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Proprietary CMS Vendors: 2005 Called, and it wants its Open Source FUD Back

Today I came across a new infographic from nonlinear creations, which compares open source and proprietary CMSs. nonlinear creations is a digital agency who does lots of CMS implementations, mostly in Sitecore. It's another attempt by a proprietary vendor and its partners to discredit open source using FUD. What's FUD you ask?

Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information.

Hey, I'll be honest. I've used FUD against open source CMS before. In 2008, I helped a colleague of mine at Interwoven write a famous blog post we called internally "the puppy blog," comparing open source to "being free like a puppy is free." It was in late 2008, when we started to see Drupal show up in opportunities against TeamSite, and we wanted to address it. Of course, we knew nothing about Drupal at the time, so the easiest path was was to play up the FUD angle. It even attracted the attention of Dries, who rightly pointed out that the value of open source has never been about free, and also that proprietary vendors get jealous :)

But since joining Acquia about a year ago, I've come to learn that everything I thought I knew about open source was wrong. Now I know how wrong I was. This particular commercial CMS vs. open source infographic from nonlinear was particularly disturbing to me, because it came from a Sitecore partner under the guise of being unbiased, when it clearly had an anti open source agenda. Here are the key points the infographic tries to make, with my thoughts on each:

1) "Open Source Doesn't Scale!"

This is the classic anti-OSS FUD, going all way back back to Microsoft and Linux in the mid 90's. Open Source technologies like Drupal, Hadoop, Mongo, etc. power some of the most demanding web applications in the world, like Facebook. Drupal + Acquia power some of the largest sites on the Internet when they needed it the most, like the MTA during Superstorm Sandy and the Grammy Awards during their annual event. Earlier this year,, with over 100 million unique visitors a month, announced it was moving to Drupal.

2) "Open Source doesn't have APIs and can't be integrated with other stuff."

Drupal's APIs are every bit as robust as proprietary products and others. With the "API-first" mentality behind Drupal 8, I believe Drupal will leapfrog commercial CMS vendors with API support. With regards to integration, this is another clear strength of Drupal. There are more than 20,000 Drupal modules, with pre-built integrations to all the applications that enterprises care about - Salesforce, Marketo, Brightcove, etc.

3) "Open Source products have no Roadmap!"

You can make the same argument about any product, open source or commercial. History is littered with CMS products that went in a completely different direction. Ask the poor customers stuck on Percussion. Or Interwoven. Or Fatwire. Or the best example of all: Vignette, which went from a TCL-based architecture to Java, forcing its customers to rewrite their sites from scratch. Having a product roadmap doesn't mean that the roadmap aligns to your needs as a customer. And with open source, you are forever freed from the tyranny of the product roadmap, and that's a good thing.

4) "Open Source is only good for Simple Sites"

Sure, there are some open source CMS products targeted exclusively at simpler use cases, but Drupal and Wordpress are solving equally complex problems as proprietary CMS vendors. Just take a look at some of the sites powered by Drupal and powered by Wordpress, and you'll many of the largest brands in the world implementing their digital strategy on open source.

So nonlinear creations, I get it. Really, I do. I've been there before. Drupal is winning more than ever against proprietary CMS products like Sitecore. But FUD isn't the answer. Drupal isn't perfect, nor is any CMS for that matter. So let's make the discussion factual. I've heard great things about your work, and maybe it's time we talk about becoming an Acquia partner? Let me know when you are ready :)

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