ArsDigita Gives Open Source a Try

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-03-26

ArsDigita, a producer of web site content management and e-commerce applications, is scheduled to announce today that the 4.0 version of its software is available as open source code.

The move is an unusual one for a private Java company. There are dozens of Java open source projects under way, but few, if any, for-profit companies have launched free e-commerce application suites.

ArsDigita has already acquired a series of high-profile customers, including ecotourism Web site, Boston public radio station WGBH and The World Bank Group, said David Menninger, senior vice president of marketing at ArsDigita.

The company is seeking to add to the momentum already behind its ArsDigita Community System (ACS) through the open source code move. "The objective is to become a worldwide standard," Menninger said.

According to Menninger, ArsDigita is currently a profitable company, with 90 percent of its $30 million in annual revenue coming from its consulting practice of implementing ACS. Recent users include, a packager of weekend airline seats and hotel rooms, and aggregated small-producer wine store

The ACS platform is a seller-oriented set of content management applications, with customer collaboration and transaction apps. The company competes with BroadVision and Vignette, said Joe Lichtenberg, ArsDigitas vice president of marketing.

"This is about innovative ways to structure transactions. It involves suppliers, distributors and customers," Menninger said. The software includes many collaborative features to capture customer reviews and comments, and to encourage shared customer knowledge of how to get started with the products.

Encouraging customer participation tends to cement the business/customer relationship, the company believes. "When you start to invest in a site, you increase your loyalty to it," Menninger said.

ACS is in use at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley to teach courses in building e-commerce businesses, Menninger said. Interest in the application set has spread by word of mouth, and the 200-employee firm is experiencing 3,000 to 4,000 downloads per month.

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