20 Most Influential Open-Source Web Applications

From managing databases to shopping, writing blogs to sending emails. Ten years of passion, great software architectures, team work and revolutionary ideas. Here are the most influential open-source PHP applications to date:

1998

phpMyAdmin

phpMyAdmin is a tool written in PHP intended to handle the administration of MySQL over the Web. Currently it can create and drop databases, create/drop/alter tables, delete/edit/add fields, execute any SQL statement, manage keys on fields, manage privileges, export data into various formats and is available in 50 languages. Development is backed up by the phpMyAdmin team.

1999

SquirrelMail

SquirrelMail is a standards-based Webmail package. It includes built-in pure PHP support for the IMAP and SMTP protocols, and all pages are rendered in pure HTML 4.0 for maximum compatibility across browsers. It has very few requirements, and is very easy to configure and install. It has all the functionality you would want from an email client, including strong MIME support, address books, and folder manipulation.

2000

osCommerce

osCommerce is an open source e-commerce solution under on going development by the open source community. Its feature packed out-of-the- box installation allows store owners to setup, run, and maintain their online stores with minimum effort and with no costs involved. osCommerce combines open source solutions to provide a free and open development platform, which includes the powerful PHP web scripting language, the stable Apache web server, and the fast MySQL database server.

OpenX

OpenX began as phpAdsNew, a fork from a similar project called phpAds, created by Tobias Ratschiller in 1998. OpenX is a hugely popular, free ad server designed by web publishers for web publishers. It provides everything you need to manage your on-line advertising. It allows paid banners to be easily rotated along with your own in-house advertisements, and can even integrate banners from third party advertising companies.

phpBB

phpBB is a fast, efficient discussion board program built in PHP with a muti-database backend. Features include: posting, replying, private messages, polls, username/ip banning, strong encryption for storing passwords, user rankings, very advanced access control for private forums, full templating, simple yet robust translation system and much more.

2001

Gallery

Gallery is a slick Web-based photo album written using PHP. It is easy to install, includes a config wizard, and provides users with the ability to create and maintain their own albums in the album collection via an intuitive Web interface. Photo management includes automatic thumbnail creation, image resizing, rotation, ordering, captioning and more. Albums can have read, write, and caption permissions per individual authenticated user for an additional level of privacy.

Drupal

Drupal is a modular content management system, forum, blogging and community engine. It is database driven and can be used with MySQL, MySQLi and PostgreSQL. Its features include (but are not limited to) discussion forums, Web-based administration, theme support, a submission queue, content rating, content versioning, taxonomy support, user management with a fine-grained permission system based on user roles (groups), error logging, support for content syndication, locale support, and much more. It is considered to be an excellent platform for developers due to its clean code and extensibility, and it can also be used as a Web application framework.

2002

MediaWiki

MediaWiki is a web-based wiki software application used by all projects of the Wikimedia Foundation, all wikis hosted by Wikia, and many other wikis, including some of the largest and most popular ones. Originally developed to serve the needs of the free content Wikipedia encyclopedia, today it has also been deployed by companies for internal knowledge management, and as a content management system. Notably, Novell uses it to operate several of its high traffic websites.

2003

WordPress

WordPress is a state-of-the-art, semantic, personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, Web standards, and usability. It was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architected personal publishing system. While primarily geared towards functioning as a Weblog, WordPress is also a flexible CMS capable of managing many types of Web sites. In addition to the basic blog functions, it also has an integrated link manager (e.g. for blogrolls), file attachments, XFN support, support for stand-alone pages, Atom and RSS feeds for both content and comments, blogging API support (Atom Publishing Protocol, Blogger, MetaWeblog, and Movable Type APIs), spam blocking features, advanced cruft-free URL generation, a flexible theme system, and an advanced plugin API.

2004

SugarCRM

SugarCRM is a complete CRM system for businesses of all sizes. Core CRM functionality includes sales force automation, marketing campaigns, support cases, project mgmt, calendaring and more. Built in PHP, supports MySQL and SQL Server.

2005

Joomla!

Joomla! is an award-winning Web-based content management system. It provides for split front end content access and backend administrator access. Group-based access control allows for different levels of system control for both the site and the administrator. The Joomla! framework allows for extension by installable components (applications), modules (template blocks), languages, templates, and mambots (plugins that enhance system functions).

Pligg

Pligg is an Open source Social Networking Content Management System (CMS) Combining social bookmarking, blogging, and syndication and a democratic editorial system enables users to collaboratively submit and vote articles. It was influenced by the extremely popular and proprietary software Digg, where when a user submits a news article it is placed in the “upcoming” area until it gains sufficient votes to be promoted to the main page.

2007

Magento eCommerce

Magento is a new professional open-source eCommerce solution offering unprecedented flexibility and control. It was designed with the notion that each eCommerce implementation has to be unique since no two businesses are alike. Magento’s modular architecture puts the control back in the hands of the online merchant and places no constraints on business processes and flow.

eyeOS (Cloud Computing OS)

eyeOS is an open source web desktop following the cloud computing concept that leverages collaboration and communication among users. It is mainly written in PHP, XML, and JavaScript. It acts as a platform for web applications written using the eyeOS Toolkit. It includes a Desktop environment with 67 applications and system utilities. It is accessible by portable devices via its mobile front-end.

2008

Elgg

Elgg is a open source social networking platform. It offers blogging, networking, community, collecting of news using feeds aggregation and file sharing features. Everything can be shared among users with access controls and everything can be cataloged by tags as well.

PHPmotion

PHPmotion is a free video sharing software that also has support for other types of media such as audio/mp3 sharing. The Content Managent System or (media cms application) will allow you to create and run your very own Video Sharing website, Music Sharing Site, Picture Sharing Site. With very little knowledge required you can now have a website just like YouTube, DailyMotion, Veoh, hi5 and other proprietary applications. Best of all, its 100% free to download and use.

2009

Piwik

Piwik aims to be an open source alternative to Google Analytics. Piwik is a software that you download and install on your own webserver. At the end of the five minute installation process you will be given a JavaScript tag. Simply copy and paste this tag on websites you wish to track, or use an existing plugin to do it automatically for you.

Open Atrium

Open Atrium is a platform for building team portals that can be extended to meet highly custom knowledge management needs for large organizations’ intranets and extranets. It starts with “out of the box” features like a blog, a wiki, a calendar, a case tracker, a shoutbox, and a dashboard to manage content. These features can be expanded to meet unique needs for large organizations so that full scale enterprise collaboration sites can be built with Open Atrium as a base. By fully leveraging Drupal, all of the strengths of Drupal can contribute to creating custom features for Open Atrium within a framework that is already tailored for team collaboration.

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58 thoughts on “20 Most Influential Open-Source Web Applications

  1. PHPNuke released way back in 1999.. check Way back machine… By December 2000 PHPNuke released version 4.3 ( archieve available upto Dec 2000 only unfortunately )

  2. Great list. Would also like to see a similar list of current “very well-known” websites that are primarily based on PHP. Of course, WordPress and a few others from this list would also be on the new list, but many items on the above list may not exactly be household names, although they admittedly “changed the world.”

    Thanks!

  3. I think PHP Nuke has changed the world more than ez publish and magento combined. A) Magento wasn’t even released until 2008 (as non-beta). B) Nobody is really using it en-masse.

    Zend Framework is just a set of libraries of which Magento is the only major user. People were scraping Yahoo and making PDF’s long before ZF. They made it easier, more standard, etc, but nothing “world changing” about it. Plus, ZF extends the spirit of Java, not PHP.

    It looks like SugarCRM was just thrown in to round out the numbers… has anybody in the world used SugarCRM? Would any of you call it “open source”? I wouldn’t.

    Even though I hate moodle (because it’s not logicampus) I would say that moodle definitely changed the world. I haven’t seem medium sized universities drop outlook and move the squirrel mail, but I have seen them drop webCT and move to moodle. Change for the worse? mabye, but change none the less.

  4. Obviously these are just your opinions, but I’d have to say my list would be a bit different. I’d argue that joomla, drupal, and just about everything on your list after 2004 didn’t really ‘change the world’ at all.

    phpnuke, for all its faults, was really the godfather of all that’s come after it with respect to cms. Whether people forking it or starting other projects, it really set the stage for the first few years of expectations regarding web-based PHP CMS. Not just in terms of what could be done, but also how quickly. You didn’t need a team of consultants to come in and spend weeks – anyone with enough know-how (or even not!) could go ‘hack’ a few files and make changes instantly. Whether this was good development practice or not is irrelevant – it really opened the doors by creating a new marketplace for web-based CMS that wasn’t vignette and other high-end/pricey tools.

    Really, I don’t see how Magento has ‘changed the world’ at all. Yes, it’s an interesting project with some hype (some deserved, some not) behind it, but ‘changed the world’? What world?

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  6. I’m not sure how you haze ZF and Symfony but neither CakePHP nor CodeIgniter. These are all of similar importance, and in my opinion none should be on this list: They’re all, with the exception of Zend (arguably) Ruby on Rails knockoffs. I like CakePHP best, but I don’t think it’s world-changing at all. Just a nice little framework.

  7. Ooh – davidsky – yeah, phpadsnew.

    Two others not on the list which should be – phorum and phpbb. Each changed the face and visibility of forum software in their own way. Phorum, by being the first open source php forum, and phpbb by becoming one of the most ubiquitous in the websphere.

    Yeah, the frameworks listed above – none really belong there. None ‘changed the world’. Changed some developers’ worlds, perhaps, but not the world at large. wordpress, phpbb and squirrelmail, for example, opened up communication avenues to people who may not have had them otherwise (by being bundled in to cheap hosting accounts) and enabled far more businesses to operate and communities to grow around the world than any of the frameworks listed.

    More to the point – there hasn’t yet been any open source project of any importance that’s been built on any major framework yet (in PHP anyway). Why is that?

  8. @Davidsky Yeah phpadsnews is a great one. Great list btw. I remember learning ASP back in 2000 and thinking how much I wish there were an open source alternative. I quickly found PHP but my instructor chastised me and told me that no one will use PHP and that it sucks.

    Wow how far PHP has come. Thanks in part to these great apps.

  9. agreed with the phpnuke comments, I started with that in the fall of 2001 – months later moved to Drupal, years later moved to WordPress, where I sit today. Drupal is still a very strong candidate, and for professional use, I’d go there in a heartbeat.

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  12. I’m really upset by not seeing CakePHP in that list and seeing a Zend framework out there. What I personally think Zend Framework is more than a set of librarries than a true framework…

    BTW this is a great list….

  13. The main issue is not only how “open” a CMS is. In my opinion, the main issue is traction. Apart from being open source, think about the factors that contribute to traction. Of course, third party support is key. Another factor could be having some icon as the coding head or chief evangelist. Another factor could be that all important buzz. And so on. I am no expert.

    My point is “open source” is not the be-all or end-all. It is only some sort of a holistic thing that is successful in creating a community and the consequent traction.

    Even if we look at the problem from the coding side, we find that the more critical components are tougher to modify. For instance, because traction is so hard to achieve, efforts are made by “open source” projects to mangle export functionality, in particular and portability, in general.

  14. CakePHP and phpNuke really need to be in this. I have been using PHP for all of these 10 years, and think phpNuke is probably the most important PHP app ever.

    Colin

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  17. I took off from Joomla’s world and travelled far far away, to a better place.

    Joomla did not change the world, it’s just a basic run of the mill so-called CMS. It’s basically a newer version of Mambo anyway, which also didn’t change anything about the world.

    But it’s just my opinion, of course.

  18. Common guys please show more love to Magento. This is a revolutionaly ecommerce platform compared to what is out there and I think it is just a matter of time before Magento takes over all the other shopping carts.

  19. I agree about Magento. Has it even reached 1% adoption? OK, maybe that’s not the criteria for having made this list but the app is way too slow. Have your read their forums? There are other open source e-commerce apps that run circles around it in terms of speed. I’ve been watching the app for over a year hoping I could turn to it for a few projects but as many people have already said, it just isn’t ready for prime time. Features are great but what good is it if you lose customers because it’s too slow.

    It kind of concerns me that after its release they’re working on optimizations. You would think that would be a primary concern as the app is being developed and not an afterthought. I’ve heard of many apps that underwent optimizations because of bloat but eventually became major overhauls. I hope that doesn’t happen with Magento. They’ve got a lot of pent up demand for the app.

  20. I would have thought Mambo where more important then Joomla, Joomla is a pretty new fork of Mambo so has a lot to live up to before it goes into any list.

  21. Magento slow? I wouldn’t jump to conclusions and take a newbie’s $3/month hosting account compliant as fact. Magento is a serious app and requires appropriate resources. All the compliants are from people who have no clue and want to run Magento in a poor enviornment.

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  23. @Tom – no. It’s slow, and there are still numerous very unoptimized areas in Magento. Not saying they won’t fix it, or haven’t improved, but it’s not just people on $3/month hosting accounts complaining.

  24. I think the “issue” with Magento is that people expect to be able to throw it on a shared server and get it to work the same as spaghetti-code apps such as osCommerce. Magento requires appropriate resources… More to the point, a shared server is not appropriate, IMHO.

    Case in point, I installed Magento on MediaTemple’s Grid Service (yes, I know). Testing using Apache Bench on a dedicated PC, gave a measly 3.06 requests/second. I then setup a VPS from Linode.com (love them), and I choose the lowest package available, $19.95 a month… Magento now clocks at 20.25 requests/second, even on that low-end VPS and with any real optimizing (first time I’ve used a VPS and I setup fedora myself, not a distro I’d used before)

    Magento is on this list more because of what it has inspired in all of us, more so than things that are currently visible to outsiders. Come 5 years from now, and with perspective, it will be all be too obvious…

  25. Kimsal – didn’t you write the php-a book on Magento? Reading your comments I am confused on your position.

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  27. Techie guys out there…I need some help. I am not a techie, I am buyer of developed software. With so many frameworks out there that are making life easier for the developer, I as the end user am wondering if I should be ok with my developer choosing one over the other.

    I do not mind the developer’s life becoming easier by less coding, but I am interested in knowing what limitations are there to enhance a website built with PhpNuke, CakePhp or Drupal.

    Thanks and regards.
    Madhav.

  28. These are great software. But you have a rather loose definition of “change the world”.

    some software like phpmyadmin and wordpress really do deserve to be on the list as “changed the world”. The software practically define how all other software of the type works

    But Zend and magneto for example. While good software hardly changed the world.

    [unrelated rant]
    Php frameworks, as I see it, is still an open game. And non of the main competitor is really breaking away from the crowd. And new ones enter the race with good implementation all the time. It might be quite some time yet before we see a defacto framework
    [/unrelated rant]

  29. Very important article if you want to know why PHP is so much famous these days. Also this article helps to monitor the trend of php industry.

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  31. Interesting that you say, “Mambo was left out because of “The Mambo Open Source Controversy”. Joomla, IMO, represents the true spirit of open source.”
    Mambo has been around since 2000 and open source since April 2001. I don’t know how you define a “true spirit of open source” however, its plain fact that if Mambo had not been open source under the GPL Joomla, Limbo, Elxis, MIA, Aliro and probably other forks would not exist today.

    Mambo is a community-run project with no commercial backers and one could argue that it has changed the world not only because it is a very successful PHP CMS in its own right, not only because it has spawned some other very successful CMS, but because it showed other projects how to survive a bitter split and continue on.

    The events surrounding the Joomla fork were also a world-changing wake-up call for everyone involved in volunteer, free FOSS development.

  32. Francisco Burzi’s 1999 phpNuke is without doubt the Godfather of all php CMS systems, I developed my first “nuke” in 1999 so I speak from experience.

    7HQ

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