Playing With the Big Boys
When you are sitting at the same table as the three most well known open source web content management systems -- Drupal, Joomla and WordPress -- you have to be playing your A game. That's what MODx Revolution 2.0 is, according to MODX CEO and co-founder Ryan Thrash:
"Revolution represents more than three years of work reinventing our classic code base," said Ryan. "We looked at what was available in both the Open Source and Commercial worlds and thought we could create something truly special and different. We did, and now we're sharing an amazing platform for consuming APIs, managing content and creating custom web applications with the world."
In the 2009 Open Source CMS Market Share report, MODx was mentioned as one of the open source content management systems that was gathering strength, and it was also tied for Best Overall PHP CMS in the 2009 Packt Publishing Awards.
MODx Revolution 2.0
So in the court of public opinion, it appears that there's something good happening here. MODx Revolution 2.0 has been over three years in the making. It is a complete redesign from the ground up of its classic Web CMS, MODx Evolution. and brings with it a number of new features and improvements, including:
- A new caching system that lets you cache any Element. You can also override the default caching and utilize Memcached, or another large-scale caching method.
- Extend or override core features and/or integrate third party applications, while maintaining an upgrade path.
- Create Contexts that allow you to design different views of your site, have multi-sites (such as different languages) or sub-domains.
- Core Logging for debugging and error tracking.
- A new MODx Manager for managing sites can be customized for site managers and editors.
- A user management and security system for fine-grained permissions and access control.
- Support for add-ons using Transport Packages that can be easily deployed using a Package Manager.
The Edit Screen captures are what a site editor might see (although without any customization of fields etc.).
Due to the significant difference between the current and previous generations of MODx, you are going to have to wait a bit for third party add-ons and extensions to show up, but some are apparently already in the works.
The Package Retriever is the interface that allows site developers and administrators to browse, retrieve and install new MODx addons from within the manager similar to adding addons to Firefox. This same mechanism may be used by developers to deploy reusable packages they built to speed up delivery of common toolsets.
Why Choose MODx?
We asked MODx's Director, Channel and Community, Jay Gilmore who MODx is built for. He indicated that there are a variety of different websites built on MODx, but that the common theme was that each one had a very different "look". According to Ryan:
MODx really offers total creative and structural freedom. You get to use the tool to explicitly meet your vision and design, not making compromises in your website to fit the tool you’re using to build your website. MODx is for developers and organizations that want complete control and total freedom.
MODx sees itself in the same space as other open source Web CMS projects like Drupal, WordPress and Joomla. Gilmore refers to MODx as "an application framework with a great Web CMS bolted on top".
This is one way the project leaders aim to differentiate from competitors. Drupal, for example, is known for being an excellent framework, but at the same time for low usability scores and a high learning curve.
Like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress, MODx is licensed under the GPL. This means that the MODx Revolution core software will remain open and free. But beyond this the field is open. The project leaders have chosen to let developers license their add-ons and extensions as they wish.
According to a recent post on co-founder Ryan Thrash's blog:
From the beginning, we've always both publicly and privately discussed our desire of wanting to foster a pro-business stance for MODx developers on anything outside of the core platform/distribution.
...if you want to make an add-on or an extension to the core that uses [MODx Revolution's] public APIs, then license it however you'd like. Our take on freedom is that you should have the right to make whatever choice you want. Sell it, and we'll give you a high-five if you make a million bucks and never threaten or even consider suing you to force you to use the GPL license.
A Company to Back It Up
The project leaders recently formed MODX, LLC, giving a bit more structure to the effort and beginning on the road to offering more sophisticated commercial support services, and perhaps other revenue generating offerings.
The current plan is to offer commercial services and support sometime in the 2011 time frame. In the coming months they will also launch a partner program, targeting developers, consultants and agencies who want to build lines of business around MODx.
It's clear that MODx sees a profitable future with Revolution, both for itself and its community. Looking down the road, we can see MODx moving from what we call a "simple Web CMS" to a more sophisticated offering, but it has a bit more work to do before it's there. When comparing communities between MODx and "The Big 3", they are in quite a different situation. There are pluses and minuses to community size. But community health is an important evaluation factor. The MODx folks know this and are putting energy in this direction.
Things looks like they're moving in the right direction. We'll be keeping an eye on the project. And in the mean time, if a simple and flexible Web CMS is what you're after, you might take a look at MODx Revolution 2.0.