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Joomla at FOSDEM 2024: launching the Open Website Alliance


Imagine a super large open source developer's conference, with thousands of attendees and over sixty conference rooms. Joomla's president Crystal Dionysopoulos was there, and for a very good reason: together with Drupal, WordPress and Typo3 we launched the Open Website Alliance.

What is FOSDEM and why is it important we were there?

FOSDEM is a free open source developer's conference that happens every year in Brussels, Belgium. It's a huge event, with different tracks (called dev rooms) that go from design in open source, to community management, to very hands-on technical sessions about PHP or Javascript development. Many open source projects, from small one-person projects to massive, international efforts, were present.

Being there and representing Joomla shows the open source world that we are very much alive and that we're serious about open source, not just as a license but as a foundation for our project and community. 

What would you say was the all-over theme at edition 2024? Was there a buzz and if so, what was it about?

It's such a huge event that it's hard to say! I think there were something like 8,000 people there, scattered around more than 65 dev rooms. Each dev room is self-managed by the community or individual that submitted them, so themes varied widely. I noticed that there were sessions about policy (like the CRA), equality in tech, and accessibility across many different dev rooms, though.

So you've officially launched the Open Website Alliance during FOSDEM. Could you tell us what this entails?

The Open Website Alliance is just us formalizing our collaboration with other FOSS CMS projects. We started this collaboration in response to the CRA, because we realized we can make a bigger impact together, and over time realized that this could benefit all of our communities to continue working together for a common goal.

Should we be scared about this alliance? Will we share all our secrets and then be eaten by the big one?

No way. The Alliance isn't a legal entity - more of a working group. It can't take over any CMS project, and we don't want it to. There will not be any One True CMS To Rule Them All.

But we are now working together with our competitors! How is that a good idea?

I don't really see other CMS projects as true competitors; that's an idea that comes from the proprietary world. We all create websites, but in different ways, and that's a good thing. Not every CMS should be used for every project, and this Alliance is a way to encourage a more pragmatic approach to choosing a CMS. Open source first - then pick the best option for a project based on the use case and what's available to you.

OK, OK, so let's move away from the competition approach: what do we have in common with the other Open Source CMS?

We're all open source and we're all CMS projects 😀 

Obvious things aside, we all are dependent on our communities at different levels, we all have not-for-profit organizations to provide administrative support, and we often have similar features, though we call them by different names. 

It's easier to compare two CMSs side by side than it is to compare a group, but the differences usually are biggest when you consider the mental model of how we each think about content vs template vs functionality and how they relate.

So the Open Website Alliance is a first step… to what? Is there a future in Open Source CMS at all? What are the benefits of Open Source over SaaS solutions like Wix?

I am clearly biased on this one, so yes! There is absolutely a future. 

Over the past 5-10 years a lot of people have been exploring proprietary platforms like Wix, SquareSpace, WebFlow, etc… each product has their benefits and disadvantages. But ultimately when you choose a SaaS platform, your data is locked in to that platform. Moving away from it if your needs change in the future is difficult, if not impossible, because they want you to stay and pay their monthly fee for as long as possible.

Recently, though, I've noticed a shift in non-open-source circles of people tired of the fees, of the lack of control, and of the privacy and accessibility concerns of hosted platforms. They're asking again about open source. I think we will see more people shifting away from proprietary software as they realize once more the importance of owning your data and being in full control of their own websites.

What (other) threats is the CMS market facing? How can the alliance help overcome these?

I wouldn't exactly call it a threat, but open source is being included now in legislation in Europe and the United States, and I'm sure elsewhere too. It's a good thing to be considered separately from proprietary tech, but as we saw with GDPR and the CRA, it could go sideways if there is not enough open source input. The Alliance can help coordinate educational efforts for legislators and our respective communities when relevant, as CMS and web-based projects often have different needs and norms than other open source projects. 

How is the alliance received so far in our community? Would you say there's excitement? Or concern? Or something else? Or nothing at all?

The overwhelming reaction that I've seen has been excitement, because it's something new for us to be collaborating on a leadership-level with other projects. In my opinion, it's a big deal.

I have heard a few quieter voices that are hesitant about it, for some of the reasons you mentioned above. Some people are concerned we'll lose our individuality, or be overshadowed by other projects that will be involved. I completely understand where these fears are coming from - because the Alliance is something new, and new things can be scary. But: this is open source. Sharing is a huge part of it, and in open source we've learned that sharing makes us all stronger. 

I don't know exactly what the future will look like, but I am excited to see it.

What is the first topic the Open Website Alliance is going to work on together?

Which CMS to use for our own website!

Joking aside, we haven't discussed it yet as we are all nominating our official representatives. I suspect that the first initiatives will be centered around welcoming other FOSS projects who want to agree to our charter and join the Alliance, as well as creating community resources for things like CRA compliance or community best practices.

Why I contribute to Joomla: Allon Moritz
Joomla User Groups: the place where Joomlers meet 


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