Microsoft has been taking Web Content Management (WCM) seriously since it integrated Microsoft CMS 2002 into Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. SharePoint 2010 saw improvements to the Web CMS feature set including better content management through an improved rich-text editor, better Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) support as well as an improved analytics engine.

Yesterday, Monday 16th July 2012, saw the release of the public beta of the next generation of SharePoint and Office technology, code named "Wave 15" and to be released as "SharePoint 2013." Having had a chance to examine the new product since February of this year I’ve found myself barely able to contain my excitement.

A Future on the Web

The Microsoft SharePoint team has invested heavily in the WCM feature set as it continues to move deeper into the main stream WCM space. Until now organizations have used SharePoint as a Web CMS platform based on the "Unified Platform" story with increased efficiencies and cost reduction to be found by running a single platform. There was always an expectation that organizations would need to make additional investments in order to customize SharePoint in a public facing web scenario or deal with feature limitation when it came to WCM. Let me assure, this is all about to change in a big and positive way!

The SharePoint team has clearly listened hard to the market and their customers and has plugged the gaps in the platform's architecture to provide the services and features needed to run a large public dot com site. With one of the largest ecosystems around, SharePoint is now capable of integrating with analytics and Customer Experience Management (CXM) vendors such as Webtrends, as well as a host of other commerce providers.

Microsoft has often been criticized over the years for not taking into account market feedback in future products releases and on occasion, releasing products that could be perceived as not quite ready for the market, but to use an analogy: SharePoint 2013 looks to be much more like Windows 7 than Windows Vista.

SharePoint 2013, Heavyweight Contender

The combination of the enhanced features and easy integration makes a compelling story for SharePoint in the Web CMS space; a story that competing vendors really should start listening to. The proof will be in the real-world application of course, but don’t be surprised if SharePoint starts hitting that top-right Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management; watch out OpenText, Autonomy, Oracle, SDL, SiteCore and FatWire.

I’m looking forward to writing a series of short articles that will explain in depth the eight key feature areas that will make SharePoint a very serious player in the Web CMS space. For anyone like me that can’t wait to find out, here is a brief overview of the new WCM features available:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools -- On page SEO tools, automatic site-map creation and optimized HTML
  • URL control and multilingual/localization management
  • Improved on page content management and content aggregation
  • Enhanced mobility and multi-channel management
  • Flexible meta-data driven Information Architecture (IA)
  • Search based user experiences (using FAST technology that is now fully integrated)
  • Catalog management
  • Integrations with Independent Solution Vendors (ISV’s) 

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series by William Saville examining SharePoint 2013 for Web Development. To read more from William now, you might be interested in:

-- SharePoint for Internet Sites - Taming the Beast