Content Management Beyond Wordpress

As a follow up to my, surprisingly popular post on the Limitations of Wordpress, and also I suppose my post on the current status of tumblelogs, I wanted to ruminate on "where Wordpress" is as a piece of software (and a platform,) and what the whole content management space looks like today.

In a lot of ways Wordpress won. Wordpress does what it does very well. And the thing it does, powering blogs, is in point of fact what most people need. The wordpress plug-in and theme ecosystems are vibrant and powerful and add a great deal of value to the system. Concerns about performance are largely solved by Wordpress Super Cache, and even though I'm squidgy about MySQL and PHP as a platform, for the job at hand it works.

The limitations that I spoke to a year ago are--I think--largely still relevant: exceedingly few (and fewer) innovative websites and blogs will be started that use Wordpress. This is, I think mostly because the prescribed form ("blog" as seen by Wordpress,) has become very cemented in our minds, and it becomes harder and harder to break from that form. In a lot of ways the largest limitation of Wordpress is not the software itself but the habits we have developed as users of Wordpress.

Indeed this is the general problem behind most content management systems: all sites that use X-platform tend to look very much like all other sites that use X-platform. Content management systems that purport to be web development frameworks (Rails/Django) are a bit better in this regard, but the problem remains. But this post is about the future, not about the histories or even the stale-present.

Some predictions and forward looking trends are thus in order:

  • Content management systems will increasingly manage work-flow rather than content presentation. Every site needs to be built and constructed, and in a lot of ways building a site and creating content are fixed costs no matter what system you use. The work flow that you use to maintain content is highly variable and can be pragmatically managed in more effective ways. Stay tuned for this.
  • The "built-in" feature set, or default configuration of a content management system will become less important than the possibilities of the platform. While I don't think frameworks and CMS's will merge in the next few years, they'll get closer.
  • Smart static generation is still the future. Most things don't need fully dynamic content, and the intense caching that we have to do to offset the dynamic overhead of contemporary systems isn't the real solution to this problem.
  • Content management systems are, at the moment, at the center of a web site stack/deployment, and thus are huge all encompassing programs. I think increasingly content management systems can be designed to be much smaller applications, and only manage content and content work-flows rather than entire websites. We might call this the API-ization or the Unix-ification of web development.

Anything else? Am I totally off my rocker? Onward and Upward!

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