Why is Jive bad-mouthing Drupal and Liferay?

Jive has started going after its open-source competition, which may indicate that the upstarts are giving it trouble.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

In a somewhat Quixotic quest, Jive Software has been showcasing a white paper titled "Jive vs. Open Source" (PDF), with a page devoted to what it claims are the negatives of Drupal and Liferay.

On one hand, as CMS Watch argues, it's Marketing 101 to accentuate one's positives while highlighting the competition's weaknesses.

But by choosing to focus on open source, in general, and Drupal, in particular, Jive has effectively taken out a billboard advertisement that essentially proclaims: "We're really worried about Drupal. It's a big-time threat to our business."

No one talks about competitors that don't present serious, significant competition. Jive wouldn't be talking about Drupal and Liferay unless it were seriously worried.

And it should be. Drupal's community scale is amazing, with millions of users, tens of thousands of contributions, and a growth rate that exceeds 100 percent each year, as Drupal founder Dries Buytaert has highlighted.

Interest, as measured by Google Trends and Compete.com, is significantly greater in Drupal over Jive, with Liferay not quite as strong:

Google Trends

This data, as presented, may actually be generous to Jive, since the query is for "Jive," not "Jive Software." But a Compete.com analysis of the three organizations' websites confirms the lead Drupal has over Jive in terms of market awareness:

Despite Jive's dubious assertions to the contrary, Drupal meets mission-critical, large-scale deployment requirements. Just ask its users, like Sony Music, FedEx, Harvard University, or President Obama, among tens of thousands of others.

Liferay, too, is actively used at E*Trade, Sesame Workshop, and a range of other big enterprises.

Dries Buytaert counters Jive's negative marketing with some facts about Drupal, but here's the one big fact that Jive can't counter:

Anyone with serious questions about Drupal (or Liferay) has but to download and install the software. It's open-source. It's free. No one needs to ask Jive what to think about Drupal or Liferay.

If you want answers on Jive, the process involves everyone's favorite, a salesperson! Joy.

Jive Software

Jive should know better. It's not as if the company doesn't have first-hand experience working with open source, given its early open-source efforts, not to mention its current Ignite Realtime initiative, Jive's "community site for the users and developers of Jive Software's open-source Real Time Communications projects."

Maybe this and other open-source efforts never panned out, leading Jive to sour on open source in its marketing.

But its approach, as Cheryl McKinnon, a former executive with proprietary vendor OpenText and currently chief marketing officer at Nuxeo, an open-source competitor to both Drupal and Jive, indicates, is not helpful to customers:

White papers ideally should paint a picture of what a vendor stands for and how they want to help shape their market - not attacks on individual competitors. More simplistic FUD thrown against open source does no one any favors these days, and legacy vendors feeling threatened should focus their innovation efforts on improving themselves, not tearing down legitimate alternatives.

It seems clear that Jive is feeling significant heat from open-source alternatives like Drupal and Liferay. Microsoft never bothered talking about Linux until it made itself a nuisance as a serious competitor. Then Microsoft started swinging. Hard.

Jive doesn't have the heft of Microsoft, but perhaps it's taking a page from the same marketing handbook.