The fourth wave of the content management system

Preston So
Preston So
Principal Product Manager

As of late, the traditional content management system (CMS) has been much maligned due to the explosion of innovation happening in the headless and decoupled CMS market. Normally monolithic systems like Drupal and WordPress are increasingly having to contend with upstarts like Contentful and Prismic and new paradigms like the JAMstack. But despite the naysayers and prolific prognosticators of doom, all is not lost.

In fact, we are entering a CMS renaissance that will revolutionize the way digital experiences are architected, built, and managed — and the likes of which will touch and impact every single persona working with digital content today, whether in the context of accessibility, design, user experience, editorial workflows, or web development.

In this keynote, join Preston So, author of Decoupled Drupal in Practice (Apress, 2018) and Principal Product Manager at Gatsby, for a journey through the past, present, and promising future of content management in light of recent innovations. We’ll dive through the history of web development, going full circle from flat-file HTML websites to complex monolithic architectures to static site generators. We’ll consider the differences between the first wave of the CMS, which brought us storied luminaries like Vignette and Interwoven; the second wave, when Web 2.0 ruled the day and Drupal sprung onto the scene; and the third wave, when decoupled and headless solutions began to emerge onto the scene.

Finally, we’ll investigate the fourth wave of the content management system that traffics in interchangeable presentation layers and switchable services, reinventing the conceptualization of the CMS and originating from the microservices revolution. We’ll look in-depth at the issues raised by headless CMSs as well as how the JAMstack and emerging technologies like Gatsby portend unprecedented flexibility when it comes to developer experience and more seamless, more usable, and more understandable editorial and marketer workflows.

In the end, we’ll outline the optimal future of the content management system. It’s a frontier that Drupal is not only well-positioned to surmount but that will find Drupal new success in unexpected places. The future of the CMS is not a single end-to-end system, nor even a dual split between structure and presentation, but rather a loosely coupled lattice of interchangeable parts — and what it should have been all along: a content mesh system; a distributed CMS.