Open Source CMS: What is it and do I need it?

Create, manage, and publish content on a global scale with jContent, the fully integrated cloud-based CMS

Content management systems (CMS) streamline how organizations build their websites by providing an easy-to-use tool for creating and managing content. These solutions are broadly categorized into two different types: open source and proprietary. In this post, we’ll examine what an open source CMS is, how it works, and who can benefit from the software the most.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is an open source CMS?

A content management system (CMS) is a software platform that enables businesses to create and manage website content without having to code every detail from scratch. Platforms come with pre-built templates and users can create any type of content whether it’s text, audio, video, or images. A CMS can be a standalone application, part of an ecommerce platform, or part of a robust digital experience platform (DXP).

The software consists of a backend database for storing content and digital assets as well as a backend application for creating the content. If the CMS follows a traditional architecture, it has an attached frontend presentation layer for displaying content to users. If the CMS uses a headless architecture, the coupled frontend is replaced by an API that allows the system to distribute content to any device or channel.

An open source CMS allows for a software’s codebase to be accessible to all its users. With access to the source code, businesses can modify the software and add any functionality they need. The accessibility also tends to lead to an active community of developers where people work to improve the software and provide support to fellow users.

A significant majority of websites that are built with a CMS use an open source CMS. The most popular platforms are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. WordPress is so widely used that it powers over 35% of all websites (those using a CMS or otherwise).

Many open source CMS platforms are available to the public for free. Others are offered through a software provider. Users still have access to the source code but the vendor provides additional value whether it is through hosting, support, or extra features. While these platforms come with a cost, they are not to be confused with a proprietary CMS.

Open source CMS vs proprietary CMS

The core functionality of the two types of CMS software is similar but there are some fundamental differences in what they allow users to achieve. A proprietary CMS differs from an open source CMS in that the source code is closed to the public. Proprietary software is the legal property of a specific organization that is responsible for its continued maintenance. Other companies pay the vendor a license fee to use the software.

Proprietary solutions often have fewer options for customization, making them simpler and easier to use. This simplicity can be helpful for organizations that do not need complex functionality. Proprietary solutions also come with technical support, allowing companies to off-load some of the workloads for their IT teams.

Proprietary solutions come with limitations. The software often results in vendor lock-in as the lack of ability to architect your own solution makes it difficult to move between platforms. Beyond that, proprietary CMS are missing some of the key advantages offered by open source solutions.

Benefits of an open source CMS

Greater flexibility

The greatest benefit to using an open source CMS is flexibility. With access to the software’s source code, there is no limit to what you can create for your website. Open-source software providers understand the importance of customization to their users and as such design their platforms so that they are easy to build upon.

Improved integration

Open source CMS solutions provide better integration capabilities. Internal developers and those in the community can modify the software as needed to make it compatible with other popular technologies. Similarly, other software vendors are more likely to include pre-built integrations to popular open source frameworks than a niche proprietary system.

Regular updates

Open source CMS platforms often have active developer communities that are always working to improve the software’s code. As such, any vulnerabilities and bugs are quickly addressed and the platform is always up to date with the latest development best practices. Beyond the community, your own developers can easily make any updates to the software as your business requires.

Cost-effective customizations

With an open source CMS, extra customizations do not come with added costs as they do with a proprietary CMS. Once you have access to the software, you can add any functionality that you need without having to pay the vendor again and again.

Unlimited customization with jContent CMS

At Jahia we believe that the best tech stacks are configurable based on each business’ unique needs. This is why we built our jContent CMS on a flexible open-source framework.

Hosted on-premise or in the cloud, jContent gives you a centralized hub to create and deliver omnichannel experiences. You can use jContent as a standalone CMS or part of the comprehensive Jahia DXP. With extensive integration capabilities, you can easily connect jContent with the other components in your tech stack.

Contact us today to learn more about how Jahia can help you build better digital experiences faster.

Justin Sharaf
Justin Sharaf

Justin runs the marketing team at Jahia. He is a dad, husband, friend, golfer, and gambler. He believes in people, process, and technology, and that leaders must put their teams in a position to be successful.