Does it give much cash in support to open source projects?
Does it contribute much in other ways?
In a more financial sense, they have been generous in supporting my work on FreeBSD/EC2 -- not with cash, but lots of free EC2 usage for development and testing.
When I was employed:
To do ANY FOSS work as an individual unrelated to the company (And I mean ANY: private projects that may be on Github, projects with nothing to do with Amazon) required a one-off application for permission.
To actually contribute something to some FOSS project that is in use at Amazon (For example, to fix a bug) requires even more special permissions (I think it is once per submission but cannot remember).
This is to "protect Amazon IP"; you can imagine why people try and skip the hassle.
Let me get this straight: you're scouting me because of all this open source stuff which you will now insist I abandon.
Lately I've been hearing that we (Amazon employees) are required to get approval to take any online courses, such as offerings from Coursera. Something about you may write code that gets shown to someone outside the company blah blah blah.
The way things are playing out seems a bit ridiculous. I do wonder some times if Amazon is going to start trying to say that you can't contribute funds to a certain organization because it may "compete with the interests of Amazon."
It would also be interesting to hear from a lawyer with relevant expertise if that is actually enforceable for most employees.
It's in pretty much every employment contract in the software industry. Washington has code 49.44.140 which makes such terms unenforceable unless:
>(a) the invention relates
> (i) directly to the business of the employer, or
> (ii) to the employer's actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development,
>or (b) the invention results from any work performed by the employee for the employer
California has section 2870, which is almost identical.
The problem is that those terms are vague enough that they can be construed to apply to pretty much any software. The big companies have varied enough business that (a) is hard to get away from, especially if it's Web based and you work for Amazon/Google/Facebook, and software techniques are generalizable that they could probably claim (b) as well. As a result, all of those companies have various internal processes to request that the company either release IP for side projects or allow it to be open sourced with the company as the copyright holder but the employee listed as the author.
Bingo. Amazon has it's fingers in everything. Games, machine learning, language development, OS development, distributed computing, general algorithm development, video... It's pretty much impossible to find anything that doesn't "compete" with the company.
Restricting "official" contributions is really about limiting the legal attack surface.
- Amazon already has immense attack surface
- software is generally distributed without warranty and includes liability disclaimers
- They wouldn't even be distributing any of the software. Any lawsuits based on contributions like that should be thrown out at the nuisance level, and they must already have an army or lawyers dealing with those.
(I only play a lawyer on the internet)
(Also not a lawyer)
Now, one might argue that many of the other attack surfaces are necessary byproducts of markets they want to operate in, and software development isn't a market they're profiting from, therefore they shouldn't unnecessarily open themselves up to potential litigation.
However, given how much so many other large companies already contribute, publicly, sometimes to the very systems Amazon may be using, it does seem a pretty hollow claim.
If some of Amazon's system failed because of some patch that Google contributed to project X, would Amazon's first reaction be to sue Google?
When our company was acquired, all of the engineers were given these guidelines immediately (signing/agreeing was a non-negotiable precondition of keeping your job).
It was essentially a blanket ban on any programming outside of work. No open source contributions, game development, or work on any software used in current (or future!) Amazon markets. The language was such that even learning (courses, books, writing a single line of test code, etc) was a prohibited.
Some of this was surely just liability reduction gone mad, but the totality of it felt like a tool to limit the career options of employees. Some kind of Kafkaesque talent retention strategy.
It's not a far stretch to imagine similar corporate thinking at Amazon.
But maybe some people contribute indirectly/do it like a personal contribution instead of a "corporate" one?
like in one of those parent comments of this , it seems very unlikely given :
>>>>To do ANY FOSS work as an individual unrelated to the company (And I mean ANY: private projects that may be on Github, projects with nothing to do with Amazon) required a one-off application for permission.
And a few more regulations on even things such as taking courses!
They get the benefit of your hard work and you don't see a cent of the bajillions Amazon is making.
Bandwidth and storage and compute time doesn't "effectively cost Amazon nothing".
It's disgraceful that Amazon haven't offered you significant financial support.
Amazon has tried to hire me, and I'm sure that if I accepted their offers FreeBSD/EC2 is one of the things which I would be working on. But I'm not looking for a job. What I want from Amazon is access to information and to not be spending my own money on this.
I like to think that FreeBSD users get the benefit of my hard work.
All of my code was open sourced. I never received any credit or compensation from Amazon for my idea or code, if they happened to look at it and frankly, I wouldn't try to fight them. Who would try to fight a company with such a large legal team?
Even a thank you for my idea would've been nice...
Guzzle, an http library for PHP came out of their PHP SDK: https://github.com/mtdowling is the author, and participates in the php framework interop group on behalf of Guzzle.
Was the legal team really ready to bring lawsuits against any other open source project that was used internally that may have broken or caused a problem (like anything from Apache, for example)?
If not, why would they think they'd be sued as well?
However, I agree that page doesn't much have to do with whether Amazon contributes to free software.