Plenty of Choice in Open-Source CMS

There is no market leader, and companies looking for an open-source answer must sort through a lot of possibilities to find a system that works for them.

There are dozens of Linux distributions, but only one Linux. There are over a dozen open-source Web servers, but only one Apache. When it comes to content management systems, however, there are over a hundred choices, and there is no market leader.

And, unlike Linux, where the distributions are variations on a single theme, most CMSes (content management systems) are quite incompatible with each other and take very different routes to achieve the goal of making complex Web sites manageable.

Is it any wonder that CMS Watch Editor Tony Byrne has called open-source CMS "prohibitively fractured?"

Dont think, by the way, that Byrne is an open-source Luddite. CMS Watch, the leading Web-based portal on CMSes, was first built on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) using the Midgard open-source CMS.

The problem, as Byrne described it, is "What appears to have happened is that development resources have become dissipated among so many different initiatives that seemingly none of them is achieving critical velocity."

It also doesnt help any that one of the best known, open-source CMSes—Mambo—has become locked in a civil war between its executives and its developers.


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to read a PC Magazine story on CMS choices.

There are other concerns as well with open-source CMSes.

To Janus Boye, managing director of the Danish vendor-neutral content management consultancy Boye IT, the main challenges are "a reputation for being user-unfriendly and having a steep learning curve."

Some of that reputation, according to Boye, is earned. "Open-source in general has traditionally been focused more on the technical audience and less on the daily Web editors. Many open-source CMSes are hence still a good alternative for the daily super-user, but a bit hostile for the irregular non-technical user."

"That is an important point," said Byrne.

"Many people assume—wrongly—that open-source tools are simple because they are free. That is almost never the case. Most of these tools have very steep learning curves, but can offer powerful platforms for developing custom content applications in the hands of an experienced developer," Byrne said.

"Open-source projects are also frequently criticized for feature bloat and bad documentation," added Byrne.

That, however, is not a unique open-source CMS problem, since "most commercial tools suffer from the same problems."

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