Open Source CMS project in trouble

OpenSourceCMSMamboIn an earlier blog I had discussed as to when a PHP CMS is a better option than a Java CMS. had later referred to the blog in the thread Ask TSS: Do any Java CMS/Portals match the PHP ones?

For over an year and half, I have used the Mambo CMS and have found it to be user-friendly and feature-rich. The community around Mambo was very active and not only did the core project move forward regularly but even the add-ons and third party components space was active. In August 2005 Mambo got the “Best Open Source Solution” award from LinuxWorld and the future looked bright for Mambo. However things suddenly have changed drastically.

A dispute emerged because of the creation of the Mambo foundation. The Mambo foundation site says that the Mambo Foundation is a non-profit organization established by Miro International to manage the development of the Mambo project, to promote Mambo worldwide and to co-ordinate the efforts of the community. The Mambo Foundation is made up of a Board of Regents who preside over the various project groups within the Mambo development organizational structure.

However the development team was not happy with the way the foundation was created and decided to break away from Mambo. In their site (, the development team says that “We, the development team, have serious concerns about the Mambo Foundation and its relationship to the community. We believe the future of Mambo should be controlled by the demands of its users and the abilities of its developers. The Mambo Foundation is designed to grant that control to Miro, a design that makes cooperation between the Foundation and the community impossible.”

I won’t go into the details of the dispute but this dispute sure has rocked Mambo and already many sites proclaim that Mambo is dead. Mambo’s loss has been Drupal’s gain with users now considering Drupal instead of Mambo for future projects. A provider of Mambo components has already moved to Drupal and has posted a comparison of Mambo and Drupal. Drupal is a very competent CMS but if we are to rely on the voting at , Drupal isn’t as popular as Mambo.

The breakaway development team announced their own version of Mambo on the 1st of Sep 05 and have named the project Joomla. The Joomla site says that “Joomla! is a Content Management System (CMS) created by the same award-winning team that brought the Mambo CMS to its current state of stardom.”

In the About Joomla! and Mambo section, the Joomla team says that “Is Joomla! a fork of Mambo? – No, it is a rebranding effort that will continue to run largely on the existing codebase. Work is continuing on the project by the same team that had developed Mambo up to August 2005. Therefore, we see it as continuing development rather than a ‘fork’.”

The reaction on various forums suggests that the Mambo user community is behind the breakaway dev team. However this might be largely because everybody likes to cheer for the underdog. Also we have seen in the Java world that most of the open source projects are not driven by volunteers but by paid employees of companies contributing to the open source project.

Will Mambo continue to be popular and feature rich or will the rebel CMS steal a march?

This incident sure has a lesson for all open-source projects, their creators and contributors. You might have a great thing going but things still can go very wrong in a very short time. I remember only one such occurrence in the Java world Slashdot | JBoss Group Developers Walk Out. I haven’t heard much about the Core Developers Network later on, and anyway they never intended to create their own JBoss.

What if, tomorrow Eclipse, JBoss or some other popular product gets forked? I suppose companies like IBM and JBoss would have planned for such a scenario but the smaller open source projects driven by small companies with minimal legal knowledge, might get themselves into some trouble on similar lines to what has happened with Miro.


>> Is OpenSource volunteer based or employee based?
>> Making money with open source
>> Open-Source keeps me ‘coding fit’
>> Open Source businesses are more hype than reality

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2 thoughts on “Open Source CMS project in trouble

  • September 2, 2005 at 11:33 pm

    Using web services is a better long term option than using a commercial integration tool although the dev time is shorter with the integration tools

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