For years the LAMP open source CMS scene has had the “big three”: Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. Joomla is still large, but has fallen a bit behind in mindshare when compared to it’s peers. You just don’t hear that much about it.
Both WordPress and Drupal founders and public spokesmen, Matt Mullenweg and Dries Buytaert respectively, are obsessed with marketshare. Mullenweg likes to underline the sheer WordPress marketshare numbers, where as Buytaert likes to point out that Drupal runs more of “the important” websites.
That makes it ok to quantify success as popularity. It’s clear that WordPress has been much more successful than Drupal when it comes to numbers. But why? Drupal and WordPress share a lot of the base components for technology. While Drupal maybe a technically better product, there are a lot more technically more elegant systems out there – none of which enjoy even the popularity Joomla! still enjoys.
So why is this? It’s all about the control of the User Experience. WordPress development is more centrally controlled by a commercial entity, where as Drupal thought of as a community effort. With examples like Apple and Google, it’s clear that central control is key to creating great User Interfaces. Community efforts tend create products like GIMP, which is a fractal of bad design. Successful Open Source applications with UIs are often emulations of commercial products.
With many CMSes being capable of the same things, being peers featurewise, the battle moves from lines of code to providing the best user experience. WordPress has a better history at this and it has already taken the next step with Calypso, a fresh user shell for the WordPress backend. Meanwhile Drupal only recently gained basic WYSIWYG capabilities by default.
Acquia, the commercial entity with tens of millions in funding is also pondering on the next move for Drupal. In the meanwhile they need to keep the Drupal community happy with grants to the community members executing their base system product development.
Just as with large corporations like Microsoft and Google open sourcing out their machine learning frameworks (DMTK and TensorFlow) the key is providing the best user experiences and best date on top of commodity technology. This is where investors for both Acquia and Automattic are seeing the money at. In the process it will benefit Open Source as well.
With the lead WordPress currently has in the usability sector, compared to the patchwork experiences offered by Drupal it’s set to dominate in the future as well.