It's time for content management vendors to agree on standards


It's hard to believe that after all these years, content management system vendors have never agreed on a set of standards to enable customers to move content easily between repositories. Today, the need for standards grows even more critical because more companies need to share content across multiple repositories from different vendors, both in-house and externally. Without a standard way to move that data, companies are forced to create expensive connectors, or to work with vendors to make it happen (and it's not always in the vendor's interest to do this).

John Powell, CEO at open-source CMS vendor Alfresco, points out that database vendors organized around a standard years ago, helping to extend the industry, and even create new companies. Powell says he sees a future where content management will become standardized in much the same way databases have been. "The database industry standardized around SQL89," he says. "That created a whole industry of applications, SAP being the most famous example."

By relying on a standard in this fashion, it enabled companies to move easily, from one database to another. Powell believes that the same principle could apply to the CMS world. "We have been working with major players with these ideas and they will start to take hold and [we think that] people will want a standard that can do this," he says.
He adds that having standards in the database industry hasn't removed the need for databases or diminished the market, but it has made those capabilities accessible to more people at a price they can afford. With the standards in place, vendors can concentrate on adding value to those standard capabilities. Powell believes the CMS industry is poised to write an analogous standard for content sharing. What's more, he sees no reason why we shouldn't see mass adoption across the market, even with the large number of CMS players, because he thinks it's a necessity at this point in the evolution of the CMS. In fact, it's already happening in small ways, such as the JSR170 standard.

Still, Powell believes it needs go much further. He hinted that Alfresco is working with CMS vendors to write these standards, but he wasn't prepared to say much more than that just yet.

I think Powell and his team are onto something here. Standards can only help the industry by letting everyone agree on a common way to move data across repositories. Given that a CMS is nothing more than a large database, there's no reason it can't happen, just as Powell has pointed out that it happened in the database industry. And when it does, it should lower the price of the software, which will allow companies to compete on features and services. I'm not clear exactly when or how it will come about, but if the CMS industry is able to come to an agreement on a uniform standard for moving data across different repositories, it will go a long way toward transforming the industry, and enterprise customers will be the be the big winners. - Ron