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I'm planning to release an open source cms and I wonder if there is a way to know if people use it. I added this line to CMS templates:

<meta name="generator" content="My CMS - Open Source Content Management by me" /> 

I know that generator meta tag can be easily faked or removed, but it'd still be great if search engines would consider this info to provide "Powered by" statistics for web sites.

Does anything similar exist?

--Edit: the aim is to know how many and which web sites use the cms. I talk about generator meta tag because to me it could be used for that. Eventually I'd be glad to know if there are alternative approaches.

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I’m not sure what you are looking for exactly. Search engines that index meta-generator? Ways to see how many sites use your CMS? Ways to see which sites use your CMS? –  unor Dec 1 '13 at 17:50
    
@unor I updated the question, thanks. –  Paolo Dec 1 '13 at 18:17

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted
+50

The site http://builtwith.com/ offers statistics about how many websites use various technologies. They gather this information by downloading pages from websites and looking at items such as:

  • powered by HTTP header
  • JavaScript libraries used in the page
  • links in the page footer to a CMS

For example they have the following report for WordPress:

enter image description here

They also cover technologies such as:

If they don't currently cover your CMS, you can suggest to them that they add it.

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I imagine it'd be relatively easy to create or license some really useful feature (and if desired you could obfuscate it in base64 encoding or whatever) that would load a small resource from a server you monitor.

Things like this are really common in analytics (the smiley face for WP-Stats) and tracking features. For instance, if you have ever used something that let's you track if email messages have been opened, they generally include a 1px by 1px transparent 'tracking pixel.'

Sure it could be removed but if you come up with some neat feature that people find valuable there's a good chance they'll leave it.

Along those same lines, you could implement some standard practice. WordPress requires themes which meet their coding standards to have certain CSS classes. On a smaller scale, I suspect something like that would be easy to crawl and/or search.

Also, if I found a CMS I liked and in the README the creator asked that I send him an email (or a tweet, etc) whenever I launched a site built on the CMS I'd likely do so.

I can't speak on the generator meta tag but hopefully this gives you some alternative ideas.

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All kinds of web development software, blogs, content management systems generate Meta tags like such. Most of them, if not all of them do it. For example, meta name="generator" content="Dreamweaver" or meta name="generator" content="Joomla!", Facebook, Twitter, and so on do it too.

These Meta elements provide information, which can be used by search engines to categorize sites correctly. Meta descriptions, for example, appear in Google search results to describe the links. For the content generator, I would not expect the search engines to use it, but at it won't harm anything.

Some information which also could be usefull you can find here.

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a) meta-generator

The generator metadata name

[…] identifies one of the software packages used to generate the document.

So it’s appropriate to use it for pages created by your CMS.

However:

  • Many people will remove it, often because they think it would be insecure to communicate which CMS is in use.
  • Most search engines will probably ignore meta-generator. Specialized search engines might index its value, but they typically have a much smaller index, so that you need to be lucky to get many of the pages created by your CMS indexed.
  • And even if, this would only work for pages that search engines are allowed to index.

Some also send a HTTP header, e.g. X-Generator (like Drupal does). Same caveats, although probably not so many users will remove it because most wouldn’t even notice this header.

b) "Powered by"

Many CMS include a "powered by" line in default/contributed themes.

This would allow you to search for pages containing your "powered by" line (see example search for Drupal).

However:

  • This would only work for pages indexed by search engines.
  • Probably most users will remove this line.

c) Web bug

A web bug (hosted on your server) included in themes could be used to get Referer data (i.e., the page adress itself) of the page’s visitors.

However:

  • It‘s evil, don’t do it.
  • Only gives indirect statistics (pages not visited won’t be visible to you).
  • Doesn’t work for visitors that have disabled the Referer (and for HTTPS pages, it would only work on the host level).
  • Users are likely to remove it (if they find out about it), and they would be well-advised to look for a different CMS.

d) Update notifier service

If your CMS offers the functionality to automatically search for new updates on your server (it should!), you could use these statistics.

If you raise statistics that way, you should tell your users! (And probably offer an opt-out.)

However:

  • Not all users will use this service (some never update; some don’t want to communicate with your server; some want to look for new updates manually).

My advice:

  • Use update notifier statistics, but make sure that your users know about this tracking. Be friendly: let them choose if they want to participate (before the first connection is made, e.g., while installing the CMS).
  • Use meta-generator and "powered by", but allow your users to disable/remove these hassle-free.
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You already replied with a great answer in the past, and do that again, thanks! I'll go for d) with opt-out + the solution suggested by @Stephen Ostermiller, which is exactly what I was looking for. –  Paolo Dec 4 '13 at 11:09

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