Open-source CMS

WordPress, Joomla, Drupal are all open-source CMSs and as such, they offer almost unlimited freedom in development.

Market Share of Open-Source CMS

Distribution of open-source CMS usage in France 1.

Graphic comparison of the market share distribution of Open-Source CMS

As of October 23, 2021, the website BuiltWith counts 484,190 websites in France using open-source technology.

By definition, these CMSs come with complete freedom in terms of development. Adding functionalities, configuring themes, creating new modules... everything is possible as long as you have some coding knowledge. The code is freely accessible. Their popularity vis-à-vis hosted solutions can be explained by this, not to mention that the possibilities they offer are almost limitless.
They are primarily intended for developers, but enthusiasts can also succeed in creating a functional website thanks to the themes they offer, either paid or free 2.

1. Major Asset: Unlimited Functionalities

Most of the time, they work with a core to which extensions, themes, plugins, and updates can be added, similar to a framework. Many of their functionalities are actually made possible thanks to an immense community of developers who are interested in developing the software because it is also their working tool - when the additions are free - or to integrate with the growth of the CMS and offer a new feature - compatible with it - for sale. For example, WooCommerce, the famous WordPress extension for managing e-commerce on this CMS, was originally created in 2011 by Jigowatt and was then called Jigoshop 3. The core was free, but several other additional services were offered for a fee.

Their capabilities cannot be truly assessed based on the possibilities they offer: their number is almost limitless. What can be taken into account is the effectiveness of the complementary tools and the technologies used, but the question of which open-source CMS is better than another is resolved differently. Instead, one should ask, "In its current state, what is each CMS optimized for?" and inquire whether it can meet the goals one has set.
The great popularity of WordPress is due, in addition to its longevity, to a very intuitive user interface. This is what makes it attractive for enthusiasts, while allowing developers to meet the sometimes demanding requests of their clients.

2. Necessary Evil: A Large Market Share Comes with Great Responsibilities

The major shortcoming of open-source CMSs remains their security vulnerabilities. A software whose entire code is known is a vulnerable software. However, the number of websites worldwide running on such CMSs amounts to 36,255,439, of which 28,183,568 are on WordPress. This would result in significant losses if it were not kept up-to-date by a massive team (805 people contributed to version 5.5 of WordPress, coming from more than 58 different countries 4).

Comparison of infections on open-source CMSs between 2018 and 2019 5.

Comparison graph of infection rates on the most popular Open-Source CMSs

This graph indicates that 94% of security issues are present on websites using WordPress. Its popularity largely contributes to its vulnerability, but the common feature among all these CMSs lies in what makes their strength: their unlimited extension of functionalities.

First and foremost, the core of each of these technologies must, as mentioned, be maintained and evolve over time to fix past vulnerabilities and possibly anticipate future ones.
One must also be able to keep up with the various technologies on which the CMS depends (HTML5, PHP 8...) to remain operational, competitive, and responsive.
Furthermore, these continuous updates can be a source of long and tedious verifications for users on the site using the respective CMS, to ensure that the new upgrade has not disrupted the proper functioning of the site. They often require the intervention of a professional who can navigate through them.
Finally, non-native functionalities also need to be constantly updated to align with each of the aforementioned points, which adds to the manipulations and complicates the task. Thus, a plugin whose development has been discontinued by the developer or the company managing it becomes less recommended because it is vulnerable. Changing it can then require several hours of work and, once again, the intervention of an expert is needed.

Distribution of infections on outdated open-source CMSs 6.

Distribution graph of infection risks on outdated Open-Source CMSs

Updating the native code of most CMSs does not happen automatically, which further complicates things for amateur developers. WordPress has implemented it since version 3.7, so it has fewer infections on its older versions than other CMSs.

3. Conclusion on Open-Source CMSs

Open-source CMSs are the best solution for obtaining a flexible, extensible, and fully customizable website. Their free nature can be balanced by the need to seek professional assistance or the time investment required to have a complete website. Security is their main drawback, but a knowledgeable user can avoid its pitfalls.

All these points make these CMSs a good long-term solution for professional websites - and even for individuals - managing low or high traffic: their power makes them a relevant tool for a wide range of websites.
They are especially popular among small and medium-sized businesses 7, due to their relatively lower cost, the evolution possibilities they offer, and the ease of making minor changes to the site.

Annex 1: Technological Comparison of the 7 Most Popular Open-Source CMS

CategoryBlog engineEnterprise GCMSWeb SCMSWeb SCMSWeb SCMSEnterprise Content Management SystemMini CMSDatabaseless CMSFlat file CMSMini CMSWeb SCMS
LicenseGNU GPLv2+GNU GPLv2+GNU GPL v2+GNU GPLv2+GNU LGPLv3GNU GPLv3+ProprietaryMITProprietaryMITProprietary
Operating SystemPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independentPlatform-independent
Supported Web ServersWeb Server with PHP and MySQL supportApache, NGINX, MS IIS, Caddy ServerApache, Nginx, MS IISWeb Server with PHP supportWeb Server with PHP and MySQL supportApache and NGINX are preferred, others work well tooApache, NGINX, MS IISApache, NGINX, MS IIS, LiteSpeed, Lightly, etc.Apache, NGINXApache, NGINXWeb Server (Apache, NGINX) with PHP and MySQL support
Supported DatabasesMySQL, MariaDBMySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, MS SQL Server, SQLiteMySQL, MS SQL Server, PostgreSQLMySQL, MariaDB, Percona Server, PostgreSQL, SQLiteMySQLMySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, SAP Sybase SQL Anywhere, SQLite, DrizzleMySQLSQLite, MySQLSQLite, MySQL, PostgreSQLMySQL, MariaDB
Template EnginePHPTypoScriptPHPPHPPHPFluid, AFXTwigTwigPHP/HTMLTwigPHP
Extensions and Extension Modules
Browser-based Backend
XML InterfaceOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extension
Integration of Custom ScriptsOnly with an extension
User Grouping, Transmission, and Restriction of Rights
Multi-level Approval Control
Multi-level WorkflowOnly with an extension
Multimedia Elements (Video and Audio Content or Flash Animation)Only with an extensionOnly with an extension
Blog SystemOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extension
Spell CheckingOnly with an extensionOnly with an extension
Preview Function
Multi-languageOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extension
Search FunctionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extensionOnly with an extension
TaggingOnly with an extensionOnly with an extension
Search Engine Friendly URLsOnly with an extension
Manual Entry of MetadataOnly with an extensionOnly with an extension
Possibility of Responsive Web Design

Source: https://www.ionos.fr/digitalguide/hebergement/cms/comparatif-des-meilleurs-cms/ (accessed on 30/10/2021). Forge is our in-house CMS!

Annex 2: Comparison of the Advantages and Disadvantages of the Most Popular Open-Source CMS

  • Large community
  • Low installation and configuration costs
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Easy integration of plugins and other extensions
    • Popular CMS with a large community (including many experts).
    • Flexible, extensible, and feature-rich.
    • Extensive rights management suitable for enterprises.
    • In comparison, this CMS requires low effort for installation and configuration
    • Wide range of extensions and themes
    • Simple and enjoyable template creation
    • Compact software core
    • Wide selection of extension modules and pre-defined Drupal distributions.
    • Support for multi-domain management
    • Powerful and extensible architecture.
    • Easy to use for installation, management, and extension updates.
    • Good level of security.
    • Easy upgrades.
    • Real WYSIWYG editor (in-line editing), displaying content as it will appear later when writing, without the user having to click a preview button
    • No PHP knowledge required to build complex pages
    • Helpful community with 2,000 users in the official Neos Slack
    • Facilitated CMS and PHP framework interconnection
    • Support for two-stage CMS architecture for large projects with maximum scalability, resilience, and security
    • Clean code
    • Good support for content creation and content strategies
    • Fast and efficient
    • Can be extended through themes and plugins
    • Skeleton (ready-to-use installation packages)
    • Open source with MIT license
    • Works without a database management system
    • Fast and efficient
    • Can be extended through themes and plugins
    • Works without a database management system
    • Performant and lightweight
    • Open source with MIT license
    • CMS features require additional extensions
    • Plugins often have security vulnerabilities
    • Stability and performance issues under high traffic
    • Frequent security updates, resulting in additional and sometimes heavy administration
    • Installation, configuration, and administration require expertise.
    • The wide range of functions offered by TYPO3 requires higher hosting requirements compared to other comparable systems.
    • Longer learning period for beginners.
    • Incomplete rights management
    • Some improvements and extensions are paid
    • Extensions sometimes need to be manually updated
    • Complex configuration due to lack of backward compatibility
    • Relatively limited base version that requires extension installations
    • Additional module installation only via FTP
    • Multi-level workflows are not supported by the system, only through extensions.
    • Compared to other programs, the community is relatively small but active.
    • Setup effort for small projects is usually too high
    • Longer learning period for beginners
    • The wide range of Neos functions requires professional hosting requirements
    • Only suitable for professional developers
    • High license costs for full functionality
    • More suitable for small projects
    • Paid
    • Requires extensive knowledge of web development

    Source: https://www.ionos.fr/digitalguide/hebergement/cms/comparatif-des-meilleurs-cms/ (page consultée le 30/10/2021)

    Annex 3: Performance Comparison for the Most Popular Open-Source CMS

    Rapidité du logiciel+++++++
    Simplicité d'utilisation++++++++
    Adapté pour un site avec une structure simple++++++
    Possibilité de personnalisations+++++++++
    Bibliothèque d'extensions++++++++++
    Adapté à la création d'un site complexe, avec un fort trafic++++++++
    Popularité (téléchargements moyens/semaine)1 000 000N/A113 00034 000
    Part sur le marché des CMS63.5 %3.9 %2.6 %0.8 %
    Nombre de thèmes gratuits+ 2 000N/A+ 900+ 1 800
    Nombre de plugins gratuits+ 27 000+ 3 000+ 7 000+ 24 000
    Fréquence des mises à jour42 joursN/A36 jours51 jours
    Niveau de compétencesAmateurStandardStandardStandard

    Source: https://www.ovhcloud.com/fr/web-hosting/uc-cms-comparison/ (accessed on 03/11/2021)

    1. Source: builtWith website, https://trends.builtwith.com/cms/open-source/country/France (accessed on 04/11/2021).

    2. For an overview of the features, advantages, and disadvantages of different products on the market, refer to the tables in the appendix at the end of the article.

    3. Source: https://www.kasareviews.com/jigoshop-review-end-of-jigoshop-ecommerce/ (accessed on November 11, 2021).

    4. Source: http://urlr.me/mnzSq (accessed on November 11, 2021).

    5. Source: https://sucuri.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/20-sucuri-2019-hacked-report-1.pdf, page 8 (accessed on November 11, 2021).

    6. Ibid, page 10.

    7. Source (in English) for Worpress: http://urlr.me/87zDH, or Drupal: http://urlr.me/T5FS4.

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