Open-Source Software is Consolidating…i.e. Dieing…
We started Simple Machines Themes to help provide a platform for new and innovative themes that utilize the Simple Machines framework.
Over the past ten years the number of open-source forum applications has actually been declining. The industry (and I hate to use that word) has been consolidating as talented developers have focused on the 4 or 5 most popular forum applications.
This is bad for a few reasons. And to demonstrate this, let us point to WordPress.
The open source application is, by far, the most popular CMS (content management system) in the world. Web hosting companies are even offering ‘WordPress hosting’, which charges you more for installing a free application for you. Some (and I’m not even making this up) will offer you a free trial of their VPS plans if you sign up with WordPress.
WordPress sites account for an astonishing 18.9% of all websites in the world, as of 2015.
This is good, right? A free, open-source application is the basis for a vast number of the world’s websites. Right?
Wrong? What WordPress’ success has done is create a vacuum for talented developers working on other platforms. As developers focus on WordPress plugins, professional themes and other ancillary products, the number of developers creating products for Joomla, Drupal and other open-source content management systems has gone way down.
Now, I don’t blame them. If you were a developer, which platform would you choose? Develop a Joomla Template (in Joomla-language, themes are called ‘templates’), or develop a WordPress theme for a potential market 20x larger? As talent heads towards the WordPress tent, the other CMS’s wither from a lack of talent.
This is bad for WordPress too, by the way. I’m sure their founder doesn’t see it that way. But who is keeping WordPress honest? Who is the competitor whose innovations will force WordPress to adapt?
The closest we’ve come has been the drag-and-drop website builder industry, fore-fronted by Weebly and Wix. But these sites are targeting the non-technical audience, the people who have never made a website before because they were intimidated by the complexity of it (it’s really not that bad!). These sites aren’t going to push WordPress to innovate and create new website features and functions that change the landscape of the internet.
Where’s the innovation going to come from?