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Proprietary vs Open Source CMS

Proprietary vs Open Source Software has been an ongoing conversation in the technology industry for years. Proprietary software is developed and maintained by a single company where they typically don’t allow access to the source code and typically require a license fee and ongoing support maintenance agreement. Open Source software is developed by independent programmers where the source code is made available to all. Anyone with programming skills can extend and modify the code to create new functionality and make it available for FREE or small fee. The software is typically FREE.

Some examples of Proprietary and Open Source software battles include the plight of Internet Explorer. In December 2012, Microsoft Explorer browser fell to its lowest market share ever of 14.7% from a one time high near 95%. Firefox and Chrome web browsers now claim a 78% market share. (Source: W3Schools.com – http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp)

Why the huge swing in market share for Microsoft Internet Explorer which is proprietary and Firefox and Chrome web browsers that are Open Source applications? How did the world’s largest software company just lose the browser war to a open sourced web browsers such as Firefox and Chrome?

The success of Firefox has much to do with its support of add-on extensions from programmers in the open source community. Those add-ons have expanded open source web browsers capabilities far beyond that of Internet Explorer. Popular add-ons include Firebug allow web developers to view, edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript coding in any web page and FireFTP which a free, secure, cross-platform FTP/SFTP client for Mozilla Firefox which provides easy and intuitive access to FTP/SFTP servers.

The same story could be told about Microsoft and Linux Open Source Web Servers. Again thousands of programmers in the open source community help maintain and create additional add-ons for Open Source Operating Systems. Of the top 10,000, Apache which is the leading Open Source Web Server ran 39.75% of websites and 74.6% of the top 10,000 websites ran on Open Source web servers. Microsoft’s IIS Operating System market share was a dismal 14%. (Source: Pingdom – http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/05/22/75-percent-top-10k-websites-served-by-open-source-software)

So what about Content Management Systems? Similar facts come into play here as well. While there are dozens of Open Source Content Management Systems available, there are three that seem to have hit critical mass – WordPress, Joomla and Drupal that now run 70.4% of websites that utilize a CMS. (Source: W3Techs – http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_management/all)

There are also a number of free or low cost commercial sources for templates that are available for download that are easily customizable. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal also provide free access to their Support Knowledgebase and Support Forums for answers to specific support questions. You would also be developing your website on an open platform where you’re not tied to any particular web development company. It is also available as a free download and can be easily installed on a Unix Server running Apache. Many web hosting companies offer it as part of their basic web hosting package.

WordPress in the past has been primarily used a blog system but is currently being used more and more as a content managment system for smaller business websites. Drupal is a highly complex Content Management System but is not very easy to use. Joomla CMS is easy to use with thousands (7,300) of modules, components and plugins available for free with commercial versions typically under $100 that provide additional functionality for a fraction of the cost to custom program that same additional functionality.

Proprietary Content Management Systems come in many, many flavors. A decade ago just about every software developer that did web development created their own Content Management System application. Most of these have disappeared over the years as Open Source CMS’s have improved and gained market traction.

The key issue with proprietary Content Management Systems is that you must be comfortable with the size and expertise behind the company running to not only keep your website running, but be able to invest in the continual development of their CMS product. You also need to understand that its nearly impossible to move your site if the company goes out of business or stops investing in its CMS.

Key issues with Proprietary Content Management Systems include:

    • Companies and software solutions come and go. You must have confidence in the company offering the solution and that they will both be around and able to continually invest in the product.
    • You need to ensure that you have ownership and access to the content and design should you decide to move on for any reason. Many companies offering a Proprietary CMS will not provide this by default.
    • You may have little option for software enhancements or customizations or they may be very expensive.
    • You are likely to be limited to the standard modules and functionality available, so make sure the solution is comprehensive and developing.
    • Many Proprietary Content Management Systems have simply not kept up with changes like Social Networking and Google’s many updates to search algorithms.
    • Many Proprietary Content Management Systems are woefully inadequate and/or difficult to use – solutions aimed at vertical markets (like real estate, auto, engineering etc.) are often in this bucket as they made a grab for market share early on and then simply stopped developing. Again, you need to be that the company responsible continues to invest.
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