eBay is the latest tech giant to embrace Drupal, the open source content management system that now runs an estimated 2 percent of all websites on the planet.
As eBay formally launched its new X.commerce business unit — a sweeping effort to bridge the worlds of online and offline payments — the company revealed it had moved the unit’s X.com website to Drupal, dropping the proprietary Jive Software platform the site previously used.
“We found that Drupal offers more tools and does so faster,” Neal Sample, chief technology officer of open commerce at eBay, told Wired.
“There were certain tools we needed built, and often, if you go to a single vendor, you just get in line with everyone else. With Drupal, we can tap into a bigger developer community to get the tools we wanted — if they weren’t there already.”
According to Dries Buytaert — Drupal’s founder and chief technology officer at Acquia, the commercial outfit he built around the open source project — giants such as Twitter, Intel, Symantec, and Brightcove are running similar developer communities atop the platform. All use Acquia Commons, a Drupal distribution billed as an open source alternative to Jive and other “social business” platforms. The distro includes the core Drupal code as well as various modules — or extensions — designed to foster online communication, in part through integration with Facebook and other social networks.
Drupal is a “content management system,” or CMS, a platform for managing the operation of a website, but it was designed so that the open source community could easily build modules that expand its set of tools, and with over 10,000 modules now on offer, the platform can compete across myriad software markets. Acquia also offers a product management distro that competes with tools such as Basecamp, for instance, and another for managing classes at academic institutions.
For eBay’s Neal Sample, Drupal is the ideal platform for driving an online community because so many people saw it as the ideal platform for driving an online community. “It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says. “Because so many communities have been on Drupal, developers have built so many extensions — so many ways to customize it — from its message board capabilities to the CMS to ratings and reviews. All of these things are already there because real communities have already asked for them.”
Drupal began life in a Belgian dorm room, when Dries Buytaert needed a message board to communicate with friends across an intranet at the University of Ghent. “I spent a few evenings slapping together something so we could leave each other messages,” he told Wired. “It was never even meant to be a real project, but I kind of accidentally kept working on it for 11 years.”
He open sourced the project in 2001, and six years later, he co-founded Acquia. The Boston-based outfit provides support for various Drupal software packages — which are entirely open source — and it partners with other companies, including Kansas City-based VML, to provide hands-on consulting services. Both Acquia and VML worked on eBay’s X.com project.
Acquia is also offering Drupal as an online service — aka Drupal Gardens — and it’s serving up a “platform cloud” based on the open source code — a Microsoft Azure-like online service for building and hosting applications. It’s Dries Buytaert who estimates that his baby is now running 2 percent of all websites – a vast number — citing various third-party studies. This summer, a W3Techs study put Drupal’s share at about 1.7 percent. This still trails WordPress (15 percent) and Joomla (2.7 percent).