Almost EVERYONE who tried headless systems said they saw benefits. Download the state of CMS now!

Storyblok now on AWS Marketplace: Read more

O’Reilly Report: Decoupled Applications and Composable Web Architectures - Download Now

Empower your teams & get a 582% ROI: See Storyblok's CMS in action

Skip to main content

The history of CMS

Tarek El Deeb
Try Storyblok

Storyblok is the first headless CMS that works for developers & marketers alike.

A Content Management System (CMS) is a software application format used to manage and distribute content while allowing multiple users to create and publish. In today’s world, if you’re writing a blog or running an eCommerce shop, you’re probably doing it on some type of CMS platform. However, it wasn’t always so. To understand how the idea of CMS came into being, we first have to jump back to the early beginnings of the World Wide Web.

Section titled The early days The early days

Back in the early days of the internet, before the concept of CMS or omni-channel experiences came to be, websites were created as handmade static web pages without the need for a back-end database. These websites were quick to load since they didn’t have database quieres, no client-server requests, and no templates to render. As the internet grew and steadily gained more and more daily users, the demand for faster and more accessible web creation became a necessity. With the introduction of Server Side Includes (SSI), it became possible to keep portions of your site separate from the main content, such as a header or footer.

Moving forward to the mid-nineties, the need to frequently change and update content grows, as does the internet's popularity, requiring a shift forwards from the old format of static pages. The first ‘CMS-like’ technologies used server side scripting to generate content sent from a server to a browser. These server-side script technologies made it possible to build dynamically generated web pages, and the world got one step closer to the introduction of content management systems.

In the early 2000s, we began to see the emergence of open source CMS solutions, such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. These solutions began to service businesses and enterprises on a much larger scale due to their ability to handle text and images, files to store, display and download, and housed both the front-end and back-end of a website. Being that these platforms were open-source, this led to a more user-generated, social version of the internet. Even today, these monolithic solutions power over one-third of all web pages on the internet.

Section titled Enter CMS Enter CMS

Going into the mid-to-late 2000s, early internet-accessible mobile devices like Blackberry and PalmPilot appeared on the market. And so, the first cracks in monolithic solutions began to show, as they weren’t suited to supplying content to different types of devices. The problem grew bigger with the introduction of tablets and smartphones, followed by smartwatches and voice-activated devices. The need for platforms that support omnichannel experiences became clear.

This need led to the first decoupled CMS solutions. Following the trend of websites moving from static documents to interactive experiences, the need for frequent content updates and greater flexibility to manage content arose. As a result, one of the primary roles of a CMS became providing the capability for different user roles and permissions in delivering content. Additionally, technological innovation led to a steady increase in other CMS features, including previewing, URL handling, RSS feeds, responsive designs, visitor comments, tracking systems, permission systems, drag and drop, visual editors, templating, integrations with e-commerce, and other software applications such as CRM tools, enterprise resource planning (ERP), etc.

As we progressed into the 2010s, the coupling between CMS and delivery layers became tighter. This was convenient for both editors and developers: the former could use all the rich features now associated with delivery layers, while the latter could code, test, and deploy both editorial and end-user functionality bundled. This was all well and good, but with the introduction of new channels in the form of mobiles, IoT, wearables, and others, content management system vendors saw the need for a headless approach. As a result, web content management system/digital experience platform vendors added web based content APIs to meet the competition from pure headless vendors. This, in turn, saw the influx of hybrid content management system/web content management system—where you can keep on running digital experiences on partly traditional and partly headless delivery layers.

Section titled Drive to DXP Drive to DXP

Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) have been introduced to give businesses more advanced capabilities in a way that is cost-effective and does not complicate the existing technology stack. In other words, businesses want to deliver complex personalized experiences and anticipate their customers’ needs before they even realize it themselves. Most CMSs can't offer what businesses require to meet these expectations unless they invest in add-ons and integrate multiple pieces of software to enhance the existing capabilities of their CMS. In addition to being costly, this can over-complicate the technology stack. A DXP is designed to reach and engage with various audiences across a range of digital touchpoints.

The word ‘touchpoint’ is the key here since it could apply to any interaction between a customer and your company. A touchpoint can cover anything, such as a Tweet or a video on Instagram or part of your FAQ on your website.

Section titled Planning for the future Planning for the future

As we pave the way to the future, we do so with the knowledge that ‘creation’, whether in terms of web pages, social posts, or IoT, is moving towards a holistic avenue where you can connect with your consumers from one place. This one place can be used as a tree stem to create branches of avenues to every touchpoint of contact with your clients. With Storyblok, that’s exactly what you can achieve: create robust, omnichannel experiences to your liking and tailored to fit each of your customers’ unique requirements. Plan for the future for your clients by enjoying the benefits of Storyblok’s content-first approach, and a headless future.