State of the CMS in 2018

After predicting in 2004 (without naming names) that tools like Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla might become popular CMSes … they did! In 2010 and 2014 I followed up with articles exploring which of these tools had become popular and how they described themselves over time respectively.

Re-reading these articles makes me realise how quaint the premise must seem to a modern audience. It is as if I predicted horses would be called horses in the future. What is so special about predicting the obvious? But even though in 2018 these tools appear to be the very definition of CMS-es, in 2006 they weren’t. If you Googled for CMS-es 12 years ago, you would get completely different names (none of which I remember as they sank into obscurity over time).

In those days you had, apart from ‘real’ CMS-es also forum software, blogging software, so-called ‘nukes’ (community software) and so on. Wordpress and Drupal were blogging tools back then, and Joomla a nuke.

So let us see what has changed.

Wordpress
2010: Semantic personal publishing platform
2014: Web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog
2018: Open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app

Drupal
2010: Open source content management system
2014: Open source content management platform
2018: Open source content management system

Joomla
2010: Dynamic portal engine and content management system
2014: Content management system
2018: Content management system

As you can see, barely anything has changed the last four years, the owners and developers see their tools as conceptually the same (even though the web has changed a lot in that time).

Something else that hasn’t changed much is popularity. Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla are still the outright leaders, and like four years ago, Wordpress still dominates with a market share of about 60 %. What has changed is that both Drupal and Joomla have shrunk, they were the largest of the small CMS-es in 2014 and are even smaller now.

Developments that I find alarming, but pretty much the entire industry seems excited about, are the introductions of headless (or decoupled) CMS-es and of services. In this future, a website is a container that collects and presents data from several sources through standardised APIs, with the CMS being one of those sources. The web itself becomes an app delivery platform in this scenario, and the choice for a CMS becomes less about “what do I want this site to look like?” and more about “how do I want content to be managed?” The word ‘app’ did not appear by accident in Wordpress’ 2018 tagline.

I have not been able to find any evidence of significantly popular commercial CMS-es in 2018. Which probably means that the ones that exist only serve the high-end market.

Update 5 January 2018: Wordpress has released version 5 of its system which includes the so-called Gutenberg editor, one of the largest changes in the CMS’ history. Why risk alienating your entire user-base by introducing a costly disruption nobody asked for and nobody needs? Because at the bottom of the market, hosted CMSes are busy nibbling at Wordpress’ feet. And even though these CMSes still only make up a tiny part of the market (too small for me to mention half a year ago), this development has got Mullenweg and pals scared. So yeah, speaking of developments, hosted CMSes like Wix and Squarespace might pop up on my next report, 3.5 years from now.

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