Sign-off guide for leads Edit on github

As a lead inside of Zalando tech, you will from time to time be asked by your directs if you can support open sourcing an internal codebase. This can be a difficult question to answer, so to guide your decision-making, this handy guide has been put together.


To determine if a project can be open sourced, you should be able to answer “yes“ to the following 3 questions, background information on each are provided in sections below:

Value of ownership: Does the maintainers and Zalando benefit from open sourcing this code?

Commitment: Have you approved the maintainers are provided time to work on the project and promote it beyond Zalando?

Confidentiality: Are you sure the source code does not expose any of our competitive advantages, and that the source code helps users, not just our competitors?

Value of ownership

Simply put, does Zalando gain anything from open sourcing this code? There can be several direct or indirect ways Zalando benefits, as listed below:

  • Internal use: The code is used inside Zalando and there is a vested interest in long term maintenance
  • Employer branding: Project gives an insight into the scale and problem-solving of Zalando tech.
  • Hiring: contributors and users of the project could be attractive job candidates
  • Learning: Zalando employees can collaborate with and learn from external experts on the topic
  • Enhancement: the project could gain new functionality and refinement by external use and contribution

Does all these apply to all projects Zalando release - in short: no, so also consider if the project is too zalando-specific, too esoteric or simply does not have a realistic user base outside Zalando.


An open source project requires maintenance, and therefore developer time and resources, what can be allocated:

  • Allocated time: Will the maintainers be granted work time to support the project - if so, how much?
  • Promotion: maintainers are asked to promote their project and talk about it publicly, for example at conferences and in blog posts - does this fit with their schedule?


There are certain components inside of Zalando which we simply do not want to release to the world, the following strong indicates when we do not wish to open source code:

  • Secret Sauce: This project powers essential customer experiences like how we find and recommend products, it contains algorithms
  • Uses confidential data: the project processes or relies on customer or employee data which cannot be exposed.
  • Only useful to competitors: the topic of this project is not useful outside Zalando - except our competitors.

Additional Guidance

If you are any need of guidance before signing off on open source project, reach out to the open source team, we are happy to help.

Also, all projects which are applying to be open sourced will be reviewed by the open source team and the open source review group who will raise any additional questions with you are the maintainers.

This page is Licensed under the MIT license