Which web content management systems will survive the coronavirus?

Google trends CMS

In the 20 years since the leading web content management systems (WCMS) have emerged, you can see from the Google trends chart above which ones have faired.

WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal started off about the same time, circa 2004, and in that time we have seen WordPress experience meteoric success followed by a slow decline over the past 10 years. While WordPress continues to dominate the CMS wars, it has seen its marketshare shrink and give way to hosted, drag-and-drop, easy to use WCMS such as Wix and Squarespace.

Meanwhile, the heavy hitters, those with more technical prowess, power, developer control, and security such as Drupal and Joomla are hardest hit. In fact, if you study the Joomla line, it looks like its heartbeat has stopped. Joomla looks dead compared to WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace.

This is what I’m seeing in these trends and my take-away:

  1. Simple websites are better served by Wix and Squarespace
  2. Joomla is pretty much dead
  3. WordPress is still the market leader, but losing market share
  4. Drupal is on life-support

The only reason why Drupal is alive at this point is because Drupal is a darling among thousands government agencies (federal, state, and local), tens of thousands of universities and community colleges, and tens of thousands of nonprofit organizations and member associations.

These entities love Drupal:

  • Government agencies (federal, state, local)
  • Universities and community colleges
  • Member associations

… all have sophisticated enough complexity and functional requirements that simple, hosted WCMS solutions such as Wix and Squarespace simply are not appropriate. Unless these organizations use a proprietary WCMS, their only viable open source solutions are WordPress or Drupal, but Drupal leads the way in its technical capabilities and security features.

The one thing that does worry me about Drupal is that the Drupal Association, which is the organization that leads, coordinates, and architects future versions of Drupal, i.e., Drupal 9, Drupal 10, is in serious, dire, financial shape.

80% of Drupal Association revenue is derived from one annual event: DrupalCon.

Like tens of thousands of conferences, expos, business meetings, events around the world, DrupalCon will not happen in 2020 and perhaps even 2021. This means that Drupal Association may become financially insolvent.

Of course, Drupal and the Drupal Association’s founder, Dries Buytaert who was also founder of Acquia sold most of Acquia to last year to Vista Equity Partners for $1B. So, it’s possible that Dries or Acquia or Vista Equity could bail out the Drupal Association. It could also be that the hundreds of thousands of Drupal professionals and Drupal shops around the world could also crowdsource Drupal Association.

If Drupal Association runs out of money, then the future of Drupal looks bleak. It could probably limp along for a few years, like Joomla. But, its demise would be almost certain without a buyout or bailout.

In the meantime, Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 are set to expire in 2021. This leaves organizations whose websites are powered by Drupal 7 in somewhat of a conundrum:

  • Should I migrate my site from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8?
  • Should I wait and migrate from Drupal 7 to D9?
  • Should I migrate from D7 to WordPress?
  • Should I abandon open source entirely?

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