Dom Nicastro recently covered my latest crowded marketing technology landscape. The key takeaway? It's big.

In fact, it's far bigger than this graphic portrays. In the flood of comments on my accompanying blog post, you can see the dozens of amazing companies that have chimed in to kindly point out that I missed them. (Mea culpa.)

Noreen Seebacher followed up with a post that expressed most people's visceral reaction to the scale of this landscape: "Pass the Infographic and the Excedrin: Digital Marketing is Too Complicated."

 It is complex. But one way to tackle it is to focus on one piece at a time.So let's zoom in for a moment on the platform layer, in particular the Website/WCM/WEM category -- i.e., the ever-expanding assortment of acronyms formerly known as "CMS." For shorthand, let's just call it the CMS category.

Saluting the Category that Started It All


The Web CMS category is fascinating in so many ways. Here are nine observations I had about it when working on this landscape:

First: Web CMS is a large category. I included 38 vendors/platforms in my landscape graphic, but there are many more. Just check out CMSWire's own extensive CMS Software Directory.

Second: CMS is one of the oldest categories that has been around since the inception of the commercial web. Many of the original software platforms from the first dot-com remain active today, although they've certainly evolved. For example: Vignette, which was one of the very first enterprise class CMS tools on the web, launched in 1995 and is now a part of OpenText, which itself was one of the early pioneers of web technology. Yet while there's been consolidation, there's still tremendous diversity among vendors operating today.

Third: CMS is arguably the only required category in the entire landscape. You can build a business without a marketing automation platform, but everybody needs a website. You either have a Web CMS or a product from its sister category, e-commerce -- which are, crudely speaking, catalog-centric CMSs.

Fourth: All roads lead to the website (and hence the CMS). Or at least all other marketing technologies. Email marketing? Links to the website. Social media marketing? Links to the website. Content marketing? Links to the website. And so on.

Even marketing technologies that don't directly link to the website indirectly lead people there eventually. Behind the scenes, most marketing operations technologies touch the website in some way too. It is the center of gravity of the entire marketing technology landscape.

Learning Opportunities

Fifth: It has by far the strongest open source community in marketing technology. The top three most popular CMS platforms are all open source: WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. That's had significant impact on the widespread adoption of CMS and the pricing dynamics of commercial products in the category. Magento has had a similar effect in e-commerce. It's intriguing to think what sort of effects equivalent open source projects could have in categories such as marketing automation and CRM. (X2 Engine is one such project.)

Sixth: The Web CMS category has truly earned the "platform" badge. Collectively, it has an incredibly rich set of interfaces for connecting with other marketing software. Many of the individual providers have strong third party developer communities. WordPress, in particular, has the largest third party developer community of any marketing technology, with over 28,000 plugins (and counting). Some, such as Yoast, have become quite famous in their own right. (The fact that WordPress is open source is, in my opinion, not a coincidence.)

Seventh: The CMS category gave birth to "marketing middleware." Tag Management, which was invented to make it easier for marketers to integrate dozens of other marketing technologies into their websites, was the first category of marketing marketing middleware to really flourish. New categories of middleware, such as Customer Data Platforms and Cloud Connectors, are now following in its footsteps. And, of course, almost all of them are in someway connected to the website.

Eighth: Even though CMS is a mature category, it's still engaging in aggressive innovation. The most intriguing platform battles in the marketing department will be the struggle for domination of the marketing stack between Web CMS and marketing automation providers, as CMS vendors subsume more marketing automation capabilities into their products, and vice versa.

Yet today, it's still very much a situation of "coopetition," as these vendors both partner and compete with each other. Frenemies.

Ninth: The evolution of Web CMS to "web experience management" (and its variations in nomenclature) reflects the broader shift in marketing's mission. Marketing is no longer just about delivering content -- words and images that are passively received by prospects and customers. Increasingly, marketers are in the customer experience delivery business. It's the foundation of the modern brand in a digital world. And Web CMS is continuing to evolve to be the foundation of the marketing technology stack that marketers use to achieve that.

As I said, it's a fascinating category. What do you find most interesting about it?

Editor's Note: Read more about what Scott thinks is in store for marketers in 2014: The Year Agile Marketing Takes Off