happy 21st web cms
By all accounts Web CMS comes of age this year. Will you join in the celebration? PHOTO: Scott Akerman

2017 is being proclaimed “the year of” for a number of digital marketing practices, but something I think worth celebrating here on CMSWire is that, by my reckoning, 2017 is the year the Web Content Management industry comes of age — and I wanted to kick off the celebrations. 

While no one would walk into a birthday party and demand to see a birth certificate before joining the celebrations, I suspect my assertion that the Web CMS industry turns 21 in 2017 will be met with some debate. So allow me to explain why I think 1996 is an important year. 

1996, an Auspicious Year

While I didn’t join the industry until 2000, 1996 was the year when ideas around WCM were solidifying into a software niche of its own.

I base this on my own recollections and on "Web Content Management: A Collaborative Approach," written in 2002 by employee number one at Interwoven, Russell Nakano. Nakano suggests that while people were working on the discipline of WCM and HTML code management systems prior to 1996, 1996 marks the year when WCM came into its own as a practice. 

By 1996 the term Web Content Management was established in the lexicon of the IT professional, for example Microsoft (who some could argue never truly committed to web content management) encouraged us to manage web content using Microsoft Visual SourceSafe. Fellow industry veteran Deane Barker dives deeper into this in his comprehensive book, "Web Content Management."

A Trip Down WCM Memory Lane

Vendors Interwoven and Vignette — both founded in 1995 — started hitting their stride in 1996, and mature in-house projects were already happening at places like CNET (whose tech contributed to the early Vignette software) and Match.com (ditto for inspiring Interwoven). 

Filenet and similar tools were also on the market. These tools moved past the management of web content and went on to form the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) market, which became a focus and distraction for industries of all sizes as the millennium turned. 

Europe also saw WCM rumblings in 1996, with early European vendor Hyperwave on its way and Mediasurface being founded. Current WCM Heavyweight Champion of the World (or at least leader in Gartner and Forrester rankings) Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) was born that year as well. 

AEM uses technology that came via Adobe's acquisition of Day Software, which started as an agency in Basel, Switzerland. In 1996, Day productized what it was doing for clients and released Openweb: a seminal moment for that company, according to founder David Nuescheler

Back then, Vignette and Interwoven duked it out for the crown. 

And for all the open source fans out there: Drupal was still years away, Tridion was still Twinspark, Sitecore came late to the party, hitting the market in 2001 and Episerver released its product in 2002.

Let the Celebrations Begin

Between 1995 and 1997, our industry emerged from the primordial soup of hand-crafting HTML, bespoke built systems for each project and content managed by source control into the software industry we recognize today. These solutions solved the same problem we’d recognize in a WCM project today: democratizing the business of publishing content online. 

Or put very simply, this industry was born in 1996. 

I’m certain many other good things were happening at the time. So if you were there in the mid-'90s hopefully this triggers some memories you’d like to share — either in the comments below or by contacting the editors here at CMSWire and we’ll share them as we celebrate this fabulous industry coming of age.