The 10 Most Popular Open Source Web Applications of All Time

Not all web applications are created equal. Many web applications are vaporware—hype is created, but the actual application is never released, or it is released, but then development stops. There are, however, several web applications that have enjoyed great development and evolution over time. This article takes a look at the 10 Most Popular Open Source web applications that have, over the past few years, matured and gained even wider adoption.


WordPress needs no introduction. It has become the de facto content management system: It powers 47% of websites on the internet. From CNN, TED, NBC and The Wall Street Journal, WordPress users span a broad range. By 2009, WordPress enjoyed the greatest brand strength of any open source content-management system, according to the Open Source CMS Marketplace Share Report. What made WordPress popular amongst users is its flexibility and ease-of-use. You can use it to create a mere blog, a complex website or even a full-featured social networking site. Today, WordPress hasthousands of plugins and themes and is still enjoying great adoption.


Drupal is an open source content management system that allows you to easily organize, manage and publish your content with an endless variety of customization. A community of more than 630,000 users and developers maintains it. Drupal began as an open source project in 2009 and has become popular thanks to its modularity, which allows users to implement as many or as few features as they want. Its upcoming version, Drupal 8, is expected to be a significant update with more than 200 improvements.


Joomla is an award-winning content management system that enables you to build websites and powerful online applications. Many aspects, including its ease-of-use and extensibility, have made Joomla very popular. Sites such as MTV Networks, Harvard University (Educational) and Citibank Intranet are powered by Joomla. Joomla’s roots go back to 2000 and, with more than 200,000 community users and contributors, the future looks bright for the Joomla Project.


phpBB is a free flat-forum bulletin board software. The project started in 2000 after the developer asked users to help him test the software. After it was added to the SourceForge repository, several developers started contributing to its code base and phpBB grew in popularity. Thanks to its high amount of community involvement, phpBB was able to come up with regular and quick releases. Today, phpBB still powers many prominent online communities, even though new users’ interests might be more for forum packages such as vBulletin and Vanilla Forums.


osCommerce is an e-commerce web application that was first released in 2000 and has a great commitment to open source software. They have an active community of more than 260,000 store owners, developers and service providers. More than 7,000 free add-ons are available for store owners to customize their e-commerce websites.

Zen Cart

Zen Cart is another open source shopping cart software developed by a group of like-minded shop owners, programmers and designers. Zen Cart was originally based on osCommerce code and has undergone rapid development since that time. Beyond some aesthetic changes, the major differences between the two systems come from Zen Cart’s architectural changes (for example, a template system) and additional features included in the core.


Coppermine is a multi-purpose, full-featured and integrated web picture gallery script written in PHP using GD or ImageMagick as an image library with a MySQL backend. The initial release of Coppermine was in September 2007. It is still actively maintained by a group of enthusiast developers, even though their focus lately has been primarily on maintenance and security releases.


MediaWiki is a free software open source wiki package written in PHP, originally for use on Wikipedia. It is a lightweight application that can handle a large number of users and pages. The first release was in August 2003, and its roadmap is based on small incremental releases. Today, MediaWiki powers several wikis hosted on both the internet and company intranets.


LimeSurvey is an open source survey application. It has many features and contains everything you need for doing nearly any survey with grace. It was first released 11 years ago, and the project quickly developed a large audience of users after the development of advanced features. In 2008, LimeSurvey was nominated in the category Best Project for the Enterprise in the Community Choice Awards. LimeSurvey is still actively maintained and has gone through quite some improvements.


Collabtive is web-based project management software. The project was started in November 2007. It is open source software and provides an alternative to proprietary tools such as Basecamp. Collabtive was developed by a team of professional volunteers. Everyone involved is a pro in their respective areas, providing high quality contributions to the project.