Drupal Wins Imaginary Fight with WordPress.com

Last night I saw a curious tweet from Dries Buytaert, creator of Drupal:

His tweet links to How Hard is Drupal to Use?, an article which actually tells you nothing at all about the learning curve required for using Drupal but rather everything you need to know about WordPress.com!

While I’m not normally one who goes in for the WordPress vs. Drupal holy wars, I do appreciate a good comparison. As a long time user of both platforms, I have enjoyed watching them evolve. I was quite surprised to find that the article Dries was linking to categorically slams the WordPress platform by putting WordPress.com up for comparison with Drupal.org.

The problem comes when you need to do something slightly more advanced or customized. Hosted WordPress sites are not particularly good for anyone interested in doing some serious Internet marketing because you simply can’t implement decent analytics. You also can’t make any “under the hood” SEO improvements. Ultimately, these little things could end up hurting your chances of success – as compared to a competitor who goes with something like Drupal (http://www.drupal.org).

The article goes on to say that building a website with Drupal is not difficult and can be done in just a few hours with “no programming involved at all. Everything required to build that landing page is provided by Drupal or by the Drupal community, for free.” He praises Drupal for how robust it is, without having tapped into it at all – and roundly denounces WordPress for its inflexibility.

Is the author trolling for traffic or is he genuinely ignorant of how incongruent a comparison WordPress.com is to Drupal.org?

Swarms of WordPress users flooded the article with comments letting the author know that he has been misinformed. WordPress developers are naturally protective of the platform, given that we have such a vibrant community with no shortage of innovators and entrepreneurs.

There is simply no comparison.

C’mon, Dries, seriously? Did you read the article before you tweeted it out to 14,000 followers? Comparing WordPress.com to Drupal.org is like putting a 10 year old boy in an arm wrestling match with a professional body builder. Why not compare self-hosted WordPress.org with self-hosted Drupal.org? Then you’ll have a decent, competitive match.


Perhaps the author has no idea that WordPress.com is simply a hosted service where users cannot edit their own template files or make changes to the server or do anything much beyond add a little custom CSS. The self-hosted version of WordPress allows you to do whatever you want with it – it’s apples and oranges. Pitting Drupal.org against a hand-tied hosted version of WordPress is not a valid comparison.

It may not seem like a big deal to some, but there are many of us who make a living by building WordPress websites and creating WordPress-related products. Don’t try to tell me that you cannot build a powerful, enterprise-class website with WordPress. When a website like Business Insider gives readers the impression that WordPress sites cannot implement decent analytics or SEO, you’re bound to have a few angry defenders.

I’m not arguing that one CMS is better than another. An experienced developer will be able to guide you when selecting between Drupal and WordPress. Each project has different requirements and talented WordPress and Drupal developers can make either platform do anything they want. The advent of WordPress 3.0 vastly expanded the platform’s CMS capabilities with the ability to easily create custom content types. The playing field is more level than it ever has been. So what gives? Is Drupal getting desperate?

14 Responses

  • I am wondering whether the release of Drupal 7 had any impact on the growth of Drupal. Drupal 7 is not the disruptive release many of us hoped for. Although I develop on WordPress I am very interested in Drupal and have attended dozens of seminars on Drupal. They all claim a efficient development without coding and yet NO ONE has ever demonstrated this possibility in front of a session I attended. Drupal is code for programmers that dream in tipple fipple every night. It’s code, it’s all code, all the time. There is nothing wrong with that except clients have to face the fact that it takes [sometimes tens of] thousands of dollars coding to know the difference between the latest versions of WordPress and Drupal. Different tools for very different use cases.

  • Well said. We’ve been building CMS Websites for years. It all comes down to the right technology fit for the project. It’s that simple.

  • We use WordPress exclusively for all of our builds. I hear people talking Drupal up all the time. Fact is, I can do anything I need to using WordPress. The support community and plugin options far exceed anything Drupal can offer. From a simple Soccer mom blog to a full blown e-com… WordPress works. This guy compared apples to oranges however, even .org to .org… WordPress wins.

    • right…

      Well, right now I’m building information systems based on Drupal. Something I tried to do with wordpress and couldn’t do.

      The only other alternative I had, was build them from scratch using asp or php.

      I don’t think WordPress wins in all situations.

  • When attending this year’s DrupalCon in Chicago (after last year’s in SF was sponsored out the wazoo by Microsoft) I was surprised to hear, especially in discussions about developing for the enterprise, how many questions there were about how to compete with WordPress (not Sharepoint). The bottom line is that Drupal’s UX (even after 7) is still AWFUL once you hand it off to a Client so you are better off building in WP or Rails if you want to get hired again.

  • Drupal is far too complicated for what many people need (specially now that wordpress has been improving so much). Myself I moved from Drupal to wordpress after two years because I was tired of spending so much time taking care of the Drupal installation. WordPress saves you time.

    (btw, now I help others to do the change, see http://wordpressdrupal.com if interested)

  • Wow, lots of pro-WP comments here. First let me start by saying a.) I’ve not read the article, but b.) if it’s akin to what you’ve described I have no need because c.) we get misguided souls writing that same BS fairly regularly. If they want to compare apples to apples, then perhaps wp.com should be compared with Acquia’s Drupal Gardens: http://www.drupalgardens.com/ Drupal.org is a support mechanism for developers writing Drupal… I have no idea how it could even begin to be compared with wp.com.

    This being said, I can’t help but defend my platform a little. I’ve been a major participator within the Drupal ecosphere for a bit over 5 years now, using the system for close to 6 (basically since Drupal 4.6). I know the system well, I like it, I also spend a bit of time every year with WP and Joomla, just to stay up to date on what they’re doing. I know WP JUST release a new new new version, and I’ve honestly not played with it, but the previous version’s notion of “content types” and Drupal’s notion are quite different. Especially once we start putting fields on things. Important to understand however is that that’s not really all that significant, everyone is going to interpret the web’s needs differently and WP has definitely found a niche, the problem with that of course is that it IS a niche which is part of the reason it’s simultaneously so popular. Drupal really doesn’t have to compete with WP, yes we talk about it, but we don’t ACTUALLY want wp’s niche… we’re overkill for a traditional blog site. When we discuss competing with WP, we’re typically discussing how nice their UX is. Again the clear concise picture that WP presents is possible BECAUSE it’s a niche product.

    What’s ACTUALLY happening if you watch, is that WP is trying to compete with Drupal, Joomla and Sharepoint. WP, discontent to simply rule the blogosphere, is attempting to become a platform for generic web development. To which, I simultaneously say “Good luck” and “DANGER Will Robinson!”. Breaking out of a niche is… well it fundamentally changes your target audience. What you may find is that WP ends up struggling with their own UX in the long term for the same reason Drupal does… we can do WAY too much. Essentially, down that road lies dragons. Drupal is constantly traversing that terrain, and for the most part, we do it pretty well, but there are a LOT of gotchas, a lot of details and a very big fat learning curve for those who want to use it. This is why people complain about the complexity of Drupal and ultimately opt for something simple… like WordPress. I wonder who will become to WordPress what WordPress is to Drupal?

    Also, any one trying to convince you that WP’s has better plugins is full of FUD, or simply ignorant. CCK started in Drupal (and is functionally in core at this point) our query builder UI (Views) is second to none, and don’t even get me started on dynamic layouts and drag n drop page components. ;-) We may not be the prettiest or easiest solution out there, but I’d wager we’re amongst the most technically competent.

  • I had been trying Drupal for ages, but the hard-to-use CMS just cannot go through with it, even though I’ve tried to make it work, at the end I ended up just giving it all up and just stuck with WordPress with millions of users and thousands of developers to back it up, WordPress wins me.

  • New Recruit

    What I hate about wordpress is their god awful file naming wp-everything.

    One of the first things I do with every wordpress install is remove every last trace of wp- before every file. Why they feel they need to label wp on everything is beyond me, sounds like insecurity.

    WordPress has too much advertising also in the plugins and admin, sorry but I want my cms clean of any junk spam.

    I like Drupal a lot better, not only is it easier, it’s rock solid compared to wordpress and less junk in the trunk.

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