Drupal, Joomla and WordPress face challenges in Germany

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Last week, I attended CeBIT, the enormous technology trade fair that takes place every March in Hanover, Germany. This year, as I walked through the building devoted to content management and other enterprise technologies, I spied a booth with Drupal, WordPress, Joomla and TYPO3. All except for the latter are well known in the United States, but I was surprised to find that those three are struggling to find market share in Germany.

I found it remarkable that the three open-source web content management systems that are so popular in the United States were having trouble getting the same level of recognition in Germany.

Part of the problem, it turns out, is the chicken-egg theory.

Without programmers and consultants who support Drupal, Joomla and WordPress, it's hard for businesses to embrace these systems. The spokesperson at the WordPress desk said that TYPO3 was a big player in Germany precisely because it had already built that ecosystem of people who understood it and had implemented enterprise-class projects.

The spokesperson at the Drupal desk explained that there is no Drupal certification program in Germany, so it's difficult to find Drupal programmers.

Tom Erickson, CEO at Acquia, the American company which acts as a commercial layer on top of Drupal, says it's clear that TYPO3 has a big head start in Germany, even though it doesn't have much market share elsewhere.

"There is no doubt that TYPO3 has a larger presence in Germany than in other countries. Germany has a tradition of starting with systems that may not be dominant elsewhere. When I first started doing business in Germany in the 1980s, Adibas from Software AG was the dominant database and Oracle had virtually no presence there, despite Oracle being dominant in the U.K., France, Benelux and Nordics," Erickson said.

He said in spite of this, there are thousands of Drupal websites in Germany, including one from Mercedes that uses Acquia's Drupal Commons service to run a key external community website, but he acknowledges that it's still going to be a challenge to gain market share in Germany.

To that end, Acquia will be opening an office in Germany later this year that Erickson hopes can act as that missing champion in Germany for the open-source web content management system.

"We believe that Germany is the next frontier for Drupal, and the only thing holding it back is a stronger ecosystem, supported by [a strong] champion--in this case ourselves, Acquia. While we have several partners in the region today, we will be establishing a commercial presence there later this year. As we begin to market there, awareness of the diversity of Drupal solutions will undoubtedly help to increase Drupal market share," he said.

Erickson strongly believes that the tide is about to turn for Drupal in Germany, and he says if we check back again in six months or a year we will see a different picture.

For now though, Drupal along with Joomla and WordPress struggle to gain the critical mass required for open source to thrive, and until they do, Typo3 will continue to dominate, no matter how well the other competitors may do outside of Germany. - Ron