Monday, December 03, 2007

Why LGPL sucks for vendor driven open-source projects

In a recent interview with Dennis Byron of ebizq I told Dennis why LGPL sucks for vendor driven open source. The reason is quite simple: System Integrators.

If a System Integrator writes a Magnolia module that is not available elsewhere, he gains a competitive advantage not only against other SI's but also against us. Under the LGPL (of Magnolia itself) he can distribute that module to his clients without open-sourceing it. In other words, if the SI and Magnolia compete for a project, the SI can offer the module for free, while we would have to charge for it (because we need to develop it first, which presumable the SI has done in a previous project). To repeat: the SI takes our software and adds his own proprietary extension, while simultaneously taking away our business. Hence, LGPL sucks for such a scenario.

The GPL avoids that, because anybody who distributes Magnolia with custom extensions has to provide the source code of these extensions under GPL. For Magnolia International the likelyhood of an SI licensing Magnolia Enterprise Edition (EE) increases, because the EE does allow such proprietary extensions without open-sourceing them. Either way, the community wins - if the SI does provide the module, they gain that functionality, and if he licenses the EE, Magnolia International has more funds to drive the development of Magnolia forward.

Hence, GPL is the way to go.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Going GPLv3

We just announced that Magnolia Community Edition will be released as GPLv3. I am very excited about this step, it is one of the most "uncertain" steps we made since we originally released Magnolia 4 years ago. The reason for this uncertainty lies in the fact that we have had 16 years of GPLv2 (which we used in the form of its lesser variant, LGPL), but the version 3 has been around for less than 6 months, and very few mainstream applications have adopted it so far, so nobody knows how the "market" – in the form of open source developers, system integrators and our commercial clients – will react to this.

We have been thinking about GPL for a long time, ever since the Geek Meet (I think that was in 2006, right? time flies). We have discussed this step with all contributors months ago, and converted all source headers in the trunk to the new version a couple of hours ago. The headers now state that the code is dual-licensed - your choice of GPLv3 or the Magnolia Network Agreement (in which case presumably you have to sign the MNA and pay the license fee involved).

Let us see where this leads us. I certainly hope that more applications will follow where we lead. (No point in leading without followers, right? ;-))

Alea iacta est.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Something cool for a change

I am just testing the first snapshot of next week's first major Magnolia release in a year. Quite amazingly, after less than 30 seconds I can call Magnolia in a browser and get this beautiful screen:

Now that looks great. So I click that link and it gets even better:

Now that just looks amazing. Fantastic work! You can see just how far we have come with our modularization efforts. Everything is a module now, even the core. I press "Install".

And after the successful installation, I get a friendly:

Fantastic user experience! Great joy seeing something new in Magnolia. Great work by our team! Am I looking forward to that release!

Open source business and RFI/RFP's

I have had it. As an Open-Source startup that we still are, I believe we give a lot. Magnolia is one of the top 30 CMS vendors/systems on the planet, as exemplified by the CMS Watch report, the most relevant report of our industry. We give it away for free. We provide free infrastructure to the community. We provide free webcasts. We provide free trial versions of our supported Magnolia Enterprise Edition. You can call us, we provide free feedback on your ideas. We provide a free Evaluation Center and discuss your architecture – for free. We write new modules like the first ever JSR-170 forum (nearly released now) and give it to the community, for free, of course. We even stop by your office and present Magnolia without even getting a glass of water from you. Still free.

Now, there are those companies out there that have marketing budgets of billions. Staff of 100 thousands. IT departments the size of a small village. And someone gets the job to evaluate content management systems. So what do they do? They craft (or download) an RFI – a request for information – they send out to everyone they find in CMS Matrix. Never mind that all of this information can be found in the excellent CMS Watch report, or in the technology evaluation center report (for which I answered more than 3000 questions). No, they want us to answer all of their exact questions (however out-of-this-world and far away from their real needs they may be) in exactly their format within their deadlines – for free.

Well, the buck eventually stops somewhere. Do your own homework, or pay gazillions for the likes of Vignette to provide that service to you. In my world, I have to focus on what is effective for me. And I have decided that RFI's don't work for my company. I'd rather help those that go the extra mile and do their own evaluation.

I don't believe in check lists. I believe in working software. Download Magnolia now. And trash that bullet list.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Maintenance note: I added twitter to this page. Maybe I have outgrown using Skype mood messages to communicate what's on my mind? Micro-blogging seems at least an interesting idea, one way to foster a virtual social network.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Magnolia to be delivered with next iX

Back at the time when I was still reading technical magazines, iX was my weekly fare. Well, the new release of Germany's leading unix magazine iX will have Magnolia included in their selection of Open Source CMS, and comes with the software (CE) on the CD accompanying the publication. When we started out with Magnolia, I said it will take 5 years to be mainstream. It is just a few weeks to our forth anniversary, and it seems we are starting to get the traction I was anticipating. Looks like I have to read another issue of iX after all these years ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Alvaro hits it off in Spain

Magnolia is getting a serious foothold in Spain, thanks to Alvaro (Magnolia employee) and our good relationship to the Spanish government, an early Magnolia Enterprise client. Here is a screenshot of one of the leading content management sites,, with a 50 minute podcast interviewing Alvaro as the top entry on the site.

Other good news from Spain include the imminent founding of Magnolia España to further strengthen our presence in the Spanish and South American markets.

When we released Magnolia 2.0, our whole company went to Barcelona for a weekend - this time, we are going to stay for good.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Open Source "One Laptop Per Child" getting started for real

It seems like Nicholas Negroponte pretty much has gotten his baby out the door. I have watched his "One Laptop Per Child" with high interest in the last three years, and it looks as if the product is about ready to be released. For those that have not heard about this (where have you been hiding?) - the idea is to change the world by providing ultra-cheap laptops to children in places that often pretty much lack everything we take for granted in our electrofested daily lives. These laptops, originally planned to be available for 100$ each (minimum order size is somewhere in the millions) are now available for 200$ a piece, donations welcome. Read up on the details somewhere else, this baby cool.

Ah yeah, if you are interested to get your hands on one without ordering 999,999 others, there will be a limited time window of two weeks to do so if you join the "Give 1, Get 1" initiative. For the price of tax-deductible 400$ you get one laptop, and a second one will be donated to someone that really needs it. Think twice if it would not make more sense to just donate 2 XO's for the same price, and forego the "I want one" urge. The real sex-appeal of this machine lies in it's ad-hoc networking, which you will hardly experience if you are the only kid on the block having one at home, and honestly, you will feel much better knowing that the second $200 went to a kid that might one day change the world, instead of adding to the heap of techno-trash you have assembled in your studio. But still... better get one and give one, than get none and give none.

Any of course, XO's software is open-source, just like Magnolia.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Magnolia - output generation and content reuse

Magnolia is often seen as a simple to use system for maintaining web site content. It is very easy to generate html (the most obvious output) and to edit content within the site structure. But that is not all of it.

There are often overlooked aspects to Magnolia's publishing abilities. I always like to point out that Magnolia's templating architecture is output-agnostic. That means that we can publish anything, not just HTML. This is supported through various means, one being our ability to map url-postfixes to sub-templates. For example, try .rss, .css or .print instead of .html for the home page to see othr publishing formats.

And while it is true that our standard interface is very easy to use because it is based on the structure of the final web site, we also have abilities for content reuse, in fact decoupling the site structure from content. New in Magnolia 3.1 we will finally add the data module, which takes this to a new level, allowing you to manage structured data in Magnolia. We can consume (and produce) RSS. This allows you to maintain your content outside of a site structure and populate the page content with that "external" (to the page) content.

Finally, the support of selectors allows you to access parts of the rendered page if your templates support it. Example: you can just get the header, footer, body or left column of a page if you want.

Anyways, there is much more to Magnolia than meets the eye of a casual browser, which is why we always recommend our Subject Matter Experts to be part of large scale projects.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Well. Yes, I have been rather quiet for the last couple of months. There is so much to tell you that I don't even want to start... but as I am writing this, I am unlocking my iPhone, and the things that the iPhone community has created in the last days (if not hours) is not only amazing, it makes me proud of my profession. YOU GUYS ROCK (you know who you are).

Last night I installed, the BSD subsystem, ssh and a ton of other stuff. It is more fun than you can imagine - to see how fast things move. I have had the Nokia N80 for the last year or so, and to say that I am very disappointed by it is a politically correct statement. I have been waiting to throw if off the Empire State Building ever since I got it (the N80, that is ;-)). I am nearly at that point now (15 more minutes...). I have waited to get any decent information or apps on the Nokia. Not that it would have been usable ... but there simply was nothing happening at all. I still have the same thing that I bought.

I have had my iPhone for three weeks now, and in the urban jungle of NYC (where you spend half of your life in cabs or waiting for a seat in a restaurant) it has become a life saver, even though I only had the default set of applications on it. But now, I can already install dozens of native apps, seamlessly, wireless. Select, touch, done.

And now this: I can now use my iPhone in the USA and in Switzerland. No more N80. Boy are they gonna sell the iPhone. Can we say another million in the next month? You bet.

By the way, if you would like to buy a really nice N80, send me a mail.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Top three pieces of advice for would-be open source CEOs

  1. For project leads I think that every project is different. It's hard to give general advice. The hardest part is to build up the community and ensure that its not a single-person project, else you will be busy answering emails 20 hours a day.
  2. As a CEO, you should be able to accept that if you do open source business, others will get a big chunk of the revenue that you believe should or could be yours. Anybody can take your project and sell what you sell (service contracts, support, implementation, training or sometimes even the software in the form of derived work) without giving back to you. That is part of the game. You need a state of mind that accepts this as a fact of life, and be happy about the business that you do generate for your company.
  3. Don't forget to go sailing on weekends.

Read the rest of my thoughts on Matt Asay's cnet blog.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jazoon and Magnolia

I just learnt that Jazoon is running on Magnolia. While this is an honor, I am disappointed that it is not mentioned anywhere on their site. We have not been invited to the conference, got no free tickets, got no slot to demo Magnolia or a sponsor logo (which technically we are). Given the fact that this conference takes place in Zurich, which is 1h train ride away, thats even more disappointing, since it would have been very painless for us to attend. Anyways, I wish them a great conference. Maybe next year, they don't forget to say "Thank you".

PS: I just sent a mail to the conference organizer, lets see what they come up with.

PPS: This morning I received a mail from Mr. Eberhard, we will receive a slot for a product demo and an additional conference pass. Am I glad I asked? You bet! If you feel like meeting up at Jazoon, drop me a mail (or visit us in Basel, its really just around the corner).

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Boris Kraft, the photographer

I just stumbled across a blog entry where it states "Photo: Boris Kraft" as the result of a Google search subscription about myself (yeah, I like myself ;-)). It is the company blog from my brother's design label, "Purple South". And yes, I am the photographer of the farn. I took the foto amongst many others on a trip to New Zealand a couple of years ago, and many of these photos have also been sold to the NZ tourist department, so I expect some of these to show up in others places, too.

As far as I know, my photos have been published two more times: once I entered the "picture of the week" for a news paper (and won), and once some of my "work" has been published in the Metropolis magazine through an article written by Constantine Boym, a Russian designer located in NYC.

Fun stuff to find through Google search ;-)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Magnolia - a not-so-brief history

The history of Magnolia really started out in the Summer of 2000. It was internet boom time even in Switzerland, and thus is came that one night, Pascal Mangold, C.E.O. and Founder of Mangoldpartner, and Boris Kraft, C.E.O. and Founder of Kraft & Partner met somewhat unexpectedly in Zurich. They had been invited by another company that wanted to gobble up the two upstarts for their specific know-how with respect to WebObjects.

It turned out that neither Pascal nor Boris were convinced that the concepts presented by the inviting company would lead anywhere. But the evening was not spent in vain: they immediately realized that they would want to work together.

In the following weeks they spent many hours drafting a concept for a new content management system code-named Gamma4 (unfortunately the draft has since been lost) and offered its implementation to a customer of Kraft & Partner for a price tag of two million CHF - a sum that was hard to pronounce for either of them at the time. The offer was rejected, but as so often, this probably helped more than hindered the course of things to come.

A couple of months later, Winter 2000 was approaching, Boris and Pascal decided to merge their companies, and ultimately created obinary Ltd., a company with three parters, and three lines of business. Michael Robertson was responsible for network and infrastructure, Boris Kraft (C.I.O.) for software development, and Pascal Mangold (C.E.O) for Internet projects.

In the coming years obinary realized many internet projects, and started using a commercial content management system called Soloweb by an Icelandic company. The merit of the product was its technological base: WebObjects. This made it a natural fit for obinary, who had been using WebObjects to create customer applications.

At the height of this time, obinary had grown to about 15 employees and revenue of 2 Million CHF. But times started to change. We heard the feedback from our customers regarding usability and realized that things can never be simple enough if it comes to creating user interfaces. We also realized that customization was a big part of any CMS implementation, and that it was getting harder to sell licenses to our customers due to the increased price pressure coming from open source alternatives.

Early 2003 obinary researched open-source content management systems based on Java, trying to benefit from "free software". They realized that of the very few java-based systems out there, none came anywhere near to what they were looking for in terms of usability, ease of customization and ease of installation. It even happened that Michael Wechner presented Lenya to their unbelieving faces (to paraphrase The Matrix: "There is no GUI"). Michael is a great guy, but Lenya was approaching obinary's needs from the wrong end. They were surprised of how much existing systems ignored the needs of their users.

In 2003 obinary started hiring people off of their competition, who was spearheading a new standard that later come to be known as the Java Content Repository (JSR-170). Sameer Charles joined obinary and convinced the management team that they should develop a custom content management system instead of trying to hack around a poorly documented proprietary system that was hard to sell, hard to customize and hard to use. Coming from the company that was busy defining JSR-170, Sameer suggested to build Magnolia on JSR-170, long before anybody else even heard of it - and long before there was any indication that betting on it would pay off.

In summer obinary hired Marcel Salathé to work on the GUI of Magnolia and subsequently released Magnolia 1.0 on November 15, 2003 (by no coincidence the birthday of Boris' brother).

While some people at obinary had doubts regarding the public interest in Magnolia, the first days of releasing Magnolia overwhelmed obinary completely. It was an amazing time (see for some impressions).

So, why the name Magnolia, and why open-source? At the time, obinary already had launched a product called "obinary compass", a tool that later became Magnolia for Business Processes. Our original idea was to keep that naming convention and name our newborn CMS "obinary content". However, Boris could not agree to the name and in the subsequent discussion pulled the name "Magnolia" out of thin air. The name stuck after some initial opposition, and today is considered to be a brilliant name and major asset.

Open-sourcing Magnolia was a very pragmatic choice. Obinary was a small company with exactly zero marketing budget, and the competition seemed overwhelming. Obinary did not see a chance to place another commercial CMS in the market, nor was it their goal to sell software. Their goal was to sell services, as this is what they had done all along.

The Commercialization of Magnolia

Initially, obinary was happy that they could use their own Magnolia to implement projects. It also helped them pitching for services when they were able to tell potential customers how many people had downloaded Magnolia, and that it was used around the world.

Releasing Magnolia into the wild resulted in considerable amounts of unpaid work for obinary - answering emails on the user-list and on info@obinary, building a community, maintaining infrastructure all added up.

At the time, conventional wisdom regarding open-source software was that one could live off support, training, consulting, partnerships etc. Nobody told them that establishing these offerings needs considerable resources. Obinary found a great training partner in the USA and developed a five (later four) day developer training. They defined partnership options and contracts. They defined and communicated their support offerings.

But unfortunately it did not work as expected – at least not fast enough to make a difference to their bottom line. They needed to find a maintainable way of moving forward with Magnolia.

The interest in Magnolia clearly showed them that they were on to something - the benefits of making things simple were starting to be obvious to more and more people. The plan was born to built the best CMS in the world, and sell related products - for instance a yet to be implemented Document Management System. This way the visibility of Magnolia could be used to generate leads for their commercial products.

Magnolia For Documents was released October 12th 2005, delayed by many projects obinary did to finance Magnolia. The need for a java based Document Management was obvious at the time – too obvious, as it turned out. Due to their delays, a new open-source startup had grabbed their niche, and obinary's DMS offering was a commercial failure. While they did sell a few implementations, they had to change their strategy - again.

By the end of 2005, the outlook for obinary was bleak. They had invested in "obinary Compass", then open-source Magnolia, then in "Magnolia for Documents", with little return on investment. They had shed off all employees except for the bare minimum to survive - Pascal Mangold (CEO), Boris Kraft (CIO), Sameer Charles (Magnolia Core Dev), Philipp Bracher (Magnolia core dev) were the only remaining employees by the end of 2005. Obinary's third founding partner, Michael Robertson, jumped ship and founded a new company focused on network and infrastructure services.

At that time, Pascal and Boris had to make a crucial decision: dump obinary or struggle through. The easy way would have been to shut down obinary - everybody of the renaming team was highly qualified and would have had no problem to get well-payed jobs elsewhere. But the company's founders were confident that their investment would eventually pay off - the feedback from Magnolia's users was too encouraging to simply give upon it.

They just needed to find a way to "cash in" on their product's success. The new strategy was to create an open source Community Edition and a commercial Enterprise Edition. They added the previously separate Document Management functionality to the open-source Magnolia offering.

The renaming of obinary to "Magnolia International" mid 2006 was a logical next step. By 2006, Magnolia dominated their lives. Obinary as they had founded it no longer existed - the company had been transformed from a systems integrator to a software producer. "Magnolia International" would be the company focused on Magnolia, and solely on Magnolia.

Magnolia 3.0 was released November 15th, 2006, three years after the first Magnolia release. It was the first commercial open-source software that seamlessly integrated Content Management and Document Management. They had beaten their competition and started to gain significant traction.

The new business concept was easy to communicate. Additional functionality and unlimited support availability quickly established the Enterprise Edition as the way to go for many enterprise customers. By Spring 2007, Magnolia International Ltd. had gained significant numbers of Enterprise customers, had grown to seven full-time employees and enjoyed a splendid outlook of significant growth.


In Spring 2007, Magnolia has received a WebDev award as one of the ten best Content Management Systems 2006.

The company that originally wanted to buy Mangoldpartner and Kraft & Partner went bust in 2001.

It would take Pascal and Boris nearly seven years to make another two Million CHF offer - this time, however, for a system they already had deployed on thousands of systems around the globe - from small semi-static web sites to some of the most demanding sites on the web.

In August 2007, Magnolia founded Magnolia Americas, Inc., a new venture to cater to the needs of the US market. Magnolia has grown to 11 emplyoees and two staffed locations - Basel, Switzerland, and New York City, USA.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

You, inc.

Yesterday in our local bookstore, I stumbled across "You, Inc.: The Art of Selling Yourself" by Harry Beckwith and Christine Clifford Beckwith. I immediately liked it (for its title, its format and quality of paper!) and hence, I bought it.

Its been a while since I last read a book spanning more than 300 pages on a single weekend (especially on a nice, warm and sunny weekend) - this book is wonderful. Everyone should own it, and read it as often as possible. Go and do yourself a favor, buy it. Now.

"Selling yourself" is what you do all your life - from early childhood to old age. You might as well read up on it. The book is full of wisdom, in terse and fun-to-read style, not one of these books that are abundand with motivational stories and little else.

If you read just one book this year, read this one.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Magnolia awarded one of the best CMS of 2006

Magnolia is nearly four years in the making and we finally won our first award. I don't know if this award has any relevance, but the company behind the award claims they have about 1 Million visitors per month, so thats not too shabby. They nominated Magnolia one of the 10 best Content Management Systems in 2006. Hooray!

Magnolia and Scalability

Matt recently asked, how scalable Magnolia is (and other CMS).

First of all you need to ask yourself, what do you need to scale? Number of authors? Amount of Content? Requests served? DIfferent questions, different ways of doing it.

There are many ways to scale Magnolia - one thing is the built-in subscriber mechanism, so its straightforward to have lets say a HW load balancer and two (or more) public facing machines to handle the requests. You can write a custom Apache (or other) cache module (has been done before) or write a custom cache handler (cache is pluggable in Magnolia) if what exists with respect to caching is not meeting your requirements. You can cluster the repository (with the upcoming Magnolia & Jackrabbit 1.2).

You can use Akamai for caching (has been done for, a massive global news website). This site, powered by Magnolia, has content in English, French and Arabic, movies, audio, text, images, is updated simultaneously with the TV channels and has handled 50000 (fifty thousand) simultaneous requests when launched.

Last week we launched, the leading travel site in Australia, with booking integration, white-labeling of content, partial content delivery and other extravaganza. Their requirements are also pretty high regarding performance and scalability (they expect to grow).

(For partial content try this:
Using selectors we deliver parts of the page, so that it can easily be reused elsewhere.

In addition, we do have a portlet bridge in the EE that runs nicely with Liferay, in fact we currently do a joint project for a car manufacturer. It works very well, and scales the same way it would with standalone Magnolia, since the same mechanisms are used (each Liferay instance contains a Magnolia subscriber that handles the content).

Magnolia is now in its forth year of development, its pretty mature and we have a lot of experience with what works, how, when and why - or not. If you have questions, feel free to download our Magnolia Enterprise Edition and make use of our free evaluation services to help you get the most out of your time spent on evaluation. (Details come with the download).

Monday, February 12, 2007

Magnolia on JOSS4BIZ

I have had the honor of being interviewed by Paul Worrall of JOSS4BIZ, who has previously interviewed the likes of Brian Chan, CEO of Liferay or David E. Jones (Apache OfBiz). The sound quality needs a bit of getting used to, but Paul assures you its worth listening to it. It has been great fun to do this, Paul has asked some excellent questions. Now all we need is the automatic "um" filter, right? ;-)

Listen now to the audio interview about Magnolia's past, present and future!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

France24 - France's answer to BBC News/CNN powered by Magnolia

Now the news is out and all over the press in France: France's flagship news channel is powered by Magnolia. Its a very impressive system, the site itself is available in 4 languages including arabic (right to left writing!) and contains lots of rich media like video etc.

Here is a screenshot that proves the point. (Note the green Magnolia edit-bars).

Its probably the biggest Magnolia reference to date in terms of visibility and traffic (1.2 million unique visitors in the first three weeks!). With a budget of 86 Million € its a pretty big undertaking. It should generate significant new business for Magnolia France. Good news.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Optaros Open Source Catalog

Magnolia made it to Optaros' Open Source catalog, available from optaros online (you need to register). I am happy we get a trend of "up", less so with their estimation of our community and enterprise readiness, but well, it gives us room to grow. Lets see our rating next year!

OpenWFE made is in there as well, cool.