Yes, we all know web content management (WCM) 1.0 is dead. But we still seem to be having a hard time defining exactly what 2.0 is about. We will continue to grapple with the emerging definition. In the mean time there are emerging trends shaping web content management and the vendors that provide it. Here's a look at what's on our radar.

Platform vs Specialization

This year has seen plenty of discussion about where web content management should be focused. Some have even gone so far as to say WCM is a badly misused term and should just be dropped from our vocabulary permanently.

There was a time when all that a Web CMS had to do was offer a broad range of content management capabilities that an organization could then use and/or customize to suit their needs. It's not that simple anymore.

The WCM Platform Route

Many vendors choose to continue to offer platforms or frameworks that work in any situation with the right customization or configuration. These platforms offer the full gamut of capabilities from presentation, to basic content management, to content delivery (whatever the device or channel). Solutions that follow this approach include Drupal, DotNetNuke and others. These offerings are typically referred to as web frameworks more than web content management systems.

The WCM Point Solution

Others vendors have focused their software more specifically, for example, on integrated online marketing. Fatwire, Sitecore, SDL Tridion and Autonomy Interwoven all spring to mind.

What you see in these instances is a focus on marketing automation and user experience optimization. Capabilities found in this corner include integrated analytics, campaign management, multivariate and A/B testing, and integration of CRM, social media and more. These solutions, while having content management at their core, are probably less about content management and more about presentation.

The Trouble with Generic Acronyms

And so questions arise: What does WCM mean? ...is the term dead? ...should it be? Jon Marks writes in his blog, "The term WCM is horse$@%!, unnecessary and should take a long walk off a short pier." (we love the brutal honesty).

He differentiates between web frameworks that really offer web publishing tools (like Drupal), and content creation and management systems (like Vignette), saying that bucketing these different types of solutions into a single WCM acronym is misleading and wrong.

And this goes to our point that as we continue to move forward in the WCM space, maybe we really need to think less about WCM as the only way to categorize a product/solution/platform and start thinking tag lines like "Web Publishing Framework", "Integrated Online Marketing", "Content Creation and Management". Are we caught up in trying to define a market that is changing so rapidly that it really defies definition?

While there's no clear answer and no wonderful acronyms jostling to replace WCM, it is an area in which we're sure to see more stress fractures as 2010 unfolds.

Integration of Web Analytics

On the presentation side of WCM, the need to provide increasingly engaging and profitable user experiences has come to the fore, and with it the need to analyze behaviors and optimally target content. Some Web CMS vendors see directly integrated analytics as the best way to do this.

Bridgeline and Sitecore both offer integrated analytics. But others count on close partnerships with third party analytics vendors like WebTrends and Omniture, or good old Google Analytics (which itself has seen some nice improvements recently).

You can read more on the integrated analytics discussion in How Integrated is Your Web Analytics Package and is That a Good Thing?

Tightly Integrated Search

It seems like ever since search giant Autonomy picked up Interwoven and wove its IDOL engine into Teamsite there's been an awareness of how important search has become in the context of web content management.

Squiz's decision to acquire Funnelback Search is a prime example of WCM's move towards tightly integrated search capabilities. Squiz's Managing Director and founder, John-Paul Syriatowicz said,

As organizations continue their inevitable move towards browser-centric information management, powerful, fully-integrated search will play an increasingly important role. I believe 2010 will herald a fundamental shift in the CMS and search marketplace as clients and vendors realize the two are inseparable. Trying to treat them as discrete solutions simply doesn’t work.

But Squiz is not the only WCM vendor paying attention to search. eZ Systems has its own Lucene-based Search product, eZ Find. This integrates tightly with its eZ Publish Web CMS. Drupal focused Acquia similarly launched a Lucene-based SaaS search service that can plug into most Drupal installations, and provides search services superior to Drupal's native search. Many other vendors have invested in integrating Lucene-based solutions.

Cloud Hosted vs SaaS

The move to the cloud is taking on two very different meanings. We haven't come out of the financial crisis just yet and many organizations are still feeling the pinch. Most of us are looking for ways to do things more cheaply but maintain value -- the cloud and SaaS services have promised such things.

Clickability -- being a SaaS CMS vendor -- believes the future of WCM is SaaS. In their view SaaS is more open and extensible, and is able to integrate with systems behind the firewall.

Then we have vendors such as Alfresco, Acquia and Day Software who have straddled the fence -- offering cloud support for their off the shelf content management systems. Alfresco's recent partnership with RightScale provides the ability to deploy fully-configured, fault-tolerant and load-balanced Alfresco cloud instances that can automatically scale to meet various infrastructure needs as they arise. Acquia provides both supported Drupal distributions and (in 2010) a SaaS-based version called  Drupal Gardens.

This area is sure to stay warm in the coming year -- both sides have good business cases and both will continue to throw snowballs over the wall at the other.

WCM Gets Social and Social Gets WCM

Web content management is web content management, right? Not when its social.

This goes back to the beginning of the article and the WCM acronym dilemma. The growth of social computing requirements for websites today, whether they are internal or external, has pushed many vendors to build in social capabilities like micro-blogging, social networking, alternative identity solutions, communities and other more basic social features like commenting and tagging.

Companies like Alterian (news, site) are blending WCM, social media, email campaign management and sentiment analysis. They are not alone. Lyris (news, site), acquirer of the increasingly demure Hot Banana Web CMS, has a fairly similar blend of solutions. Ektron's (news, site) current tag line is "Enterprise Web Content Management, Portals and Social Media."

In fact, there are few web content management vendors who don't have some of these features built-in. Open source Drupal even made it to Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Social Software,  with Gartner saying,

Its strong content-centric, community and web application foundation is being rapidly extended with hundreds of modules, including many for collaboration and social interaction support.

SharePoint 2010 is another example of a product that is blurring the lines between content management and social software. In fact, they have primed SharePoint 2010 to "break down the silos between enterprise and web" and social capabilities are a key part of this.

[Editor's Note: See our article SharePoint 2010, A Business Collaboration Platform.]

Peering into the Future

We aren't big on predictions -- especially in a market that is in such flux. What we can say is that vendors are going to have to pick their path. Trying to be everything for everyone is a little too reminiscent of enterprise content management for everything. It's unlikely to work.

Will we bury the WCM acronym in 2010? Or will we just continue to understand that while WCM does mean something, every which way you turn that meaning happens to be a bit different? Stay tuned.