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Comprehensive Overview of Top 14 Content Management Systems

Update: added the Distinguished clients for DotNetNuke.

These days many websites (in fact, millions) are implemented by the use of popular open source content management systems (CMS). I would say, for everything you would imagine your site doing, there is one or another CMS which can do that. Thus, the reason for choosing a particular one depends on the tasks you want to accomplish. For blogs there is a common sense of using WordPress blog management system, for large scale websites Drupal CMS is perceived to be a better fit, while Joomla CMS is easier to learn for newbies. .NET developers prefer alternative DonNetNuke or umbraco CMS. Besides these, CMS Made Simple and Liferay are amongst the most popular content management systems based on the number of the number of downloads. Elgg and MODx are amongst the rising stars.

I will not tell you what a CMS is. If you want to learn, see the CMS Wikipedia page. In this blog I will give a comprehensive overview of top 14 content management systems based on the number of weekly downloads, installations, and brand familiarity. The full statistical data can be found in the 2010 OPEN SOURCE CMS MARKET SHARE REPORT by water&stone (2010). The report is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License (3.0).

Today we will cover Drupal, Joomla, MODx, WordPress, DotNetNuke, umbraco, Liferay, TYPO3, CMS Made Simple, MOVABLE TYPE, Plone, eZ Publish, concrete5, and Alfresco content management systems. You might already be familiar with some of these, while some can be new to you. I bet you will be surprised to learn that some unknown for you systems suit your requirements much better than those you have got to use so far (my personal experience). So, let's learn about each of them, and do not forget to leave your comments below on what other CMS should have been included in this list and why.

Note: the order of the CMS does not represent its quality, performance, or superiority over the other. They are numbered to give a better perception to readers. The users feedback and opinions are retrieved from Stack Overflow, thus can be subjective as they are based on personal views and preferences.

# 1: Drupal


Official site:

1% of all websites on the Internet are based on this platform. An estimated 7.2 million sites were powered by Drupal as of July 2010. Drupal started out in 2001. In one year from May 2007 to April 2008, Drupal was downloaded from their official site more than 1.4 million times, an increase of approximately 125% from the previous year.

Weekly downloads: 33,671 (ranked #3 after Joomla and before DotNetNuke).

Installations: 575 according to the survey (#3 after WordPres and before DotNetNuke), but 1.4% (#3 after Joomla and before Typo3) of Alexa Top 1 million sites.

Brand Familiarity: Drupal is known to be the #3 most familiar content management system.

Major Features:

  • You can manage multiple sites with Drupal in multiple languages. You can use it for blogging site, corporate site, personal site, gallery, briefly, whatever you imagine.
  • You can easily manage your site users, providing standard registration, including OpenID support. You can set various access control rules to limit the activity of your site users.
  • Provides multiple-level menu system, template customization, advanced search, RSS feed aggregator.
  • Officially Drupal supports several databases including MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and SQLite.
  • To increase its performance, you can use caching. At the same time it provides high security with notifications about the new update releases.
  • Provides Search Engine Friendly descriptive URLs.
  • Powered by jQuery JavaScript framework.
Extensions: over 7,000 free community-contributed addons, known as contrib modules.

Distinguished Clients:

What users say:

  • More difficult to master especially for newbies. It's more for advanced users. Though the new Drupal 7 claims to provide significantly improved usability (maybe more toward WordPress style). To achieve this, they hired web designers to specifically address the UX problems it had in previous versions.
  • New major releases are not quite backward compatible. More focus on new features and functionality. External module developers should take care of compatibility themselves, except for data representation, which Drupal is intended to keep same.
  • Drupal is often compared with Joomla and is perceived to be a bit slower. Though this depends on the type of website you develop. However, leveraging its caching and gzipping technologies, it is possible to achieve quite impressive results.
  • jQuery, the default JavaScript framework in Drupal, allows to use alternative Mootools framework at the same time.

# 2: Joomla


Official site:

Joomla is the result of a fork of Mambo CMS on August 17, 2005. Within its first year of release, Joomla had been downloaded 2.5 million times.

Weekly downloads: 113,836 (ranked #2 after WordPress and before Drupal).

Installations: 1,297 according to the survey (#1 before WordPress), but 2.5% (#2 after WordPress and before Drupal) of Alexa Top 1 million sites.

Brand Familiarity: Joomla is known to be the #1 most familiar content management system.

Major Features:

  • You can manage multiple site with Joomla in multiple languages natively (since Joomla 1.6). You can use it for blogging site, corporate site, personal site, gallery, briefly, whatever you imagine.
  • You can easily manage your site users, providing standard registration, including Google OpenID support. Full support for Access Control List.
  • Provides Multiple-level menu and content category system, template customization, advanced search, RSS feed aggregator.
  • Officially supports only MySQL.
  • Page cashing for increased performance.
  • Provides moderate descriptive URLs (still not fully customizable as you can do in WordPress).
  • Powered by MooTools JavaScript framework.
Extensions: There are over 6,000 free and commercial plugins available from the official site.

Distinguished Clients:

What users say:

  • More intuitive and easy to use than Drupal, though still not like WordPress.
  • Powerful. Fully-fledged content management system, so you can create whatever site you want.
  • Really strong security. If security problems found, immediately fixed.
  • The new Joomla 1.6 release is expected to be faster, more convenient, with more features.
  • Its strong dependency on Mootools JavaScript framework sometimes bothers users as Joomla does not give easy workaround to disable it and use jQuery instead.
  • Support of only one database, limits Joomla a lot in terms of the number of users. However, this is a compromise for high optimizations for MySQL, thus increased overall performance.
  • Does not allow to fully customize URLs - a must feature for CMS.

#3: modx


Official site:

modx is not just an open source CMS but also a web application framework. Raymond Irving and Ryan Thrash began the MODx CMS project in 2004 as a fork of Etomite. In 2008 MODx users created a new logo and branding for the project. Now MODx allows for full segregation of content (plain HTML), appearance and behavior (standards compliant CSS and JavaScript) and logic (PHP, snippets).

Weekly downloads: 4,500 (ranked #11 after umbraco and before Tiki).

Installations: 58 according to the survey (#12 after eZ Publish and before umbraco), has less than 0.1% among the Alexa Top 1 million sites.

Brand Familiarity: #14 (before Liferay and after eZ Publish).

Major Features:

  • As with Joomla, modx officially supports only MySQL database.
  • Not just CMS but a PHP framework for Web.
  • Freedom to choose jQuery, Mootools, ExtJS, Prototype or any other JavaScript library.
  • Supports PHP 4.3.11 and above.
  • Complete control of all metadata and URL structure for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
  • Unlimited hierarchical page depth.
  • Can create custom fields and widgets for templates.
  • Role-based permissions for the Manager.
  • Ability to customize the Manager on a per-deployment basis.
  • Ecommerce integration via Foxy Cart.
Extensions: 622, also known as add-ons.

Distinguished Clients:

What users say:

  • Good to have a choice for favorite JavaScript framework.
  • Light CMS solution (but not necessarily the fastest).
  • PHP 4 support for developers mean that a lot of compromises had to be made in terms of OOP (Object Oriented Programming) in order to offer PHP 4 support .
  • Nice to have freedom to set custom URL.

#4: WordPress


Official site:

WordPress was first released on May 27, 2003, by Matt Mullenweg as a fork of b2/cafelog. As of August 2010, version 3.0 had been downloaded over 12.5 million times. Nowadays, known as the #1 CMS for blogging.

Weekly downloads: 983,625 (ranked #1 before Joomla).

Installations: 1,012 according to the survey (#2 after Joomla and before Drupal), but 12.9% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites (#1 before Joomla).

Brand Familiarity: #2 (after Joomla and before Drupal).

Major Features:

  • Highly optimized for blogging.
  • Custom and easy to switch themes.
  • Users can re-arrange widgets without editing PHP or HTML code.
  • Official support for only MySQL.
  • Custom URL, clean permalink structure, excellent for SEO.
  • Nested, multiple categories to articles.
  • Support for tagging. Advanced search by tags.
  • Highly intuitive UI (User Interface).
  • jQuery JavaScript framework.
  • Supports the Trackback and Pingback standards for displaying links to other sites that have themselves linked to a post or article.
  • Rich plugin architecture which allows users and developers to extend its functionality beyond the features that come as part of the base install.
Native applications exist for Android, iPhone/iPod Touch, and BlackBerry which provide access to some of the features in the WordPress Admin panel and work with and many blogs.

Extensions: 12,780 plugins and 1,315 themes.

Distinguished Clients:

What users say:

  • Perhaps, the most convenient, easy to use and intuitive CMS (or BMS) in the world. Perfect for blog sites. But if you need to develop a dynamic site with various components, perhaps, other CMS would fit better, though, WordPress provides enough plugins to accomplish almost all tasks.
  • I would avoid Wordpress as a CMS in a professional environment. As stated earlier, it's a great blogging platform, but doesn't generally offer the robustness that most professional environments require.
  • Availability of jQuery makes the plugin development a lot easier for external developers and site owners.
  • Endless themes - no need to worry about the new design for your site, unless you really need something special.

#5: DotNetNuke


Official site:

DotNetNuke is an open source platform for building web sites based on Microsoft .NET technology. It is written in VB.NET and distributed under both a Community Edition BSD-style license and a commercial proprietary license. The Community Edition is a popular web content management (WCM) system and application development framework for ASP.NET, with over 6 million downloads and 600,000 production web sites as of October 2010. More than 8,000 DotNetNuke apps are available for purchase on has over 800,000 registered members as of October 2010.

Weekly downloads: 13,000 (ranked #4 after Drupal and before CMS Made Simple).

Installations: 402 according to the survey (#4 after Drupal and before Liferay), but 0.2% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites (#4 after Typo3 and before MOVABLE TYPE).

Brand Familiarity: #4 (after Drupal and before Typo3).

Major Features:

  • Distinguishes between community (common features) and enterprise (full set of features) editions.
  • Various modules, and data providers.
  • Provides language packs for about 60 languages.
  • Customizable through skins and templates.
Distinguished clients:

What users say:

  • A little bit difficult to create modules.
  • It is perceived as a little bit bulky CMS.
  • Does not provide extensive documentation and user guides.
  • Similar to most CMS, does not provide full backward compatibility in its new major releases.
  • Unlike its enterprise edition, the community edition is not tested and certified by the DotNetNuke Corporation.
  • Even if it provides the language packs, the sites cannot be created to support multiple languages. Third party module should be used to enable this feature.
  • Auto-upgrade, Advanced Site Search, Page Cashing, and many must-have features are not included in the Community edition, only in Professional or Enterprise editions.

#6: Umbraco


Official site:

Umbraco is also an open source content management system. It was developed by Niels Hartvig in 2000 and released as open source software in 2004. It is written in C# and can be deployed on Microsoft based infrastructure. In 2010, with about 1,000 downloads a day, Umbraco was in the Top 5 most popular downloads via the Microsoft Web Platform Installer, two places below its main rival DotNetNuke.

Weekly downloads: 5,420 (ranked #10 after Alfresco and before MODx).

Installations: 57 according to the survey (#13 after MODx and before e107), but less than 0.1% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites.

Brand Familiarity: #16 (after Liferay and before e107).

Major Features:

  • Can be deployed with several databases, including MySQL, SQL Server, and VistaDB.
  • SEO-friendly URLs.
Extensions: 310 add-on modules.

What users say:

  • Limited number of extensions.
  • Official support for Windows OS only.
  • Umbraco is oriented to small low-cost sites.
  • Video trainings have to be purchased.
  • Many must-have features have to purchased.

#7: Liferay


Official site:

Liferay Portal is a free and open source enterprise portal written in Java and distributed under the GNU Lesser General Public License. It allows users to set up features common to websites. It is fundamentally constructed of functional units called portlets. Liferay is sometimes described as a content management framework or a web application framework. It comes with certain portlets preinstalled. These comprise the core functionality of the portal system.

Weekly downloads: 9,435 (ranked #6 after CMS Made Simple and before TYPO3).

Installations: 154 according to the survey (#5 after DotNetNuke and before TYPO3), but less than 0.1% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites.

Brand Familiarity: #15 (after MODx and before Umbraco).

Major Features/ Portlets:

  • Can tag and categorize contents.
  • Document Library Manager, Recent Documents.
  • Alfresco, Documentum, and other document library integration.
  • User management based on various roles and groups (ACL).
  • WebDAV Integration (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning which allows users to collaboratively edit and manage files on remote web servers).
  • Nested Portlets
  • User Directory
  • LDAP Integration
  • Microsoft Office Integration
  • Calendar/Chat/Mail/Message Boards/Polls
  • Wiki (supports Creole as well as MediaWiki syntax)
  • Alerts and Announcements
  • Knowledge Base
  • Social Equity
  • Can create multi-language sites.
  • Asset Publisher to publish many contents, tagged by a specific term, at once.
Extensions: 27 official plugins and 208 community developed plugins.

Distinguished Clients: It is primarily used to power corporate business sites.

What users say:

  • It is mostly used by enterprise companies rather than for powering personal or community sites, though it has social and collaboration features.
  • More professional developers driven project (backed by Liferay Inc.) rather than the community driven.
  • Provide paid Enterprise edition.
  • All features are available in Community edition (except for support and customization related).

#8: Typo3


Official site:

TYPO3 is a free and open source CMS released under the GNU General Public License oriented to small to mid size enterprise-class users. TemplaVoila is an alternative template engine extension for TYPO3. A graphical mapping tool for creating templates is included, an alternative page module, the ability to create flexible content elements and an API for developers. New content element types can be created without programming. TemplaVoila facilitates more flexibility for maintaining web pages than TYPO3's standard templating, while making it possible to enforce a strict corporate design and allowing editors to work with content more intuitively.

Weekly downloads: 7,461 (ranked #7 after Liferay and before eZ Publish).

Installations: 122 according to the survey (#6 after Liferay and before Tiki), 0.6% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites (#4 after Drupal and before DotNetNuke).

Brand Familiarity: #5 (after DotNetNuke and before OpenCMS).

Major Features:

  • Supports MySQL, Oracle, MS-SQL, PostgreSQL, ODBC, LDAP - virtually any external data source.
  • You can undo any change you make on the site.
  • Can create multiple sites with multiple domains for each.
  • Can have multiple template per site.
  • User management.
  • Able to switch from administrator user to general user to check permissions.
  • Sandbox: administrators can set up a section within the system to test new features without disturbing the main site.
  • Versioning of content pages.
  • Advanced caching: template, navigation or page level.
  • Link management.
  • Multi-language content.
  • Search Engine friendly URLs.
Extensions: more than 4,500 pluggable extensions are available for TYPO3.

Distinguished clients:

What users say:

  • The administrator's UI (User Interface) is not user-friendly, though intuitive and functional.
  • It is extremely powerful which provide more enterprise level features, but the learning curve is incredibly steep.
  • Great ease of multi-lingual site management.
  • Difficult to customize templates. Need to learn TypoScript and TemplaVoila, two TYPO3-specific systems.

#9: CMS Made Simple


Official site:

CMS Made Simple is an open source cms built using PHP with support for MySQL and PostgreSQL. The template system is driven using the Smarty Template Engine.

Weekly downloads: 9,948 (ranked #5 after DotNetNuke and before Liferay).

Installations: 72 according to the survey (#7 after Tiki and before Alfresco), 0.1% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites (#8 after Xoops and before eZ Publish).

Brand Familiarity: #12 (after Xoop and before Ez Publish).

Major Features:

  • Officially supports MySQL and PostgreSQL.
  • Search Engine Friendly URLs.
  • Users management and group based permissions system.
  • Content tagging.
  • Site localization is available in 20 languages.
Extensions: unknown, but many.

What users say:

  • It is oriented more toward professional users.
  • It does not provide many templates, so coding knowledge is a must.

#10: Movable Type


Official site:

Movable Type is a weblog publishing system, similar to WordPress, developed by the Six Apart company in Perl programming language. At various times, this company maintained three other publishing systems - TypePad, Vox, and LiveJournal. Movable Type was publicly announced on September 3, 2001. Version 1.0 was publicly released on October 8, 2001, thus it is a blogging system older than WordPress. On 12 December 2007, Movable Type was relicensed as free software under the GNU General Public License. Based on the list of its customers, Movable Type is quite credible CMS.

Weekly downloads: unavailable.

Installations: 30 according to the survey (#17 after Silverstripe and before OpenCMS), 0.1% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites (#6 after DotNetNuke and before Xoops).

Brand Familiarity: #8 (after Plone and before Alfresco).

Major Features:

  • Convenient blogging system with social community features.
  • Since version 5 officially supports only MySQL. PostgreSQL and SQLite can be used via plugins. Databases such as Oracle can be integrated with Movable Type Enterprise edition.
  • Manage user roles. OpenID support.
  • Multiple site hosting.
  • Easily customizable templates.
  • Revision history.
  • Can add custom fields.
  • Content tags and categories.
  • Feeds and trackback links.
  • Available localization and internationalization.
  • Can generate static pages (updated whenever the content of the site is changed).
Extensions: about 1,000 plugins.

Distinguished clients:

What users say:

  • Users often deploy Movable Type for their blog sites, newspaper or other type of publishing sites.
  • A powerful alternative for WordPress.

#11: Plone


Official site:

Plone, a free and open source CMS, started in 1999 by Alexander Limi, Alan Runyan, and Vidar Andersen. It was made as a usability layer on top of the Zope content management framework, thus Plone is written in Python. The first version was released in 2001. In 2004, Plone 2.0 was released. This release brought more customizable features to Plone, and enhanced the add-on functions. In 2007, Plone 3 was released. This new release brought inline editing, an upgraded visual editor, and strengthened security, among many other enhancements. Recently in 2010, Plone 4 was released with major improvements in performance.

Weekly downloads: unavailabe.

Installations: 34 according to the survey (#15 after e107 and before Silverstripe), 0.1% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites (#10 after eZ Publish).

Brand Familiarity: #7 (after OpenCMS and before Movable Type).

Major Features:

  • Inline editing - no need to reload the page for editing.
  • Localized into 40 languages.
  • Plone can be integrated with Active Directory, Salesforce, LDAP, SQL, Web Services, and Oracle.
  • Working Copy support - keep the old version of a content published until you publish a new version.
  • Cut/copy/paste operations on content.
  • Link and reference integrity checking - no more broken links within your site.
  • Can create workflows - useful for organizations.
  • LiveSearch - instant site search powered by AJAX.
  • Full-text indexing of Word and PDF documents.
  • Wiki support
  • Collaboration and sharing
  • Automatic locking and unlocking
  • Versioning, history and reverting content
  • Authentication back-end
  • Collections
  • Multilingual content management
  • Automatic previous/next navigation
  • Human-readable URLs
  • Caching proxy integration
  • Drag and drop reordering of content
  • Adjustable templates on content
  • RSS feed support
  • Automatic image scaling and thumbnail generation
  • Comment capabilities on any content
  • WebDAV and FTP support
  • Hot -backup support
Extensions: 1490 add-ons.

Distinguished clients:

What users say:

  • It has a lot of features (several times more than listed above) built-in.
  • To become a Plone expert is long and expensive. It has a steep learning curve.
  • Plone is backed by Zope framework which is very powerful with support for caching, rollback, etc. - everything what your organization might need.
  • Plone is really complex to deeply tweak.
  • Plone is known for its high security.
  • Plone runs slow if you don't know how to optimize it.

#12: eZ Publish


Official site:

eZ Publish is an open source enterprise CMS developed by the Norwegian company eZ Systems in 1999 using PHP programming language. eZ Publish is freely available under the GPL licence, as well as under proprietary licenses that include commercial support. eZ Publish supports the development of customized web applications. Typical applications range from a personal homepage to a multilingual corporate website, which include role-based multi-user access, e-commerce functions and online communities.

Weekly downloads: 7,031 (ranked #8 after TYPO3 and before Alfresco).

Installations: 60 according to the survey (#11 after Concrete5 and before MODx), 0.1% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites (#9 after CMS Made Simple and before Plone).

Brand Familiarity: #13 (after CMS Made Simple and before MODx).

Major Features:

  • Advanced Search feature is available in only Enterprise Edition.
  • Online image editor.
  • Can create building blocks for the site and later reuse them in several pages.
Distinguished clients:

What users say:

  • The documentation is a bit limited especially there is almost no documentation for module development.

#13: Concrete 5


Official site:

Concrete5 is an open source CMS started in 2003 as a rapid-design approach to building the now-defunct, the official site for the Ad Council's National Council for the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial. Concrete5 is developed in PHP and is distributed under MIT software license.

Weekly downloads: unavailable.

Installations: 62 according to the survey (#10 after Alfresco and before eZ Publish), has less than 0.1% of the Alexa Top 1 million sites.

Brand Familiarity: #20 (after TextPattern).

Major Features:

  • Integrated server side caching.
  • Support for only MySQL.
  • Inline content editing.
  • Image editing tool.
  • Editable areas are defined in concrete5 templates which allow editors to insert 'blocks' of content. Additional blocks are available as add-ons.
  • Automatic upgrade is available.
  • Advanced Permissions to track content versions.
Distinguished clients:

What users say:

  • It's PHP based and quite new but it's quite a nice layout and it's really natural for new CMS users. You can go from a paper-based sitemap and PSD to a full site structure, ready for data entry, within a day, two at a push.
  • Concrete5 is simple, suitable for creating sites quickly.
  • Creating template is very easy with Concrete5.

#14: Alfresco


Official site:

Alfresco is an open source enterprise content management system for Microsoft Windows and Unix-like operating systems. Alfresco includes a content repository, an out-of-the-box web portal framework for managing and using standard portal content, a CIFS interface that provides file system compatibility on Microsoft Windows and Unix-like operating systems, a web content management system capable of virtualizing web apps and static sites via Apache Tomcat, Lucene indexing, and jBPM workflow. The Alfresco system is developed using Java technology. John Newton (co-founder of Documentum) and John Powell (a former COO of Business Objects) founded Alfresco Software, Inc. in 2005.

Weekly downloads: 7,000 (ranked #9 after Ez Publish and before Umbraco).

Installations: 70 according to the survey (#9 after CMS Made Simple and before Concrete5) Alexa ranking is not available.

Brand Familiarity: #9 (after Movable Type and before Tiki).

Major Features:

  • Document Management.
  • Web Content Management (including full webapp & session virtualization).
  • Repository-level versioning (similar to Subversion).
  • Records Management, including 5015.2 certification.
  • Repository access via CIFS /SMB, FTP, Web DAV, NFS and CMIS.
  • j BPM workflow.
  • Advanced search with Lucene.
  • Multi-language support.
  • Officially runs on Windows, Linux and Solaris.
  • User Interface official supports Internet Explorer and Firefox.
  • Desktop integration with Microsoft Office and
  • Clustering support.
  • Pluggable authentication: NTLM, LDAP, Kerberos, CAS.
Distinguished clients: no links are available but numerous case studies can be found on Alfresco home page.

  • France Air Force
  • Harvard Business School Publishing
  • Toyota
  • Sony Pictures
  • Fox
  • National Academy of Sciences
  • Cisco
What users say:

  • Alfresco is mostly for enterprises rather than for personal sites.
  • Simple to install and use, flexible and open-ended.
  • Alfresco is a solution with the broadest range of technical capabilities and the best feedback from users. In addition to demonstrating a promising roadmap for collaboration tools, Alfresco was highly attractive from a cost perspective, compared to the proprietary products offered by other ECM vendors.
  • All in one solution for enterprises.

See also

Besides, the official home pages, you can refer to Wikipedia for general information on these content management systems. Also Stack Overflow provides very informative users feedbacks on each of these CMS.


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