At the beginning of this month, I got myself an AWS Developer certification. For the non-IT-people reading this, that means that Amazon says that I am qualified to develop software on their services. And I gotta say, I feel conflicted about that.
Let’s back up a bit. In February, Kashmir Hill published a piece on Gizmodo called I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell. In it, she explored how pervasive huge tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple are in our daily lives. On some level, I think everyone knows this, but none of us really think about it on a day-to-day basis.
A Brief Historical Aside
When I was preparing for my exam, I was surprised to realize how much training material Amazon provided for free. But when I stopped to think about it, it was obvious. It’s in Amazon’s interest to have as many developers familiar and certified in their technologies as possible. Before Amazon, the programming language Java did a similar thing to great success. Java came out when most commercially used programming languages used proprietary platforms and compilers that did not play nicely with other proprietary compilers. This was very good for the companies providing the compilers and platforms. But it a huge pain in the ass for programmers, especially the ones trying to learn to code those languages.
Java came along and gave their compiler and running environment out for free. They’ve mostly stopped doing that because Oracle bought Sun, the company that used to make Java, and Oracle in general, doesn’t do many things for free. But for decades, Java has been the biggest commercially used programming language. Probably the biggest reason for that has been the JVM – Java Virtual Machine, which provided the running environment that allowed generations of programmers to learn to use the language for free.
What does that have to do with Amazon?
Turns out, quite a lot. AWS provides a fair amount of flexibility in their services in the free tiers. They provide free training toward their certifications. As I’m looking to develop my career and learn new things, that’s obviously very good for me. I have a budget for professional development, but it goes a lot further if the training I need is free. And I’m absolutely certain the same goes for a lot of developers getting the same certificates.
At the same time, Amazon continues to take over the world with some horrifying business practices. And those certificates help them gain even more ground in the arena of web services. Amazon and Amazon Web Services are pretty much the same company for any practical purposes. At the same time, from a purely business standpoint, the competitive options offering similar services aren’t all that great either. Google and Microsoft both have their own history of questionable business practices, and probably more to come.
I have no real solutions beyond government intervention. It would probably be better for everyone beyond a handful of people if these huge tech companies got broken up. It would especially be better for competition and any new innovators and startups getting in the game now.
On a personal level, I’m planning to get similar certifications for pretty much all the competitors. And I’ll probably feel conflicted about those, too.