2008 will be the year of the open source CMS

I still remember when the future of the content management system (CMS) dawned on me; I was reading A List Apart article titled, "CMS and the Single Web Designer." Until reading that, I had been plugging away in HTML making Web sites whose pages and designs had to be updated individually. "There has to be a better way", I thought to myself.

The content management system seemed to be that solution. I might even go so far as to say it is the modern answer to running a Web site. Whether you are using Blogger, Wordpress, Vingette, Joomla, Plone, Mambo, or Drupal, it's hard to find a site these days that doesn't use some sort of CMS.

Over the last six years, we have seen the strong growth of content management software. In fact, the problem today is not finding a CMS to use -- it's picking which one to use. Sites such as www.cmswire.com and www.cmsmatrix.org have sprung up simply to meet this need and www.opensourcecms.com has live demos of over 100 CMS scripts.

Along with this shift in powering Web sites has been a growth of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The details of this philosophy of code development is beyond the scope of a blog post, but the underlying kingpins of most of the Web, Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP (often referred to as LAMP) have become mainstream. Ten years ago few people had heard of Linux; now a quick poll in your local coffee shop will show its visibility. Looking something up on Wikipedia or surfing a Wordpress blog have become a daily activity for millions, all driven by the growth of FOSS.

So here is my prediction:

In 2008 we will see open source CMS Web sites become mainstream.

There is a confluence between the development of CMSs (making them easier to use and more reliable) and the popularization of open source software (making it a more viable and acceptable option). People who want a Web site, whether for a blog about their kids, hard hitting news (both Drupal), voting for a candidate or to get some smack down (both Joomla) will choose a FOSS solution. A critical mass has been achieved of higher profile sites that have made it a credible option, as evidenced by a "Top Web Gadgets of 2007" article from NPR.

We can really see this by looking at some statistics.

Figure A shows a graphic from www.google.com/trends, which measures the volume of searches for a particular word; the one below compares some common open source scripts.

Google Trends

Figure A
Figure B is from www.compete.com, and shows an approximation of traffic to a site. If we check the main Web sites for each of these projects, we can see that all have close to a 2000% increase for traffic in December 2007 compared to December 2006.

Traffic graph

Figure B

All three of the projects mentioned above have had major releases/upgrades in the last year, most recently Joomla with its new 1.5 version.

Want to try out one of these open source content management systems? A great place to start is using Fantastico on your Webhost. It's a common tool that allows you to install selected scripts and test them out. If you don't have Fantastico on your host, most of the projects have demos you can view live at their site, or visit www.opensourcecms.com.

Give it a whirl, you never know, sometime in the next year your site maybe running an open source content management system.

Contributor Barrie North is author of the new book: Joomla! A User's Guide: Building a Successful Joomla! Powered Website. (www.informit.com/title/0136135609)