Over the last couple of years the .NET-based open source CMS, Umbraco, has grown significantly. I recently attended a seminar, where founder Niels Hartvig announced that the system has been used in more than 61,000 active installations. In comparison, the Danish CMS-vendor Dynamicweb has around 4,500 installations (according to co-founder Nicolai Pedersen). Since we first came across Umbraco at cmf2005 they have certainly come a long way. The question is: will the "friendly CMS" really be able to rule the CMS world?
In the crowded open source marketplace, the clear differentiator for Umbraco is that it is based on Microsoft's .NET-platform, where most others are usually based on PHP, Python or Java. In September 2008 Umbraco launched a paid version called Umbraco Pro, which for $4,300 a year gives you:
"(...) access to developer tools, rebranding rights, enterprise level support and architectural advice directly from the core team."
It is unclear how many of the 61,000 installations have signed up for the Pro Edition, but this number might be a more fair way to compare alternatives.
If you are among the many organisations that have .NET skills in house, Umbraco might be an interesting choice. The brand certainly seems to have some success within the IT departments as an attractive and low-cost alternative to Microsoft SharePoint. However, as a buyer, don’t forget that just because your team has got many Microsoft certifications, they still need to learn how to work with Umbraco. Luckily it's relatively easy to obtain training via umbraco.tv (launched in Octobter 2008 - subscriptions starting at $20 per user per month). Documentation is also available, although some customers report that this area leaves a lot to be desired – as is the case with most open source alternatives.
Umbraco is not alone as a .NET open source CMS, but the number of active installations is impressive, and demonstrates that Umbraco seems to have found a niche in the market that, combined with the attractiveness of openness and low-cost, has made it highly popular. Needless to say: the fact that it is generally popular does not mean that it necessarily meets your requirements. We always recommend that you pay more attention to specific references than to sheer numbers. Make sure to talk to actual users before you get started.
It will be exciting to see how Umbraco evolves and whether adoption will continue to happen at the same rate. Will Umbraco rule the world of content management systems?