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Why open source?

How do we - and you - benefit from open source?

Maybe you are considering Umbraco and have a few questions about the whole “open source” bit? Like; is it sustainable? What’s the benefits of open source? And will Umbraco stay open source?

Below, we have gathered a few questions and answers for you on this topic so you know exactly how we see, use and benefit from being an open source CMS:

Why is Umbraco open source?

This requires a brief trip down memory lane.

A lane that begins in 2005 where the first open-source version of Umbraco - Umbraco version 2.0 - was released. Umbraco was one of the early adopters and key players in the acceptance of open source in the Microsoft world. But how did Niels Hartvig, founder of Umbraco, dare to embark on this journey?

“I didn’t have much experience in participating in open source projects myself as there were close to none existing in the Microsoft world at that time, but my love for the potential and the ideas behind open source way overshadowed any fears of how it was actually going to work in practice

Making the open source choice clearly wasn’t an easy one at the time - but with the fundamental belief that open source would be the key element for creating a culture in the Umbraco eco-system that would encourage participation, and by which foster continued growth and development of the software - Niels stuck to his guns. 

And we’re glad he did.      

What does it mean to be “open source”?

The Umbraco CMS is open source under the MIT licence, which basically means that the Umbraco source code is available for everyone to use. 

This allows users, e.g. web agencies, freelancers, students, your cousin etc. to review and modify the source code for their own customization, curiosity, business or troubleshooting needs. It also allows users to suggest improvements, bug fixes and brand new features to the CMS as well as help Umbraco HQ build features and functionalities planned for implementation. 

The open source foundation also means that there’s no payment barrier to the CMS, opening up for anyone to use it and contribute. And that’s a huge benefit for you, all our users around the world, and us. Why? Because by opening up for the possibility to contribute, we ensure that the CMS keeps evolving, and perhaps most importantly, is evolving with the help of the people who actually use the CMS every day!  

Is it all open, wild and free?

If you’re imagining a bunch of hippies dancing around in a flowery field by now, we don’t blame you - but it’s not quite the case. 

Umbraco CMS is open source. Yes. But it’s open source backed by a professional and talented commercial company, the Umbraco HQ.

This basically means you can rest assured knowing that the Umbraco software and services that you’ve based your projects on are all fully supported, organised and kept up to date by a professional organization. An organization that has more than 15 years of experience and is made up of a selected bunch of highly talented and friendly people.  

It is Umbraco HQ that’s keeping track and has the final say when it comes to where the CMS is going. So even though we welcome and encourage improvements and feature suggestions to the CMS from the community, we don’t automatically accept everything. But if it makes sense - thus, makes things simpler for the vast majority of our users, then, of course! 

Open Source is not about democracy - it’s about transparency 

And don’t worry - it's far from dictatorship. We really value feedback and contributions from our community. We believe it’s essential in order to keep offering relevant and thriving software. 

Open Source is in our mind not about democracy. But rather about Transparency. We reserve the right to do as we think is right, but we do it in full openness and transparency as a key value. You can follow our product communication on our blog and keep up with the plan and status for future features on the Product Roadmap and on GitHub you can find our issue tracker and see what we’re working on. 

And with all that being said, if you don’t like the way the software is evolving, you are free to make a copy of the source code and modify it any way you like. Again, that’s the beauty of open source!

How does Umbraco HQ make money from open source?

Can Umbraco HQ employees live on good karma and high-fives alone? Imagine that, but no,  unfortunately not. We’re probably just like you, and just like you, we need a job that pays us money so we can afford to pay rent/mortgage, food, Netflix etc. 

But as you’ve guessed by now, there’s not much money to be earned when you give away your product for free. Then creativity is required in order to generate revenue to uphold a sustainable business and a sustainable product. Currently, we have five major revenue stream:

  • Official Umbraco Training and Certification

  • Support agreements providing users with direct and timely access to our talented Umbraco CMS and Cloud support team.
  • Official Partnership, where Gold Partners and Certified Partners pay to be partners and hereby gain certain benefits and the official stamp of approval from Umbraco HQ.
  • Umbraco Cloud. Our SaaS offering for Umbraco websites, packed with time-saving Cloud-only features and takes care of hosting. Also comes with our add-ons as part of the package: Umbraco TV and Forms.

  • Umbraco Heartcore. Our headless CMS SaaS offering, enabling you to connect the friendly Umbraco backoffice to any frontend; apps, screens, smartwatches etc.

And further to the point of full transparency, you can find our annual financial reports (as of Q2 2019 our reports can be found in English) and other facts under our "Open Books" section

How do we run a sustainable open source project? 

We earn money by our supportive services, products, partnerships and add-ons. That’s not only how we pay the HQ employees but that’s also how we make sure we have a sustainable open source project today - and in the future.

We invest everything we earn right back into the company. And because all our paid offerings are connected to the open source CMS, this automatically means that the CMS won’t ever get neglected. We believe we’ve built a strong and sustainable business model that supports both the open source project and the commercial part of the business, all to ensure that our users feel reassured and confident when using Umbraco today and tomorrow.

Will Umbraco CMS continue to be open source? 


Why? Because it makes sense. 

You see, being open source means we get valuable feedback, help and improvement directly from the people who use our software every day. And we’re talking thousands of developers (225,000 to be precise)! It’s a great help, keeps us and the CMS on its toes and goes with our belief in synergy e.i. 1+1 = 3. 

The mission with the CMS has from the beginning been to empower tech talent by putting the power and control into their hands, so they have the freedom and flexibility to create amazing work without being limited by the software they’re using. We believe that by being open source thus, welcoming feedback and contributions to real-life problems, we are able to keep providing a CMS that offers real-life solutions.

And in order to really empower these tech talents, encourage contribution etc. we need to be transparent - thus, open. And we need to invest in efforts to make it easy, fun and worthwhile to contribute. So far, this has made Umbraco the preferred CMS by hundreds of thousands of developers, editors, project managers alike. 

And we want this to continue.

That’s why, since 2018, we have decided to invest even more in our open source community efforts. Investments that will foster a growing and sustainable CMS community e.g. by structuring the contribution process through dedicated and specialized teams like the Pull Request team, the Documentation team, the Package team and the Unicore Team. Each team is working exclusively with certain areas of Umbraco involving and engaging contributors around the world and hereby ensuring more real-life solutions then laboratory solutions. And this is only the beginning!


Open source is a brave choice. Making open source sustainable is hard work. Luckily, we like hard work and we do think that we have found a way of ensuring the most beneficial and future-proof path for the software, the community and the company.

Loved by developers, used by thousands around the world!

One of the biggest benefits of using Umbraco is that we have the friendliest Open Source community on this planet. A community that's incredibly pro-active, extremely talented and helpful.

If you get an idea for something you would like to build in Umbraco, chances are that someone has already built it. And if you have a question, are looking for documentation or need friendly advise, go ahead and ask the Umbraco community on Our.

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