Blogger: Larry Cannell
This past week I had conversations with both Acquia and DotNetNuke about their open source web content management (WCM) solutions. Acquia is a commercial entity, launched in Q4 2008, to support the open source WCM system Drupal. DotNetNuke Corporation is a commercial entity supporting the open source WCM system DotNetNuke (DNN), and launched its first commercial product in February 2009. There are some surprising similarities between the two projects and companies, but also some subtle (yet distinct) differences as well.
Both Drupal and DotNetNuke (DNN) provide the foundation for vibrant open source ecosystems, which were established years before their commercial entities were funded (the first release of Drupal appeared in 2001, DNN in 2003). Each community has over 700,000 members and boasts over half a million known Internet websites running their software. In addition, these companies have a surprising number of customers for the short time they have been in business; each has in the neighborhood of 450-500 companies who are paying for their WCM product.
Both of these products are well architected and extensible. As a result, each community has thousands of add-ons available that enable new features or change the appearance of the product. Both can be used to quickly build websites leveraging advanced Internet services and providing cutting-edge capabilities.
However, there are some distinct differences between the two. The type of open source license they employ has influenced many of these differences.
DNN is licensed under the permissive MIT open source license. This license places almost no restrictions on how source code can be reused or relicensed. Of the thousands of DNN extensions and themes available, some are also licensed as open source. However, many are commercially licensed and must be purchased. This makes for an active ecosystem of system integrators selling commercial DNN add-ons. To facilitate this, DotNetNuke has an online marketplace, Snowcovered.com, that provides a convenient catalog of available DNN extensions. DotNetNuke also sells prepackaged versions of DNN as well as developer and support services.
Drupal is licensed under the GNU Public License (GPL). This license restricts how the software can be reused or combined with other products (this CCS Blog post describes the GPL in more detail), limiting the proprietary software opportunities for system integrators. Nonetheless, this has not stopped the Drupal community from thriving and building businesses based on the product. Acquia, for example, provides various levels of support packages, a hosting service, advanced search services (based on Solr), professional services, and is beta testing DrupalGardens.com (Dries Buytaert, Drupal’s project founder, describes it as ‘Drupal as a Service’).
These are not the only open source WCM systems on the market. Nevertheless, I thought the outright similarities and the subtle differences were worthy of some discussion. I am also not saying these are the only types of WCM businesses that can be supported by a permissive open source license (like the MIT license) or a hereditary license (like the GPL). However, it shows that an open source license can significantly influence how vendors leverage their communities’ resources.