Open Source Hybrid Headless CMS: How dotCMS is Different

Stefan Schinkel

With the advent of the “Internet of Things” (IoT), the technology needed to provide content at any time on any device has finally caught up with the demand for such content. However, traditional content management systems (CMS) often lack the capability of delivering content to these devices. Luckily, the growth of open source headless CMS technology has given marketers the power to deliver various types of content on a wide range of devices; but as the market swells, many different vendors with similar features have appeared, making it difficult for users to cut through the noise and see what makes each open source headless CMS different.

With that in mind, we decided to give you a tour around open source, headless CMSs, show you how dotCMS fares against its competitors, and what makes us different from every headless CMS out there.

Why Are Brands Choosing Open Source Headless CMSs?

While a traditional CMS also includes templates that describe the layout and format of the content, a headless CMS is a content management system that does not include a pre-set presentation layer. Thus, brands can use a headless CMS to build out an omnichannel customer experience by delivering content to new devices and touchpoints, and get a better grip on the experience.

Also, while a traditional CMS may shield its source code from developers seeking to understand its inner workings, an open source headless CMS allows developers to explore the source code and modify it to their requirements, something you cannot do with a proprietary (closed source) system. An open source CMS also encourages communities of developers, like ours, to craft their own solutions and share them with others.

dotCMS vs Other Open Source Headless CMSs

Many open source headless content management systems are just that; headless. They force the brand to leverage a team of front-end developers who can handle content presentation and front-end delivery. This approach leads to a slower time to market and a higher total cost of ownership, as we have discussed. But with dotCMS’s Layout as a Service feature (enterprise only) bolstered with our drag-and-drop and content authoring features, marketers can finally claim back control in a headless environment.

This is all part of our ‘NoCode’ vision, where marketers become self-sufficient in a headless CMS environment. This approach gives marketers and other non-technical shareholders the power to create impactful content for their customers in the form of the most powerful open source headless CMS available today.

dotCMS’s Marketer-friendly Features Are The Differentiator

The features included in dotCMS make it one of the most powerful headless CMS systems on the market. These features let content authors, such as marketing experts and business team members, develop the content that delivers results. Some of these features include:

User-friendly Interface

The dotCMS platform has one of the most user-friendly interfaces of any major headless CMS package. The system includes drag-and-drop page composition, which lets users place content elements anywhere on the screen, as well as inline editing and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editing.

Edit Mode Anywhere

Edit Mode Anywhere aims at allowing content creators to preview and manage how their content will look in different devices. With Edit Mode Anywhere, editors can now edit content across devices, including SPAs, PWAs, and any other frontend apps that have been built using dotCMS’ Layout as a Service API. The best part of our approach is that content creators can carry out all the tasks, from editing to content personalization without having to code.

Personalization (Enterprise only)

While a traditional CMS can deliver content to a wide range of users, much of that content is “one-size-fits-all” and does not address the needs of different types of visitors. dotCMS personalization engine stores website visitor behavior and interactions in the visitor object, giving marketers the ability to apply analytics and deliver content that fits each type of visitor. Marketers can tailor their content based on the user’s location, language, or purchasing history using dotCMS, intuitive, no-code rules engine and show dynamic content to customers across different devices.

NoCode Workflow Management (Enterprise only)

A CMS workflow plan determines what tasks need to be completed, who gets assigned to each task, and in which order the tasks need to be accomplished. The workflow processes in dotCMS make it easier for a marketing team to work together on content, ensure smoother approval of content, and keep all parties accountable for their tasks.

Push publishing (Enterprise only)

The dotCMS push publishing system lets marketers schedule publishing dates, site updates, and removal of outdated content, all from an easy-to-understand user interface. Business team members can publish what they need and move between authoring and production environments as needed. The system also ensures that distributed servers remain in sync with one another across various locations.

dotCMS Technology

The dotCMS platform uses cutting-edge technology to create an impactful yet simple system that delivers content where and when marketers need it. Some examples of the technology in use include:

Open Source:

Unlike proprietary CMS platforms, open source headless CMS like dotCMS allow users to access a community of fellow users and developers to explore the possibilities the system contains. Development and support teams from dotCMS use GitHub to reveal the processes that power the system and communicate with users about features and potential issues.

RESTful Content:

dotCMS’s Content as a service (CaaS) approach helps users manage structured content. The dotCMS system uses REST APIs for both content and layout to allow users to manage both the content and its underlying structure.

Horizontal Scaling

The dotCMS platform is composed of numerous microservices, such as search functionality and multi-tier cache implementation (enterprise only), each of which can be scaled independently. This feature allows for horizontal scaling across multiple servers to reduce server loads and reduce response times.

Plugin and Extend

Users can employ static plugins to extend files, functions, features, and classes in dotCMS. The dotCMS plugin structure also allows for different customization options when upgrading dotCMS between versions.

dotCMS Architecture

The dotCMS architecture allows users to take advantage of both individual-node and multi-node structures.

Individual-Node Architecture: The dotCMS platform allows each node in the cluster to maintain an individual cache to reduce or eliminate redundant database queries. The platform is also structured in a way so that each node communicates any updates to the rest of the nodes in the cluster.

Multi-Node Clusters

The horizontal scaling capabilities allow dotCMS to run in multi-node clusters. These clusters can be categorized under development, authoring, or production, allowing users to take control of the entire content management process.

OSGI Architecture

The Open Services Gateway Initiative (OSGi) establishes a structure for developing, authoring, and deploying modular applications and libraries. The dotCMS platform applies OSGI architecture in its handling of plugins.


Users of dotCMS can manage numerous sites and channels from a single system. Marketers can create more powerful customer experiences by sharing content, reducing redundancies and inconsistencies, and launching unique sites or channels, all from one user-friendly platform.

dotCMS: The Leading Open Source Headless CMS

For marketers and brand managers seeking to explore the capabilities of an open source and enterprise-grade headless CMS, dotCMS presents some unique opportunities. Numerous organizations, including Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, have found that dotCMS can extend their content beyond what a traditional CMS can reach. The potential that a system like dotCMS can offer, along with the built-in user-friendly approach that powers those possibilities, make dotCMS the best choice for an open source headless CMS.

Stefan Schinkel
Chief Revenue Officer
October 11, 2020

Filed Under:

headless cms hybrid cms

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