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From infinite extensibility to infinite interoperability

Jeff Whatcott, Acquia's VP of marketing, wrote an interesting blog post about the term content management system, Microsoft SharePoint 2007, and Drupal's opportunity to be the poster child for the social software market space.

The funny thing is that I replied to Jeff's post back in 2006. In 2006, I agreed with Jeff -- and I still agree with Jeff today -- that (i) the term 'content management system' under sells what Drupal is capable of, (ii) that content management systems are consolidating to community and collaboration platforms, and (iii) that SharePoint is mind-boggling in more than one way.

From a content management system's point of view, we can summarize the current state of affairs as:

Web 1.0 = content management
Web 2.0 = Web 1.0 + user management + infinite extensibility

Jeff said it best when he wrote: the genius of what the [Drupal] community has done is to reduce all of the aspects of social software to their core DNA: content nodes and membership, and then build a platform that could be infinitely extended to allow the assembly of almost any styles of online social interaction.

But while Jeff rightfully sees a business opportunity for the Drupal community in the social publishing market, I tend to worry more about the fact that Drupal's key differentiator (i.e. bundling a wide variety of functionality into a single platform) becomes a commodity.

I want the Drupal community to stay ahead of the competition. I want to start implementing today what proprietary CMS vendors will implement in 2013. From a content management system's point of view, I believe, that means (and I really hate to use the term 'Web 3.0'):

Web 3.0 = Web 2.0 + infinite interoperability

which roughly translates to:

Web 3.0 = Web 2.0 + data portability + web service APIs

While the short-term business opportunity might be to go after the social publishing market, I strongly believe that the long-term business opportunity lies in the infinite interoperability and that spans well beyond the social software market.

Thanks to Open Source software and companies like Google, the cost of building Web 2.0 applications will approach zero. Contrary to what one might think, this actually creates a lot of business opportunities. Opportunities that are best monetized through web services. But for that to happen, ubiquitous and seamless interoperability is key.

Bring it on, IBM!

IBM just announced Lotus Connections. According to this article in Business Week, Lotus Connections wraps five social networking technologies up into one integrated package: profiles, where employees post information about their expertise and interests; communities, which are formed and managed by people with common interests; activities, which are used to manage group projects; bookmarks, where people share documents and websites with others; and blogs.

Microsoft was quick to reply with a press release announcing new tools that will help IBM Lotus Notes users migrate to Microsoft SharePoint 2007.

So we have Microsoft SharePoint 2007 versus IBM's Lotus Connections. But how is IBM going to compete with SharePoint's many third-party hosted service providers? Or with Google for that matter (think Google calendar, Google spreadsheets, Google's Blogger, Google search, Google pages, Google wiki/JotSpot, ...)?

With that in mind, now consider this. Many organizations have been experimenting with Drupal and see real benefits from using it. They are begging for reliable support. One or two years from now, they'll be begging for better integration with their existing tools and platforms.

It doesn't take a whole lot of IBM'ers to get Drupal to talk with Lotus Connections, to get Drupal up to par with SharePoint, or for IBM to become the world's premier Drupal support company. It is a small investment for a win-win situation.

IBM embraced Linux so they know how to do this, and they know how well that worked. It helped IBM turn around some of its business and strengthened their position in the server market. The battle has since moved up the stack and Lotus is to Drupal what AS/400 was to Linux. It will be interesting to see if IBM is going to repeat history and embrace an open source alternative.

Sharepoint 2007 hosting

For $29.95 USD a month, you can get a Sharepoint 2007 website over at SharepointHosting.com. You have 40 install profiles to choose from, and 50 screencast that you can consult. If you're serious about Drupal hosting, this is just one of many Sharepoint hosting providers that you might find yourself competing against ...

SharePoint 2007

Bert Boerland predicts: Within 3 years the acronym "CMS" won't mean "Content Management System" anymore but will be redefined to "Community Management System".

Markets are more likely to fragment than to consolidate so I think both will co-exist and inevitably overlap. That said, I agree with the notion that community software will continue to emerge and that content isn't king. And to contribute to the disorderly jumble that is the CMS acronym, may I suggest a third term: Collaboration Management System. It might be a better match.

Especially the introduction of SharePoint 2007 might have significant impact on this particular market. SharePoint 2007 adds features like forums, blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, news aggregation, surveys, issue tracking ... but also install profiles and custom content types. Clearly, Microsoft decided to play catch up. And rumor has it that the improved integration with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook is jaw-dropping.

Drupal's document management functionality and integration with tools like Microsoft Office and OpenOffice is severely lacking. As it stands, Drupal is not a good SharePoint alternative, yet there is quite a bit of overlap in terms of functionality. It sure makes for an interesting situation.

I wonder what impact the introduction of SharePoint 2007 will have. What was once an important Drupal differentiator (i.e. bundling a wide variety of functionality into a single platform) will finally become commodity in 2007. Instead, seamless integration with other applications might become essential to compete? Interesting times!

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