for an ecommerce company, releasing some chef recipes or testing frameworks isn't going to give our competitors an edge, but it might attract better candidates, and if it's really popular, we might even get some code contributions back for free.

      Twitter don't seem to be suffering from releasing Bootstrap, Google don't seem to suffer from Android, Guice, Guava and the many other projects they've opened - these things aren't what give them the edge.

      1. Eponymous Cowherd

        Re: Amazon can't live without opensource

        "Amazon are competing directly with Netflix, who open a huge amount of incredible code on GitHub (, and they're absolutely destroying LoveFilm."

        That has more to do with Netflix being more platform agnostic than LoveFilm. You can get NetFlix on pretty much any platform, LoveFilm is missing from many, including Android and most STBs (including Roku)

        Netflix also has a Windows store app, you have to fart around with the LoveFilm website to watch that on Windows 8, and it only works on the Desktop (and not RT, because of their reliance on Silverlight).

        I know they say "content is King", and LoveFilm certainly has a better on-demand portfolio than Netflix, but you have to have something to watch it on.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Amazon can't live without opensource

      This is the heart of the double-edged sword of the GNU style license. Yes, if everyone using contributes back, everything gets better for everybody. But not all humans work that way. Some want to keep things secret, even when working from Open Source libraries.

      The BSD style license incorporates that into the heart of its double-edged sword.

      And the closed license protects itself from others using it completely but at the cost of eyeballs to look at the code as well as the efficiencies of distributed specialization.

      You make your choices and you pay your bills accordingly.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Amazon can't live without opensource

      "just look at the financial automated trading desk coders, they've done some impressive real-time system work"

      Well we can't look at can we, it's closed source, hence it taking more than a decade for it's fruits to crop up elsewhere.

    4. Blitterbug

      @ AC top poster...

      Wow. opensource? codes? Not sure I'd want you as a boss. And that's before we even consider the hideously slanted take on employment in the modern tech sphere.

      Incidentally, as an 'employer', why the AC? Just asking. Normally the only legitimate reason for posting AC is genuine fear of reprisal. All other AC posts are simply afraid of the thumbs down button.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A retailer, not an IT company

    Just because an company uses IT, or even relies on it, doesn't necessarily make it an IT company.

    That could be said of Amazon. They are primarily a retailer (or cloud computing provider - but let's put that to one side for now) - a shifter of boxes. The cheaper, faster and more efficiently, the better. But it's the boxes that are their business, not the how&why of shifting them.

    There was a study done of Amazon's "fulfillment" centre at Rugley, (in England) which concluded that the company's policy of minimum-wage hiring, lack of interest in improving morale towards its staff and hire-em-and-fire-em attitudes mean that it's not making much of a contribution to the local community, and not much of an economic impact to the local economy, either.

    it might be that this view is common, not just to considering its employees as commodities, but in its software assets too. That they are merely tools of the trade and not part of its corporate identity: to be loved, nurtured and promoted as a product or as a thing of value, above how they reduce costs and improves efficiency. As such, any discussion, analysis or outside scrutiny of their inner workings would only be sensible if that work made the tools better. Philanthropy is not their job: if there's any "giving back" to be done, it's in the form of lower prices to its customers.

    1. bigtimehustler

      Re: A retailer, not an IT company

      Normally, i would agree with you, but what you 'put aside' to make your point, in this case, does make them an IT company. Amazon Web Services is a huge business for them and becoming more so by the day, it very much so makes them an IT company and you can't just put that aside to make your point they are not an IT company. I could just as well put aside their retail side and claim they are only an IT company, wouldn't make me right though.

      1. Graham 24

        Re: A retailer, not an IT company

        Quoting the not-so reliable Wikipedia and the ever-so-reliable Channel Register: revenue: $61bn. AWS revenue: $2bn.

        3% of total revenue is not "a huge business for them"

        Yes, I realise that profit isn't proportional to revenue, but I've never seen profit (or loss) figures for AWS as a separate entity.

    2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Rugely is an hell hole ...but

      In all fairness to the shits who own the company...

      how can you tell it isn't contributing if it bleeds stuff in from outside it's home planet?

      Not that I believe for one moment that the half scared / half promoted because I covered my own arse, bullies working there, I don't believe it is adding anything it wouldn't crow about.

    3. cortland

      Re: A retailer, not an IT company

      It sounds very much as if you've described another "Ualmart".

    4. Toastan Buttar

      Re: A retailer, not an IT company

      @Pete 2

      Thank you for so eloquently articulating my thoughts. Amazon's 'product' is the convenient and competitively-priced purchase and delivery of real-world 'stuff'. Yes, they use cutting-edge software to do that, but the most cost-effective way to utilise that is to reap the benefits of free (as in beer) open source, developed by egalitarian programmers, and then keeping your proprietary, internal enhancements to yourself.

      Do you think the richest companies in the world got there by being "nice guys"? Dream on...

      At least the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Gates of this world 'gave something back' to the world after years of ruthless business activity. Maybe Bezos will, too. Eventually. If I were in the FOSS world, I wouldn't hold my breath.

  3. John Miles 1

    A pattern of non-contribution

    Surely one might expect such behaviour. If a company takes revenue from customers but manages to avoid paying taxes in the countries where those customers live then why would one expect it to contribute back to the open source community that it draws so much from.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: A pattern of non-contribution

      A company that uses lots of opensource code but hides behind a loophole in the GPL to avoid sharing that code - can't hire good programmers who don't approve of this sort of thing

      Companies that make lots of money but hide behind loopholes to avoid paying tax - presumably can't hire good accountants who also don't approve of this sort of thing ?

      1. Havin_it

        Re: A pattern of non-contribution

        Heh, depends how you define "good" accountants I think ...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A pattern of non-contribution

        > A company that uses lots of opensource code but hides behind a loophole in the GPL to avoid sharing that code

        It isn't a loophole.

        It's the whole point of the GPL that you should be able to modify the code that you run. Where it differs from BSD is in making this right transitive to whoever you give your code to (if anyone).

        Speaking as someone who has published code under both GPL(s) and BSD licences, I am perfectly happy with this state of affairs.

  4. nematoad

    Not a good citizen

    There's a name for organisations like this: Parasite.

    If the "secret sauce" is so vital to Amazon's success then there is a case that it should be protected. That's why copyright, patents and trademarks exist. If however, the Amazon empire is built using the efforts of thousands of other people then there is a moral duty on Amazon to give back to the community that enables it to do business.

    It would seem as if Bezos just doesn't get FOSS, oh he may be technically up to date but the underlying ethos of free software seems to have escaped his notice.

    This situation is a lose lose one. Amazon is cutting itself off from probably the best method of software development and at the same time, by hoarding all its developments, is denying the reciprocity which is the thing that drives the free software world in the first place.

    In short, short sighted, selfish and eventually self-defeating.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a good citizen


      I think you're being overly naive on many fronts, I'll just point out this one

      "That's why copyright, patents and trademarks exist."

      As a patent lawyer once said, if you actually want to keep something secret, you never want to patent it.

      Not to mention pure software patents aren't recognised in Europe and copyright is almost impossible to detect and enforce in code.

      Patent is for rich companies to stay rich, trolls to get rich, and poor tech entreprenuers to lose because it's too complex and costly to get one.

    2. Ralph B

      Re: Not a good citizen

      The GPL requires that sources be made available for all binaries released. This Amazon do - for example for GPL components in Kindle Fire OS. However, the majority of Fire OS (from Android) is under the Apache license that does not have the source code release requirements of the GPL. So Amazon don't.

      You could maybe argue that the Apache license is a Bad Thing, but you can hardly blame Amazon for not handing out its commercial secrets to any competitor.

      Or you could take part in the development of a completely GPL mobile OS. If Amazon started using that and didn't release their changes and/or extensions, then you'd be right to complain.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Not a good citizen

        The GPL requires that source is released for all software delivered to a customer.

        Amazon claim that since the software is never delivered - only used as a service - they don't need to distribute the source.

        This is legally correct, but not playing nicely. The programmers they are trying to hire are more interested in playing nicely than a lawyers definition of "delivered"

        1. Vic

          Re: Not a good citizen

          Amazon claim that since the software is never delivered - only used as a service - they don't need to distribute the source.

          And they're right. They are not shipping the binary to you - it stays on their servers. Thus no distribution has occurred. The AGPL was created to address this situation - but we're probably not talking about AGPL-licenced code here.

          This is legally correct, but not playing nicely

          It *is* legally correct - and that's all that really matters. We cannot add the requirement to pass back improvements to GPL code - that would be an additional clause to the licence, and such modifications are *specifically* prohibited by the GPL (Section 6 in GPLv2, Section 10 in GPLv3).

          So much as I like to see people improve the code base, the very licence many of us espouse prevents us from requiring such behaviour.


          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Not a good citizen

            >It *is* legally correct - and that's all that really matters.

            That's all that matters to the lawyers - not to developers

            It may be completely legal to outsource manufacture of a toy to be made by slave labour in a North Korean prison camp - but it might not be good business sense if your market is Gruniad readers.

            It's upto Amazon to decide if the losses they would suffer from a competitor using fixes they made to a FOSS library outweigh the losses they suffer from not being able to hire the best people. It's the same calculation companies make with free soda, good office location or any other perk.

            1. Vic

              Re: Not a good citizen

              > That's all that matters to the lawyers - not to developers

              No - you're totally wrong.

              The very point of Free Software is that it is Free. Users have the right to use it as they see fit, not as someone else tells them to use it.

              That means that, if we espouse Free Software (as many of us do), we must champion the rights of users to exercise that Freedom - even if we disagree with what those users are doing.

              To do otherwise is to redefine Freedom as "the freedom to do as I tell you to" - and that's only ever fun when you're not on the receiving end...

              This is why the GPL very explicitly prevents you from adding field-of-use restrictions.


            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Not a good citizen

              > That's all that matters to the lawyers - not to developers

              In view of that assertion, may I ask if you have authored any FOSS code yourself?

              Both myself (who has already commented above) and, I understand, the user who signs as Vic have done so and are therefore in a position to speak from the point of view of a developer. What about you, Sir?

    3. cortland

      Re: Not a good citizen

      Corporations have MORALS? Shirley you jest!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There isn't anything more annoying than a bunch of coders with > 20 opensource projects mostly on js and ruby that maintains their StackOverflow and their Github profile better than their own room.

    I give my respect and my money to opensource project developers who works on fundamental projects (who by the way are the only real top opensource talents, but are usually too committed to be employed full time and work on other projects), the rest just seems desperate for a job with certain top US tech company.

    1. solo

      Why insult small contributions?

      When I have to develop a glowing button with peculiar arrangement of image and text, the platform's iDocumentation doesn't come to rescue. Those 20 lines source code available on GitHub (or any such hosting site) are downloaded thousands of times. So, that 1 tiny contribution must be saving thousands of hours of man power around the world.

      Ironically, one anonymous coward has decided that there is an elite group in open source development and rest of them should keep themselves out.

      (I have some bad words for Amzn as well, but I'll keep to the point).

  6. PyLETS

    Shooting self in foot

    Amazon's competitors who embrace open source more fully will not have to maintain their own software forks alone and to such a great extent as those who fork for internal use and then don't share.

    Not sharing is understandable when it comes to software which is unique and implementing techniques competitors don't yet understand. It doesn't make sense for code which is a cost and which competitors know what it does already.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the one hand

    I admire Jeff Bezos for his business and technical acumen but on the other I despise him for lack of corporate social responsibility.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's obvious to see they're not very caring. They dodge tax massively, their operations in some warehouses are like slave labour (all they need to be full slave labour is a wristband that gives the employees a jolt when they fall behind their daily target).

  9. Zigi
    IT Angle

    Name a serious software company that opensource its money maker

    Guess what? Google and MSFT don't opensource their (cloud) code either. That's the software business. Don't want AWS to (ab)use your precious github repo? don't opensource your stuff

    That said, AWS should be condemned for not contributing fixes and enhancements to the many projects that run its service like Linux, XEN, MySQL, Hadoop, Memcache et al.

    I guess its hard to contribute fixes and be a part of a community when your corporate DNA encourages secrecy. IMHO this would have to ultimately change as Jack predicts.

  10. Irongut

    your Github profile is your resume

    Hey brogrammer go back to coding in Starbucks, we have no need for you here.

  11. 27escape

    Amazon Perl devs go to conferences

    At least here in the UK and give talks etc.

    Maybe it depends on languages used etc as to how sharing the various devs are ;)

  12. disgruntled yank


    "this argument offers little to shareholders"

    I thought that offering little to shareholders was the Amazon way.

  13. Tony Haines

    abandon all hope

    from the article: //"You had no portfolio you could share with the world," said another insider on life after working at Amazon. "The argument this was necessary to attract talent and to retain talent completely fell on deaf ears."//

    I think the insider quoted is undermining their own argument.

    Amazon may find it harder to attract talent, sure. But once employed, your resume goes stale; it gets progressively harder to leave. From Amazon's perspective, retention should improve.

  14. Rufus McDufus

    I'm ex-Amazon, but from a long time ago (left 2005). They do rely on open source but only generally as a building block (e.g languages). Most of the big stuff is bespoke and perhaps is not so useful outside of the context of Amazon where they really do like to re-invent the wheel, and rather scarily often do it better.

  15. Alan Denman

    2014, the year of the "Locust movement"?

    In the good old days the top companies were the benevolent tax paying loved authorities.

    Now we have corporates out to own the whole world.

    Many in tech seems to have joined that 'Locust Movement'.

    Tax avoiding feats are another Amazon speciality.

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Blue Origin

    This has hurt Bezos in the space arena too. People that got tired of military secrecy enough to leave NASA/DOD space projects don't want any part of Blue Origin, and these are usually the top boffins. That's one reason it hasn't gotten anywhere.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Storm in a teacup.

      But we also might consider Ken Thompson's paper "Reflections on Trusting Trust".

      (Responding to a post extolling the virtues of the closed source Intel C/C++ compiler, deleted by the author.)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Vic

          Re: Storm in a teacup.

          Did you check the binary on your RHEL / CentOS / Debian / Ubuntu install before you started using it to compile code?


          There's a fairly extensive test suite that's part of the build. Subverting that whilst leaving bad-guy stuff in the compiler would be tricky, to say the least...


          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Vic

              Re: Storm in a teacup.

              Planting backdoors in many consumer devices (including routers) is supposedly tricky, too

              Who on earth told you that?

              Or are you trying to tell me that the test suite is something the secret services are not privy to?

              Not at all.

              But when you consider that each build happens 3 times - with the original compiler, then with the output of that, then with the output of *that* - it's actually very difficult to build in a backdoor that will go through all the tests without showing itself.

              And then when the next drop comes about, those 3 builds are repeated - possibly with a different set of tests at the end. The *same* backdoor code would also have to cope with that eventuality without being discovered.

              Once you've gone round this loop 10 or more times - as I have - the probability of some bad guy putting a backdoor into the code is *vanishingly* small. It would be much easier to drill through my roof and put a camera in the loft.


  18. surferkinggood

    Perhaps an Amazonians could contribute to an open source retailing platform

    I have long studied Amazon's business model, and it relies upon quantifying and avoiding/passing-on risk, and creating size-based inertia.

    Their greatest strength is still in the cost & time-efficient processing of orders and managing their retail offering to customers, and then using the Marketplace to outsource all of the product research and data creation to the marketplace users, who pay a fixed 15% of their turnover on Amazon to subsidise Amazon's retail arm - then producing performance data that directs their buyers to go direct to the best trending products to take the full margin for the products most valuable to stock in-house. It's a win-win platform for them.

    So they offload all the 'risk' to the small businesses, that then do the leg-work, for them to come in and wave the big brand and open chequebook to manufacturers, to cut the marketplace resellers out and grab the full margin. I have personal experience of this.

    Then, once they squeeze the competitors our of the market running at low or even negative margins for a while, the price goes back up, sometimes higher, and the marketplace vendor then goes back to finding new lines to list and sell and the cycle continues - it really is a perfect-storm where the house always wins with a guaranteed minimum 15% margin on everything that other people list on the platform.

    Then their customers also pay Amazon, with the time-effort in creating original content - in the form of all the product reviews - to keep their website loaded with search-engine friendly original and extensive content - for free.

    I see the only way to compete against this business model is to commodities commerce platforms and ERP systems as a platform-as-a-service - to the point that anyone that would normally direct their heavy lifting market creation through the Amazon marketplace, can do the same thing themselves with their own channel, fed into a number of competing shopping search engines.

    Then make an open-source product-review database, wiki-reviews if you like, that offers a barcode matching plugin to any commerce website to effectively remove the value of reviews to any one outlet other than the customer reading them on ANY website.

    Perhaps if Amazon engineers wanted to contribute their knowledge and experience into an open-source platform that looks like it has the potential to do that, then the Ebay & Amazon 'small business dreams machine' will burst - and the people doing the work for them, building products and brands, will be able to cut them out and sell directly to consumers - therefore saving people the "Amazon Tax".

    There are surprisingly few, but perhaps that is because people say they want to do good things, but then rarely find the time to contribute what they say they will due to the rest of the bureaucracies life creates to keep us distracted and entertained.

    The closest thing I have seen to this is a small project called ERPNext and others others, 1C-DN, OpenERP, ERP5. But ERPNext seems to me to be the cleanest codebase, most open, best usability and understanding of business processes needed for ecommece, data integrity and integrated workflows for business functions.

    Having spent years looking at closed-source ERP systems, I am baffled who open-source hasn't yet come up with something like Microsoft Dynamics to up-end these dominances and hand power back to product innovators and creators.

    If you don't like Amazon's way, do something about it, re-direct your own experience and ideals into an open source project that makes their retail platform and ERP systems for fulfilment optimisation available to anyone. And make it better.

    I know our team will be contributing some effort towards these aims, and if you can't code, maybe find another way to help one of these ones you - if think is a worthy alternative to the status-quo.

    A foundation needs to do for ERP PaaS and Reviews, what Wordpress and Wikipedia did for blogs and encyclopaedias. Knowledge and journaling sharing made the internet useful, and efficiencies in supply-chains should make it improve the quality of life for everyone with cheaper products and more time to invest in contributing to society.

    Remember, Bezos trading background taught him most importantly how to measure and pass on risk (to the marketplace resellers), so that he mathematically minimises the risk of wasted time/money/resources - and keeps the odds stacked in Amazon's favour.

    Think of Amazon as more of an automated quantitate trading algorithm, but for brokering products, instead of stocks & shares, and you can see how, like casinos, the more they are used, the more profitable they are. If you want that to change, there has to be more cost and time efficient alternatives to make them irrelevant and remove the fuel from the fire.

    Understand how to make a more efficient connection between product creators and consumers, and your free market evolution will make their middle-man tax an inefficiency - and eventually make them an expensive irrelevance.

    Have a look at the BBC Panorama documentary on Amazon if you need any further inspiration as mention by a few others here.

    1. rainjay

      Re: Perhaps an Amazonians could contribute to an open source retailing platform

      "Understand how to make a more efficient connection between product creators and consumers, and your free market evolution will make their middle-man tax an inefficiency - and eventually make them an expensive irrelevance."

      Bezos' trading background emphasises utmost secrecy for the most profit. One way to compete with Amazon/Ebay/Taobao/Tmall is to create an open platform with no profit motive. I think you'd end up creating a new kind of economy by removing the middleman entirely and linking buyers and sellers directly, no matter where they are in the world. Post-capitalism anyone? :)

      I've been working on deploying OpenERP for SMEs who can't afford or see no need to go for Microsoft Dynamics or SAP. It's possible to link up OpenERP, ERPNext or other FOSS ERP systems for suppliers to talk to each other for manufacturing requirements.

      The next step is to get that product data out there into a Wiki-style global trading platform, a mashup of all these:

      - Amazon's product database

      - Unique global IDs for each product, like GS1's GTIN synced to a GDSN

      - Production info from FOSS ERP platforms

      - Google's search and analytics capabilities

      - List of suppliers for each product

      - Each supplier has some kind of CRM portal

      - Consumer reviews

      - An open source e-payment processor would be icing on the cake

      Other than mediate transactions between buyers and sellers, it could also analyze existing demand trends and extrapolate for the future. As an open platform, buyers should be able to see how and where the product was made, in addition to who sells it. Sellers can see the highest trending products at any particular time and adjust production accordingly. The platform itself won't compete with sellers because it won't be stocking any products, unlike Amazon.

      1. surferkinggood

        Re: Perhaps an Amazonians could contribute to an open source retailing platform

        "- An open source e-payment processor would be icing on the cake"

        Er, Bitcoin?

        So we just need the Bitcoin equivalent for ERP/CMS/Ecommerce/Reviews designed with the aim of bettering the existing incumbents.

        Well, it's up to us to make that happen, I'm going to direct a few of our team the ERPNext platform, but maybe others have better solutions. It won't happen unless many, many more people chip-in.

        I can't see any downsides, only lack of enough business experience coders getting involved - so far...

        1. rainjay

          Re: Perhaps an Amazonians could contribute to an open source retailing platform

          Bitcoin isn't legal tender in most parts of the world, unfortunately... the starting point for all this will be open source ERP and CRM platforms to get SMEs wired up. The next step is to create a trading wiki to absorb all that data and process it into something that can be used by the end consumer.

          It would be interesting to see a bunch of sites based on these open platforms perform the work of Amazon and Google. It'll be chaotic in the beginning but if the data can be shared between them, why not?

      2. midcapwarrior

        Re: Perhaps an Amazonians could contribute to an open source retailing platform

        "One way to compete with Amazon/Ebay/Taobao/Tmall is to create an open platform with no profit motive"

        Amazon produces very little profit.

        Bezos's goal is revenue and market share not profit.

  19. Greencat

    Not sure what's new here

    My last job operated under similar circumstances. As a young developer, it was frustrating to be working on what would be cutting edge award winning stuff - if only it had ever seen the light of day.

    It would have probably moved things in the wider world a tad - and yes, we'd have probably benefited from external input as well - but that was the job.

    Some people will be OK with that. Some of my former colleagues are still there more than 15 years later. Others want the glory.

    But my ex-company probably still exists today because of that ability to maintain secrecy.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amazon won't be the only company....

    Amazon won't be the only company that sticks its snout in the open source trough, while giving nothing back. It is merely the most visible.

  21. Sirius Lee

    Jack, Jack, Jack

    You're at it yet again. Third time this week. You can't lay this accusation at Amazon's door without also attacking just about every corporation on the plant. The source material for your claims are probably disgruntled former employees with an axe to grind. Perhaps individuals who wanted to attend a favored conference but one the company would not pay for them to attend.

    Most if not all corporations use some open source. Maybe banks which have strengthened the Linux kernel to meet their statutory obligations should contribute that code and let hackers see *exactly* how they should attack your saving account?

    In my view the premise of the article is even more ridiculous than most of your articles for El Reg. You should just give it up. However, the implication of your articles seem to me to be that you know how to run an on-line retailer better than the existing management. You should put forward your resume to see how that works out.

    1. John Sturdy

      Sirius, Sirius, Sirius

      Maybe banks which have strengthened the Linux kernel to meet their statutory obligations should contribute that code and let hackers see *exactly* how they should attack your saving account?

      I suggest a web search for "security through obscurity". You'll find that terms such as "fallacy" occur a lot in the results.

      Or, in brief (although many web pages explain it better than I can here): if the workings of the mechanism have to be hidden for the system to be "secure", it's not really secure. A really secure system is still secure even when the mechanism is publicly understood. It's the difference between having a door-handle that doesn't look like one, and having a lock that requires a key.

  22. Geoff Arnold

    Missing the point...

    Interesting that most of the comments here totally miss the point of the article. They're going on about whether it's ethical or legal for Amazon to consume open source without contributing back, rather than whether it makes it difficult to hire and retain talent.

    In an industry where one's open source contributions are part of one's resume (a bit like an artist's portfolio), it's clear that Amazon's policies will cause some ambitious developers to avoid them. Is this a significant problem? That's hard to say... Presumably Amazon's HR tracks it.

  23. jonathan rowe

    Another example of it's leechlike behaviour, operating within the letter of the law yes, but certainly not in the spirit of decency. A freetarding corporation purely for it's own selfish short term benefit. Standing on the shoulder of giants, but refusing to tell the giant what it sees and doing a but fart as well.

    Although I have made 400% on their shares, I still think they are a bunch of cunts,

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Exist to make money

    A lot of this reads as though the dev's basically have serious conference envy. Work at Amazon - you get to do some cool stuff. Ok, so you can't go round drenching conferences in your web3.0- awesomesauce. Deal with it. Staff churn is probably very low on their cost list and they don't seem to struggle to hire awesome people in my experience, who like doing the job and don't have egos that need massaging. The bottom line is just having Amazon on the resume will get them an interview if / when they choose to move on.

    Its just business and Amazon is booming. Takes some free software, make it better, don't tell others how you made it better = competitive advantage. Not having to pay for the stuff in first place = cheaper competitive advantage.

    Whilst you might not like amazon's approach - there are also those companies who leverage open source projects for completely commercial solutions and only make their contributions so that other project devs can improve them. At least amazon are not asking the rest of the community to dev their entire line of business solutions for them.

  25. Toastan Buttar

    Did Jobs 'give back' to BSD?

    Nah, he just consumed the work of egalitarian programmers and built an industry on the back of it, in the same way as any other ruthless capitalist.

    Before you downvote me, offer hard facts in response.

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