Come hither, hordes of fan-boys
(but please don't shoot me)
Every now and then, someone writes a report on open source content management systems. Two people (Karl and Aaron) blogged today about reports claiming Wordpress had a much bigger market share than Plone (hardly newsworthy), and about the sometimes repeated (probably due to people parroting CMSWatch's paid-for report) statement that Plone is moving from the mainstream to be a niche player.
In fact, I think a lot of factors are at play. First of all, Plone is by now an established, mature project. We are still innovating, still a vibrant community, and still growing, but not at the same pace that we once were. That's perfectly natural and nothing to worry about.
Secondly, Plone has a more commercial focus than many of its open source competitors. Plone powers an entire ecosystem of small and medium size businesses that sell their services as Plone integrator. On plone.net, you can find nearly 300 service providers, in 58 countries, at the time of writing. I think this is quite unique, or at least unusual. Many open source projects either have an omnipotent corporate parent (think Alfresco), or are of the "by geeks, for geeks" variety (think phpBB). And more importantly, Plone doesn't compete with Wordpress. Wordpress is a blogging platform first and foremost. Plone is a web CMS that is both more complex and more powerful, and blogging is not its focus. Comparing the two is pretty silly.
But finally, I think that for some commentators, labeling Plone as "niche" is an easy way to score points. It sounds insightful - probably more insightful than it actually is.
But also, if you start saying too many negative things about Drupal or phpBB (there does seem to be a curious over-representation of PHP based systems in these circles), you better be prepared for an onslaught from the rather fanatical fringes of fan-boy-ism that surrounds these platforms. Many of these are young, inexperienced and itching for a good flame war. Ironically, they're usually not actual contributors or persons of any stature in their respective communities, they just feel like they ought to be. I know, because I used to be one of them (though not for Plone), once in a different life where I thought it made a lot of difference whether someone else used a different programming language than I did.
Plone doesn't have these fan-boys. Our mailing lists are pleasantly collegial and our chatroom is friendly and open. Our users and integrators will get on with their businesses, and, by all accounts, make rather good money, as there always seems to be more work than there's capacity. They sell their customers a content management solution, not a piece of software. To them, Plone is a means to an end, in an arrangement that seems to work rather well.