5 years of XWiki SAS

Sep 16 2009

This summer, on July 19th, XWiki SAS turned 5 years old. In a few month in November it will be the 6th anniversary of when I (Ludovic Dubost, President/Founder of XWiki) started the development of XWiki. 

I want today to share with you the great progress that we have made in the last year as well as where XWiki is today, and this despite a tough economic environment.

A light-year of progress of the XWiki Software in just one year

Last year, we have decided to focus on the most important feature of a Wiki, the editing part, by launching the XWiki Rendering project and the new XWiki GWT WYSIWYG Editor. We have also launched the creation of additional modules like the Office Importer and made important improvements to the usability of XWiki. 

We had been convinced after the 4 years of innovation where we had created many features in XWiki, as well as children projects like XWiki Workspaces, XWiki Watch or Chronopolys, that we needed to make a big push to make our core product stronger and easier to use and a tool that everybody loves using every day.

It took us a year to get to the upcoming release of XWiki 2.0 and we see all the signs that we have done it right in XWiki 2.0. The road to XWiki 2.0 has gone through many other XWiki releases in the last year. Since XWiki 1.5 released in the summer of 2008 where we delivered the new XWiki Administration UI, we released:

  • XWiki 1.6 with the first version of the new rendering engine and WYSIWYG editor,
  • XWiki 1.7 with WebDAV suppport,
  • XWiki 1.8 with the new rendering engine and WYSIWYG Editor going mainstream, the release of the Office Importer and the new Dashboard
  • XWiki 1.9 where Syntax 2.0 and the new WYSIWYG Editor became the default and many usability enhancements (so many that we can't list them all here)

And now XWiki 2.0 with default wiki pages in Syntax 2.0, a new WatchList feature based on Activity Streams, and a new Skin with Color Themes.

I believe that XWiki is now the "Best" Open-Source Wiki and is highly competitive with proprietary software built by companies having way more financial funding than XWiki has. We also make the 'X' in XWiki real by making XWiki a great wiki that still is highly extensible ('X' stands for eXtended) with its internal programming API and the Velocity, Groovy, Python and Ruby scripting languages integrated in the XWiki engine. 

Why Open-Source works thanks to our community of users and customers

Now great technology is not enough and would be nothing without a great community of users and customers. In this area a lot of things have also happened in the last year. 

XWiki is now downloaded 20000 times per month. This is a lot of people and companies installing, trying and upgrading XWiki. Our user and developer lists are continuously growing with now 300 members of our dev list and 562 members or our user lists. We have also added major customers in the last year with EMC and Saint-Gobain being the most prominent. The rate of usage of XWiki inside these companies has been growing, especially for the customers running the new WYSIWYG editor which is a major success factor.

Most importantly, we can see from our experience in the last years that Open Source works and really allows to create high quality software adapted to customers needs. I would like to share with you the inside of how Open Source can really work well:

Back in 2006 as XWiki was still very young, we were contacted by a major European aeronautics and defense group, who wanted to build a prototype of a collaborative tool. In this prototype they needed to retrieve RSS feeds from the Internet and display them in the Wiki. They contracted with us a small deal to build what is now called the "FeedPlugin", which is based on the ROME open source project (created among others by our friend Patrick Chanezon while he was working at Sun Microsystems). At the same moment, for Curriki.org, we were building a Google Web Toolkit (GWT) XWiki API for a "Curriculum Builder" feature. 

Later at the beginning of 2007 we were contracted by "Désirs d'avenir", the Segolène Royal Présidential campaign team, to build a "Internet Watch" tool. For this we extended the "FeedPlugin" to allow storing feed information in Wiki pages, and we used the GWT API to build the user interface. This finally became "XWiki Watch", an extension product to XWiki Enterprise.

Finally, the initial customer that financed the first version of the FeedPlugin decided to go forward with the project that was proved useful using the prototype. We then used for them "XWiki Watch" which existed thanks to the contributions of multiple organizations that each financed pieces of it, including themselves.

This is a great lesson of how Open-Source is beneficial to the whole community. By setting the rules (the open source licence) by which code is shared, it makes it possible for each user or customer to finance a piece, usually the one the most important and that has the most value to them, and benefit from the work financed by others. 

This will continue, with customers (Curriki and EMC) that in 2008 and 2009 have financed work on the new WYSIWYG Editor and on the Office Importer (which initially was a Google Summer of Code project). This work will benefit to the customers that have initially financed other pieces as they will be able to integrate brand new powerful features in their solution.

Open Source leads to quality and adaptability

Year after year, the product developed under the Open Source license becomes of higher quality and more powerful. It appeals then more and more to smaller companies or groups which cannot necessarily finance new developments, but who will subscribe to installations services, support contracts or hosted services and through them also provide additional funding for the R&D of the Open Source project. Purchasing support or installation services from us, is not only a very efficient way to help the success of your XWiki installation, but it also helps the funding of the R&D of the product itself

Globally this leads to high quality software, highly extensible and customizable, all this at very affordable prizes. We are already at XWiki able to be competitive and affordable, although we don't have the R&D paid by a huge user and customer base. But this user and customer base is growing every day and at one point we reach a moment where the gap of affordability and customizability versus comparable closed-source software is so big, that it makes the spreading and usage of the software accelerate.

The big news of this last year is that we are seeing this moment coming. Open-Source works.

Help us accelerate XWiki's growth

If you want to help this acceleration, you can do it: download XWiki, use it, purchase XWiki services or develop or finance new features for XWiki. Visit this web site to see our service offerings and contact us