Netflix's lack of official support for Linux may not do much to help its popularity within the open source world. Yet in a sign that the company does remain eager to wield stronger influence in this space--especially where it intersects with the cloud--it has announced a contest for open source developers "to build something cool using or modifying our open source software." And it has committed a fair amount of cash to seeing the initiative through.

Netflix has some big ambitions for the competition, which it is calling the OSS Cloud Prize. According to the contest rules:

We truly believe that we are building the missing piece between AWS [Amazon Web Services] and running your software in the cloud. We’ve heard from multiple ex-employees that they wish they could have taken the platform with them to their startup. We want to make that possible for anyone to do, and we want to give you prizes for helping us make that a reality.

In other words, the goal is to engage the open source community for expanding Netflix's suite of cloud-based applications. That will obviously help Netflix to grow, while also offering developers an incentive for building on a new cloud platform (not to mention potentially winning sizable prizes).

The opportunities for participation are broad. Netflix has defined 10 categories on which it will judge entries, ranging from portability to usability to added features. Developers can contribute submissions either by enhancing any of the open source tools that Netflix already maintains, or creating new ones that work with the Netflix platform.

I'll admit: I'm hoping someone will have the guts to submit an app for playing Netflix videos on Linux PCs. Since third-party hackers have already figured out how to do that, it would be a satisfying irony if a developer used the contest as an opportunity for pushing Netflix to make the Linux solution "official." But that kind of app would fall beyond the bounds that the competition is targeting, and would not be likely to win any of the 10 $20,000 prizes Netflix is offering. (Half of that amount, by the way, is in hard cash, and the other takes the form of credits and entry to the next AWS Re:invent partner conference.)

Still, the OSS Cloud Prize competition does present some interesting opportunities for open source developers to collaborate with Netflix in the area of the cloud, and could lead to projects that will have an important impact on the channel down the line.