SoundOff: Best open source CMS updates of 2011


The content management space is dominated by news of updates, new features and release cycles. Among nimble open source players the changes can be fast and furious.

It's been a year of new developments for open source. 2011 began with open source web content management system Drupal announcing Drupal 7 and the addition of native support for RDFa, a technological building block for the semantic web. And just last week, DotNetNuke said it would use CSS and HTML5 to ensure websites adapt automatically to an array of mobile devices.

But it can be difficult to distill the deluge of information: What's an over-hyped press release and what's an actual breakthrough for an open source community?

In this FierceContentManagement SoundOff we asked: What was the best update or new feature introduced across open source content management systems in 2011?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

Probably the biggest new feature for Plone in 2011 is the introduction of the Diazo theming system. This is available as an add-on now for Plone 4, and compatible with Plone 3 and even completely separate systems (e.g. we have used it to theme a .NET portal). In the upcoming Plone 4.2 release it will be shipped as part of the core system. This significantly lowers the bar of entry to theming a Plone site and means that no specific knowledge of Plone, Zope or Python are required to develop and theme for Plone. Pre-existing static HTML themes or themes for other systems such as WordPress can be ported in a couple of hours.

- Matt Hamilton, technical director of Netsight and Plone Foundation board member

There were several open source CMS developments in 2011, that I think can shape the market. First are the enterprise content management repository services available through the Eclipse Foundation via Nuxeo's contribution of its core as project "Apricot." This started in February 2011 and the project continues to evolve. 

It brings foundation content management technology into vendor neutral, well-respected code stewardship. Any organization or any software company wanting to use this technology for content management services in their application can take the code via Eclipse Foundation and build their own content repository.

Another significant development is the rise of multi-channel innovation in WCM. Open source WCM providers are moving aggressively into full support for mobile content delivery with new APIs. This area is changing quickly and the debate between native app vs. web delivery is becoming a hot one. Open source WCM seems to be able to keep up with the innovation faster, due to the open and distributed development approaches of community projects.

One example is eZ Systems' new REST API, which allows development of native mobile apps (for iPad, iPhone, Android) using consistent APIs from the CMS--making it easier to deliver content to end users on any number of devices. For companies starting to think "mobile first," this is really important. Especially with more big companies buying into "BYOD," Bring Your Own Device, for employees.*

The coolest single new project that I've seen is an open source e-discovery tool called FreeEed. The new project is small, but a very innovative use of open source search, database, other foundational tools to build this application. They've been able to leverage the powerful open resources hosted by the consortium, including the large volumes of Enron emails as test case content to benchmark the product. Not only is it open source, it conducts transparent testing and uses open research from e-discovery experts.

*Disclosure: McKinnon says she has an indirect role with eZ Systems in that one of her clients uses the technology.

- Cheryl McKinnon, founder of Candy Strategies Inc.

Within the WordPress project, I would have to say two different things: one for the developers and one for the users. For the developers, I think the improvements that were introduced for WordPress custom post types in 3.1 were a huge help. It made generating archive pages, tweaking capabilities and overall using CPTs much, much easier. It's hard to overstate the impact that easy to implement post types (or content types) have had on the greater plugin community.

For users, though, I would probably say the introduction and enhancements to the admin bar this year have been most interesting. It's sort of a user interface tweak, but it also introduced new functionality. Despite the fact that some have been slow to adopt and embrace it, its importance within the WordPress experience, I think, holds a lot of potential for WordPress users.

- Ryan Imel, editor in chief of

In the traditional ECM market, there haven't been many exciting open source developments. I would say that the coolest thing in my part of the world is Nuxeo offering its content management platform as a true cloud offering. It is a Software-as-a-Service offering (though they refer to is as Platform-as-a-Service).

It may not be as "cool" as the semantic tech in Drupal, but in my world, having the content management vendors offer their software as a true cloud service is a big step. It allows businesses to focus on the business problem and not get bogged down trying to stand up and maintain a content management system in house.

- Laurence Hart, director of information management solutions for Washington Consulting, Inc. and author of the blog "Word of Pie