Acquia launches R&D unit as Drupal, content management systems evolve

The R&D effort, dubbed Acquia Labs, will be led by Dries Buytaert, inventor of Drupal and CTO of Acquia.

The traditional web page is going away to be replaced by conversational computing, virtual and augmented reality, and contextual experiences. The big question is whether the content management systems can keep up.

Acquia, which is to the Drupal content management system what Red Hat is to Linux, is launching a research and development unit to prepare for new platforms. The R&D effort, dubbed Acquia Labs, will be led by Dries Buytaert, inventor of Drupal and CTO of Acquia.

The bet by Acquia is that the next wave of the web will revolve around multiple touch points. These touch points will all minimize the web page. Add it up and Acquia is looking beyond the browser to voice interfaces and new experiences.

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One thing is clear: It's highly unlikely that companies will be aiming their content at new interfaces without core content management systems such as Drupal.

Acquia's customer base includes NBC, Warner Music Group, BBC, Intuit's Mint, Red Hat, Cisco, and The Weather Channel. Drupal runs one out of 50 web sites and has an active community of 35,000 developers.

We caught up with Buytaert to talk content types, Drupal, content management systems, and Acquia Labs. Here are the key excerpts.

  • Where is the web page headed? Buytaert said that the "traditional web page will become less relevant." In fact, the web page will be more about services that are delivered via a channel. Companies will have to reinvent how they interact with customers, said Buytaert. Media, commerce, and content customers will have to reimagine their customer relationships.
  • Will the CMS, namely Drupal, evolve to be intelligent? Buytaert said Drupal's intelligence is just getting rolling. Acquia said personalization is a first step, but there's a lot on the backend that can be done to optimize content, he said. A smart CMS can offer writing assistance and make suggestions to have the most impact. Ultimately, the CMS has to move beyond its core mission to be more of a platform.
  • How will the new platforms emerge for content? Buytaert said mobile was the last new platform that changed interaction patterns and business models. "Conversational UIs may be the next platform," said Buytaert. "It's early days and Facebook and Google are certainly pushing it."

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