Typo3: A solid German car?

The open source community is currently driving in the passing lane on the Autobahn, but the popular open source content management system Typo3 has slowed down. The recent major release, version 4, dates back to April 2006, the Danish project founder Kasper Skårhøj has virtually left the project and the most recent news on typo3.com dates back to October 2008. What’s going on?

It might simply be a sign of adolescence that Typo3 is as slow moving as Microsoft in the Web CMS space. Still, compared to other open source projects, e.g Drupal or Umbraco, the rate of innovation at Typo3 is far from impressive. Version 5, the next major release, has been under development for several years. Initially, the plans were to boldly drop backwards-compatibility, but since then the plans have been changed. In October 2008 a so-called Berlin Manifesto was released, which clarified the future of v4 and v5. In the Manifesto, the Typo3 Core Team promised a few things, most notably:

  • Version 4 development will continue after the the release of version 5

  • Migration of content from version 4 to version 5 will be easily possible

  • Version 5 will introduce many new concepts and ideas.

While version 5 has been in the works, Kasper Skårhøj, the original initiator of Typo3 back in 1997, has slowly been transitioning out of the project. Kasper was at cmf2005 when the Typo3 Association was still newly founded, but since then the Danish “King of Typo3″ has abdicated. Typo3 has been most successful in Germany and today the version 5 development team is exclusively German. If the community is indeed sustainable, Kasper’s departure should be healthy news, but in comparison, both Plone and Umbraco still benefit from very active founders.

As I recently wrote in the obituary for HyperContent, a dying open source CMS, it is never good for a community when nothing happens. While typo3.com shows little news, you can find more announcements on the developer pages on typo3.org and you’ll find even more activity if you follow the Typo3 mailing lists.

In our community, Typo3 has a reputation for being a good solution for small to midscale websites. Usually cheap to implement, although there are a few missing or broken features, e.g search, which will either require an extension or a third-party module. Typo3 does not get high marks for usability, but it is stable and it works. Just like a solid German car.

What’s your take on the future of Typo3?