Dries Buytaert on the Future of Open Source
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Dries Buytaert on the Future of Open Source
by Sam Dean - Feb. 25, 2009Comments (15)
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Dries Buytaert is the founder and lead of the open source Drupal content management system, which OStatic and many other web sites are based on. He's also the co-founder of Acquia, which offers a commercially supported version of Drupal. Dries is one of the more respected pundits in open source, and we invited him to submit a guest post here at OStatic delivering his thoughts on the future of open source. You'll find his thought-provoking essay here, where he discusses eliminating middlemen, and much more. (Disclosure: Acquia is a sponsor of OStatic.)Bringing the Power of Open Source to EveryoneBy Dries BuytaertAdoption and usage of open source software is changing. Traditionally, most open source software has been used as part of corporate IT infrastructure. Relegated to data centers, technologies such as Linux, Apache, JBoss, and MySQL have been used on servers, hidden from ordinary people. Users of open source were technical by nature and despite very large developer communities; this has not been software for the “masses.”However, this landscape is changing very rapidly. Today, Mozilla Firefox has grabbed 20 percent of the worldwide browser market and technologies like Ubuntu and OpenOffice are gaining footholds. Open source projects like Drupal, WordPress and countless others are powering our web experience more than most people recognize. The average person has no idea how much open source software he or she actually touches, often indirectly, in an average day.There is no reason open source software should be limited to technical users. For a few years now, I’ve been talking about eliminating the middlemen on the web. We have already eliminated the web master. When was the last time you hired a web master to hand-craft your website and content using XHTML and CSS? Today, content creators can input, format and publish their own content themselves. The web master role that we used to know is dead. Publishing tools and content management systems, like Drupal, replaced them. Killed by technology, replaced by scripts.Next is to eliminate the web developer and to make online publishing even more accessible. At Acquia, our goal is to provide anyone who wants to build a website the tools they need to build the website they want. No restrictions.This vision is more than say, building a page on Facebook. Applications like Facebook and WordPress are great examples of how web technology can be made more approachable and the impact it can have on many people's lives, but they still impose constraints when building a website. Everyone should be able to build any website at any time, meaning it shouldn't require specialized training or skills.The values of open source are key to this vision. Because Drupal is open source, Drupal is built by thousands of developers from all over the world -- they all bring a piece to the table, making Drupal a great common platform. It is not about building one specific tool, it is about building a platform, a platform that becomes more rich and powerful thanks to thousands of people that contribute on a daily basis.The Drupal community is working hard to make website building simpler, more intuitive and less intimidating, while at the same time providing site builders all the flexibility they need. We have a lot of work to do, but I believe that Drupal will be the dominant platform to build websites, and that, like more and more open source applications, it will be accessible to everyone.This is our vision of open source’s future – what’s yours? Take a moment to fill out the Future of Open Source survey and share your perspective. (Click here to take the survey.) The results will be announced at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) on March 24th–25th at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA. 
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15 Comments
 
by Roy Schestowitz on Feb. 25, 2009There is a link there to Microsoft-sponsored figures from Net Applications. They are based on very improper data can may therefore mislead some readers.
0 Votes
by OssFoss on Feb. 25, 2009Thanks, Dries! Will I soon need to remove 'Web Developer' from my resume ;)
It is amazing, though, that people still list "HTML" as part of their skills! If you do CSS - yes. If not, I mean, come on!
In all seriousness, making FOSS more accessible is the way to go. Some solid software is not getting the recognition it deserves because of limitations in perceptions, and products like Firefox for users and Drupal for publishers are working wonders to change that perception.
0 Votes
by Steve Brubaker on Feb. 26, 2009Drupal works great out of the box, but takes some serious work to deliver a polished site. The problem which I have found with several open source applications is that they get you 80%-90% of the way at times but the experience can be very frustrating because of missing documentation or no easily accessible tech support.
0 Votes
by AdamCooperWood on Feb. 26, 2009Hold on there. HTML skills aren't going away- the person who lists HTML on the resume is changing. I'd feel a whole lot more comfortable if the copywriter and content producers where I work had stronger HTML skills than they do.
0 Votes
by an anonymous user on Feb. 26, 2009Dries just doesn't even know that there is a fast moving train Ruby on Rails which even today has more steam compared to Drupal
0 Votes
by Subal Gupta on Feb. 27, 2009#anonymous - RoR - you are joking, right? Drupal is a CMS. RoR is an MVC framework. A better statement would have been "Dries just doesn't even k now that there is a fast moving train Ruby on Rails which even today has more steam compared to CakePHP".
That would STILL be wrong, but at least the comparison would be more sound.
IF you know how to program (and, per Dries' comments, if you do not, don't fret - OSS is coming to a computer close to you), you will realize that Ruby and RoR have LONG ways to go. They are the 'framework du jour', but are severely lacking. Ever tried to internationalize using Ruby? I thought not.
0 Votes
by an anonymous user on Feb. 27, 2009Yeah, it's great to have the goal of "eliminating the role of the web developer" but for Drupal, you've got a lot of work to do before that even becomes remotely possible. You know, like a templating system that doesn't change with each new release, good documentation (that is up to date) so that newcomers can see what they need to do, and easier tools to actually manage and customize templates. Because unless everyone is content with their sites looking vanilla and generic, the web developer is not going to go anywhere. And right now, Drupal isn't anything I'd recommend for a person starting their own site to use with no experience and not enough time to dedicate to learning and using the system.
Nice ideas, but for Drupal to be a viable platform, it really needs to get documentation, standardized templating options and better integration with tools so that average users can approach it.
0 Votes
by Randy Clark on Feb. 27, 2009I agree that eliminating the 'web developer' is a neat goal to have (is it? Where's the web-developer union? ;) ), but even getting simple template changes in Drupal requires a fair amount of work. Well-meaning contributors have several neat templates in there, but unless you want your site to look exactly like that template, you are out of luck. There is no GUI way to tweak your site - you can move 'blocks' and change some basic alignments, but outside of that, you really need to get into the code. The out-of-box experience looks like an open source project UI - crappy, but with a lot of functionality in place for those who wish to jump in.
Web Developers of the world, I would not fret yet.
0 Votes
by Figo Mago on Mar. 18, 2009I'm not a big fan of using the word "can't", but in this case I must agree with the others.
Eliminating the web developer is out of the question. As things stand currently in the OpenSource CMS community, that is a very ambitious goal.
This is not the first time I come accross an attempt to make the developer redundant by building easier to use software tools. It's been tried for ages in the business world and -strangely enough - has resulted in a greater need for developers to fix the resulting mess.
While it is a noble idea, I think we are still far, far from "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines". It's not possible to replace the web developer right now nor in the next couple of years.
0 Votes
by Qasim Virjee on Mar. 25, 2009I agree with Dries that Open Source CMS' are putting more power into the hands of people who may not know or want to learn code, and that as their learning curves get less steep we will see more people jumping into creating and growing their websites themselves; depending on the type of website they want to have.
We've of course seen the *huge* acceptance of wordpress for simple content publishing (read: 'blogging') amongst all sorts of people ranging from tech pros to near-luddites. As people use more websites that have richer feature sets everyday they'll no doubt want to see the functionality of those sites in their own; for a while yet, though it may not require custom coding, I think the role of 'web master' or 'web developer' or whatever-you-want-to-call-them will be around for quite some time.
That role will continue to exist but may change to focus on conceptualizing the end result and making it happen with the right combination (and configuration) of 3rd party modules/extensions; whether through just hand-holding/teaching people wanting to develop their own sites or actually putting the pieces together themselves.
I'm really excited for Mark Boulton's redesign of Drupal 7; right now a major hindrance to non-technical people using Drupal is its stratified admin interface, which often leads to developers custom-creating UX per-project to suit each client's administrative needs.
To help people jump-start their web projects we've taken a hard look at another Open Source CMS called Joomla for example, and come up with a packaged solution called Seedling (http://www.plantseedling.com).
Seedling's distribution of Joomla is cool because it comes pre-configured and loaded with a suite of extensions and easily changeable theme; so people can develop their web projects a lot quicker and with more power under the hood. Plus, it comes with optional email/ticket support - so new adopters of Joomla can get help when they need it.
Until core installs of Open Source CMS' are a lot more user friendly I think solutions like Seedling will really help bridge the gap for those folks who want to learn via DIY and/or can't afford the services of web developers.
0 Votes
by Qasim Virjee on Mar. 25, 2009(*Reposting this - when I was logged in the comment didn't show up?)
I agree with Dries that Open Source CMS' are putting more power into the hands of people who may not know or want to learn code, and that as their learning curves get less steep we will see more people jumping into creating and growing their websites themselves; depending on the type of website they want to have.
We've of course seen the *huge* acceptance of wordpress for simple content publishing (read: 'blogging') amongst all sorts of people ranging from tech pros to near-luddites. As people use more websites that have richer feature sets everyday they'll no doubt want to see the functionality of those sites in their own; for a while yet, though it may not require custom coding, I think the role of 'web master' or 'web developer' or whatever-you-want-to-call-them will be around for quite some time.
That role will continue to exist but may change to focus on conceptualizing the end result and making it happen with the right combination (and configuration) of 3rd party modules/extensions; whether through just hand-holding/teaching people wanting to develop their own sites or actually putting the pieces together themselves.
I'm really excited for Mark Boulton's redesign of Drupal 7; right now a major hindrance to non-technical people using Drupal is its stratified admin interface, which often leads to developers custom-creating UX per-project to suit each client's administrative needs.
To help people jump-start their web projects we've taken a hard look at another Open Source CMS called Joomla for example, and come up with a packaged solution called Seedling (http://www.plantseedling.com).
Seedling's distribution of Joomla is cool because it comes pre-configured and loaded with a suite of extensions and easily changeable theme; so people can develop their web projects a lot quicker and with more power under the hood. Plus, it comes with optional email/ticket support - so new adopters of Joomla can get help when they need it.
Until core installs of Open Source CMS' are a lot more user friendly I think solutions like Seedling will really help bridge the gap for those folks who want to learn via DIY and/or can't afford the services of web developers.
0 Votes
by http://www.drupal-web-developers.com on May. 05, 2009Next is to eliminate the web developer and to make online publishing even more accessible.
What ppl in Acquia will do then ? (Plz take it in light note)
0 Votes
by http://www.module-developer.com on May. 20, 2010ya, I agree that eliminating the 'web developer' is a neat goal to have, but even getting simple template changes in Drupal requires a fair amount of work. Well-meaning contributors have several neat templates in there, but unless you want your site to look exactly like that template, you are out of luck.
0 Votes
by http://www.module-node.com on Aug. 25, 2010I agree with that Open Source Content management system' are putting more power into the hands of people who may not know or want to learn code, and that as their learning curves get less steep we will see more people jumping into creating and growing their websites themselves; depending on the type of website they want to have.
0 Votes
by Andres on Mar. 18, 2011Nice and bold try but I'm not buying it and never will. There is not and there will never be a one solution for everyone. Web developers will never die for the same reason that my mama's food tastes better than McDonald's. Heavy CMS systems (just like badly digested McDonald's food) run slower; they have thousands of options that may not apply to your basic needs and that will only help in getting you lost and wasting time. I honestly have more fun coding PHP than trying to figure out where is Joomla!, Drupal or whichever hiding what I need. As I said it is just impossible make a one solution for everyone. Drupal might be good, still I'm laughing at your claim.
0 Votes
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