The Mystery of Obidos

Whoa, caught amazon.com while it was down.
They are showing a page with Rufus, the Amazon dog.

By the way, I was meaning to write about that for some time now. Did you ever notice enigmatic word “obidos” in Amazon url?

Some theories from usenet:

  • Castle near Lisbon
  • OBI (Wan Kenobi) + DOS (Disk Operating System)
  • ‘OBI’ = Object Broker Interface

    This seems to be the correct answer though: Obidos is is a major port on the Amazon river.

    [update]
    Livejournal user hallerlake had this to add:

    “I worked at Amazon for a couple of years, and can mostly answer that.

    Obidos is the area where the Amazon is “concentrated” – it narrows to a point about a mile wide and a couple hundred feet deep. It’s the chokepoint of the Amazon. A wry sense of humor turned that to the naming scheme.

    The Amazon Marketplace (auctions+zshops+third party) code was called Varzea for similar reasons – it’s the delta point of the amazon river, where the river fans out.

    Amazon wrote their own web serving environment because the selection of scripting/webcontrol languages when they got started was so lousy. They had to call it something, so obidos it was. :) “


    Obidos is huge, it might be over a gig by now. I don’t think it’s that bad, though. I haven’t been at Amazon for a few years. For a long time Amazon ran on the Netscape web server environment, then eventually moved to a specially tuned Apache. But yeah, the webservers had a lot of RAM in them so that we could fork a bunch of different processes… and a garbage collector got added to take care of some of the memory leaks. Even still we had a service that killed and restarted processes every hundred accesses or so. It wasn’t pretty.

    I don’t know who came up with the name… I’d bet on Shel Kaphan or possibly Joel Spiegel. Shel set the direction for the company’s software development and architecture, including standardization on C (instead of C++) due to easier debugging. Certainly for the first few years he was The Guy for software architecture; these days I would imagine Al Vermeulen has that task.