Back to top

Drupal is the largest open source project ever - the evolution of marketing exagerations

In an article about Drupal's security process my colleague Jam made the claim that Drupal was the "the world's largest open source CMS." I was dubious at first, but his claim has some merit. The first paragraph of his article links to a study by Henrik Ingo of

The study compared the projects on metrics like:

  • developers active /day
  • commits/day
  • loc/day
  • developers active / month
  • developers active all time
  • companies all time

Using those metrics Henrik declared Drupal to be one the largest "CMS" project and one of the largest open source projects (approximately 6th overall). However, there are some weaknesses in the study. The study has incomplete data about Drupal (missing devs/day, locs/day, companies all time) and probably incomplete/innacurate data on the other projects. The study was limited to a subset of total projects and only 2 CMS. In comparing the CMS, it considers Wordpress core only but seems to be looking at all Drupal contributed modules when calculating commits/day (or it sampled a very active day for Drupal core!).

If Henrik is interested I would be very willing to get him the data he needs from Drupal to do a more accurate comparison of CMS projects. To be clear: I think Henrik's analysis is very interesting and useful but could be improved to be more accurate.

Bold claim heads towards a lie: Standing Cloud's Drupal Press Release

Standing Cloud wrote a press release which was printed verbatim by other "news" sources like sfgate.

Representing more than 630,000 contributors and developers, Drupal is the largest, most active open-source technology community in the world.

Let's break down the inaccuracies in that statement

  • The 630,000 number probably comes from the Drupal homepage which lists users on who are not blocked. It's currently up to 790,412 "people."
  • These people may or may not have ever posted a single comment on the site. I just queried and if we look for active users who have posted a node it's 115,135 or those who have posted a comment its 120,484. Calling those 630,000 accounts developers is a far cry.
  • Even if those 630,000 people could be called "contributors" I'm not sure a similar analysis of other open source projects would declare that number to be the largest, most-active open source technology community in the world. Certainly there are other open source communities that have more participants/activity. Going just by Alexa traffic rank, beats by a large margin.
People Involved: 


Truthiness ...

Drupal is clearly doing very well, but I wanted a statement nuanced enough to be defensible. I ran "the world's largest open source CMS" past Greg and others before my post went live and his stamp of approval gave me confidence I had found such a statement. Changing that wording rapidly takes us into territory I don't think we can back up – as Greg points out.

Greg and I worked very hard, not only on the security process infographic (a big shout-out and thank you to the Drupal security team, as well, for your help), but also on the wording of my post to keep it "true enough" ... at least one better than "truthy" in my book. :-)

I worked just as hard on getting this "state of Drupal" infographic accurate, too: and have tried to differentiate between "community members" and "active developers", for example.

There's a fine line it seems between celebrating our success as a project and overdoing it and losing site of the facts.

Nice observations. We do

Nice observations. We do like our superlatives, don't we? :)

Though, the front page of does state that, "790,412 people in 228 countries* speaking 181 languages power Drupal." So, as someone who might gather such information for an article, I might also take that at face value for a project I was not as familiar with.

We can argue that all d.o registrants help "power" Drupal in some way, but I suppose my point is that we're all guilty of some big fish stories here and there, and this contributes to the frequently out-of-control marketing speak.

That said, I suspect all projects everywhere have such inflated numbers floating around, so maybe it all evens out at some point?

I would love to see a few of the more precise members of the Drupal community get together and really geek out on some statistics though, and please send me an email when you do!