Why I won’t enter the eBay Flex widget contest

Today I was looking over the details of the eBay Flash/Flex widget contest and thought maybe I’d whip something together and enter. I figured I could probably throw together some eye-candy nonsense using PaperVision, Box2D, fire effects, etc etc and make something that looked impressive. Might be worth a shot at a cool $10k. Then I read the details a little closer and found this clause:

  • Widget may not incorporate any open source code except for Adobe Flex under the MPL license;

Fuck that. I use open-source projects in nearly everything I do. Literally everything. This becomes an issue when dealing with consulting work for clients, and I bring this question up right away and ask what kind of restrictions the client wants to place on the use of open source code. On one hand, the client usually wants 100% of the code to belong to them, they want the IP, and using any open-source code in the project is frowned upon. On the other hand I explain the cost of having to build from scratch all the stuff that I can get for free from these open-source projects, and when it starts being thought of in dollars then we usually arrive at an agreement to allow open-source code. Note that this only applies to MIT and other completely open licenses, if it’s not MIT I usually won’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

So eBay wants to run a contest where you can’t use open source code. That means no 3D engines, no physics engines, no custom component libraries. If you wanted 3D you’d have to build your own custom 3D engine. Umm, no thanks. It’s funny because they make the explicit exception for the Flex framework, since if they didn’t do that you wouldn’t be able to make any Flex app at all.

Hell, if you take that clause strictly, you probably can’t even use eBay’s own Flex Toolkit, which is licensed under the Common Development and Distribution License, which is an “open source license based on the Mozilla Public License.” I hope every entry in the contest gets disqualified 😛 Come on guys, the Flex SDK is about to be open source, your developer toolkit is open source, and yet you want to say we can’t use open source code?


20 thoughts on “Why I won’t enter the eBay Flex widget contest

  1. thinman says:

    Literal translation only applies to: eBay reserves the right to monetize your code and screw you in the process. I think.

  2. I’ve sent this blog post on to the eBay team to see what they can do about that.

    I agree that its probably not a good thing to not allow open source code.


  3. I hope they open it up after reading this, but I complete agree with thinman:

    Their lawyers probably said “If it contains open source, we have to spend money reviewing its licensure. Ban open source and we can fine-print claim that anything submitted becomes our property to make money off of.”

  4. To give people an update, I did have a phone conversation with Sunny Li about this issue. He’s a very nice guy and genuinely wants to help out the developers interested in entering the contest. As people have guessed, the no open-source clause was put in by the legal team to make their lives easier. I explained the importance of open-source projects in the Flash/Flex community and suggested that perhaps a modification to allow MIT-licensed projects could be made (this would at least cover many big open-source projects like PV3D, Degrafa, APE, etc). Sunny is going to check with the legal team to see if this kind of modification is OK. Absolutely no guarantees obviously, but it’s very nice to know the eBay team is listening.

  5. Pingback: eBay, please allow open source in your Flash/Flex contest at Aral Balkan

  6. Flex without the benefit of an open source community that has spent many years building and growing the available software libraries is as lame as.. Silverlight!

  7. Hi All,

    Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions and Doug for helping us better understand other forms of open source that are critical to the community and this contest. We have decided to add exceptions to any open source under MIT or new BSD license in addition (of course) to open source published by eBay under CDD license. The widget size limit will be increased to 400kb as well to better accommodate the Flex platform. The terms will be updated by Monday of next week.


  8. This is hilarious.. At times I think there is room for swearing in blogs and this line made me laugh (i was in an airport terminal and people gave me weird looks)

    “Fuck that. I use open-source projects in nearly everything I do. Literally everything.”

    Harry.. hey.. we’re not that lame …are we?…

    Scott Barnes
    RIA Evangelist

  9. Pingback: dougmccune.com » Blog Archive » eBay Widget Contest rules change for Flex developers

  10. Pingback: Dreaming in Flash » Blog Archive » Why I won’t enter the eBay Flex widget contest

  11. While eBay’s response was a good example of a big company listening to the community I do have one more question, why can’t developers from other countries participate? That is a major drawback…

  12. Hi Pedro, the reason only US, CA and UK are allowed into the contest is purely legal. Due to the nature of this contest, we tried our best to allow as many countries into the contest as we could without over complicating various legal requirements. This does not mean that we will not throw regional contests in the future though.

  13. Hi Sunny, first of all thank you for the answer, well the problem is that it kinda make us (the rest of world) feel like regional, and in these days i’m sure you can do better 😉
    I’m sure that many developers would love to contribute but can’t just because of legalities.
    I understand that legal stuff is hard to overcome but still the way i feel it is that it kinda makes you loose points amongst the comunnity.

  14. Hi Pedro, I couldn’t agree with you more. Due to the nature of this contest and the fact we had very little time to plan and execute, it really limited our ability to expand the contest to many more countries. However, we will take our learnings from this contest, and better plan for a more inclusive contest next time to make up for those lost point :o).

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