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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Drupal vs. Wordpress: Time for a CMS Disrupt

To understand the state of the open source CMS market and it's imminent disruption.  It's necessary to be deprogrammed  from over a decade of marketing magic and an organized belief system pushed by open source communities. To do this it is necessary to have an open dialog. This in itself is difficult to do with those that have become a part of systems that are designed to obfuscate. Many of the harsh realities that need and should be discussed are covered  up by the communities members.

It is only after leaving the communities that one can be truly objective. In this short dialogue there is a blue pill situation.

"You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." A bluepill refers to a human that is not aware of the true nature of the open source Matrix.

It all starts with a project and the belief that everything can be accomplished quickly and  better using pre-built mechanisms called  modules or plugins.

Old thinking

Page first design is old and part of yesterday's web. Most CMS are built on the premiss of building an HTML page and filling  it's contents. Developer do whatever it takes to fill in the layout with content areas regardless of the consequences. This is most easily accomplished by using a system of plugins and modules.

Page building  is the first cause of poor database design and plugins manipulate the database. Database theory and design is the number one weakness of  the highest percentage of web programmers either classically trained computer scientists or self taught guru. Queries can be complex and plugins create a standard mechanism  making it easier for the user when they require additional functionality. Due to the databases architecture always being the fix for poor business logic in the programming code. Again plugins rescue the user from the hardships of refactoring or programming code.  It's time to flip the pyramid and design systems based on the data source.  Designing systems with database first thinking and innovative database design is the first step to disruption.  This flip would ultimately lead to less plugin usage. But first let's take a look at why this should happen. After all solutions should solve a problem.

System Overload

Similar to the problem of plugin in too many extension cords to add in appliances to a single outlet. All CMS suffer from the same performance design flaws. To  complete the project requirements Joomla!,Drupal or WordPress need plenty of plugins to be installed. Unfortunately these plugins influence the systems efficiency and not in a good way. Another problem arises when you need to choose a plugin for a specific functionality. Among all the thousands of plugins, most of them have their clones. It means, that any given functionality can be added by several different plugins created by different authors. Sometimes choosing the right one may take quite some time.

A CMS project that boasts about thousands of modules/plugins is  misrepresenting the reality of why they exist.  Let's say there are 10,000  modules available, a very high number only before taking inventory of the actual contents of the statistic.

  • Aggregate modules, those that are dependencies or are interdependent.  
  • Duplication of functionality is the larger part of  the list. Duplication happens because of the need for slight refactoring to suit the requirements of a particular project.
  • Deprecated or abandoned.

The reality is of 10,000 modules only 1%  or one hundred are real or have usable value to any website.

Within this possible one hundred lives a  system limitation  of  30 to 60  modules before significant performance problems.  Though sixty is a high number but it includes many modules that have no useful purpose.

One thing that is never talked about is the usefulness of a module or extension. Some popular modules only contain a simple functionality like manipulating a string. Yet the package may contain dozens of unused files and of the used files there might only be one critical  function being called. The rest of the code is just there to satisfy the needs of  a very complicated  system structure or a dependency call. All of this means that hundreds of  security breach possibilities are only a click away.


Since thousands of those modules are  authored by different developers of varying levels of competence  each one is a potential security flaw. This is made very evident if you read the security mailinglists or changelogs for Wordpress and Drupal. Security can only really be optimized  through tightly controlled distribution networks and services. Because of the nature of  copyleft  licensing such a system is only possible if  a project turns to a Saas solution.

Saas and  E-commerce

Many open source projects will try to  maintain their place in the market by attempting to use sustaining innovations like software as a service, Saas.  Saas as a sales strategy is powerful but it does not solve the core problem of overall security in the entire ecosystem.  Using it only opens them up to the reasons why they need it and the truths that it reveals. Truths like financial instability and the fact that large open source projects are not be truly free because of licensing . Licensing that trades copyright  law for the copyleft extremism and how either one alone cannot carry out the open source vision. Only tilt it to one side or the other with it's users constantly scrambling for equilibrium. This improper balance and search to eliminate the commercial aspects of distributing software is responsible for the downfall of many open source projects. The earlier lessons learned from Linux has never been taken to heart by the CMS open source community.

Expect that all of these projects are seeing  the e-commerce market  as another sustaining innovation and will soon reveal their own e-commerce Saas.  Automattic has already taken the first steps but wordpress revealed it's hand long ago. Drupals Dries Buytaert is still trying to get his bearings and  visits ideas that can only be implemented via Saas. But rest assured with so much venture capital invested Acquia will soon acquiesce and join the party. It will of take longer for Joomla because of their very orthodox  view of opensource. They have been early to acknowledge the need for balance and sharing the economic aspects of their project by opening the directory to commercial sales which was only a temporary  patch on a community damaged by organizational beliefs. Sharing is something the Wordpress codex and have refused to do. They will continue to use sustaining innovations and in the face of copyleft licensing to monopolize their own open source projects ecosystems. They may also try to emulate  Envato or Etsy to show off their software and persuade their communities to join in as a proof of concept.  But this will be a minor thing with the final result being them competing directly with the communities that created and made famous the software their companies are built on.

Poor leadership

The companies behind these open source projects are still hiding the necessity for real change and using things like Saas as a distractration.  This allows them to hold on to their most coveted market shares while they scramble to please investors. The joomla! projects Saas has no real features to show off  it's strengths but it's existence maintains the illusion of success.  lucky to be known as a blogging platform pushes premium services but the limitations of this is showing in Automattics efforts to enter new markets opened up by community member Woo Commerce. Drupal has had several attempts made to use it as Saas in by comminity members like Bryght hosted in earlier incarnations.  Acquia has already taken the first steps to revealing Acquia as a competitor in this market by creating their own version of Drupal. You can expect them to acquire a company like The Commerce Guys soon. All are trending down but because any competitors use similar technology and because they are under capitalized they are not the challengers needed to disrupt the market.

The Disrupt

All of  this will be reveal to the general public only if  new disruptive innovations  in software design and permissive licensing. In all of this the small businesses will suffer from the controlled pricing and be forced to give up their freedom to walk their own path in exchange for security and stability. Unless they are willing to change and be part of the disruption  for their future benefit.

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