I am pleased to announce the beta release of Alfresco Labs 3, our new version of Alfresco targeted at collaborative content management and the first open source alternative to Microsoft SharePoint. Alfresco Labs 3 is a natural evolution of the Alfresco platform that started with the first preview release of Alfresco three years ago. As Alfresco has grown more powerful in capabilities, we have strived to simplify both usage and development of Alfresco web clients, web sites and web applications. This release has leveraged the Web Script architecture that we introduced last year and provides simple user interface components allowing knowledge workers to collaborate on and share content. You can find out more here and download this latest version here.
New Alfresco Share application previewed in Alfresco Labs 3
We believe that the Enterprise Content Management market is evolving from specialized software for information intensive activities to become a major component of business and infrastructure for knowledge workers. Although over 90% of the Fortune 1000 have at least one type of ECM system, less than 10% of the employees in most of these companies use ECM, despite the huge increase in regulatory compliance and information explosion. Microsoft SharePoint, through its hooks to Microsoft Office, has made significant inroads into this yawning gap in the ECM market, and growing at 35% per annum as a result. We believe that open source has an even greater opportunity to reach into this portion of the market through its ubiquitous internet reach. With Alfresco Labs 3, our opportunity is to provide an alternative to, provide interoperability with, and be complementary to Microsoft SharePoint.
New Alfresco Surf RESTful platform uses Yahoo's YUI AJAX library for a more interactive experience. New thumbnail service provides previews before opening.
Much of the development of Alfresco Labs 3 has focused on building the Alfresco Surf platform, a robust, enterprise-class web application and site assembly framework that bundles a full site construction object model and toolkit for building class-leading web and collaborative applications. The Surf platform is designed to work in a number of different web environments, including as a Web Part in Microsoft SharePoint Portal. It includes content oriented components designed around the YUI (Yahoo! User Interface) AJAX Library and Adobe Flex for dynamic uploads and previewing of content and other information. The new user interface components make it much simpler for users to develop new collaborative web applications.
New Activities, Tagging and People services provide a social collaboration experience for the enterprise. Collaborative sites also have wikis, blogs, calendars and discussion forums.
Integration with Flex and YUI provides simultaneous loading of files.
Alfresco Share, which we are previewing with Alfresco Labs 3, is built on the Alfresco Surf platform and is designed to be modified by end users or through programming to fit a wide range of collaborative and social computing applications. Share provides a simple web site paradigm for creating collaborative applications by aggregating Surf components and incorporating new Surf components as they are developed. This is an early release of the Share application, but we encourage our open source community to develop new components based upon the examples of the basic components provided. With Share, users can create a collaborative site either inside or outside the organization, invite users and share and collaborate around content. Share includes document libraries, calendars, wikis, blogs, and discussions.
Microsoft Office can access content in Alfresco as though it were a Microsoft SharePoint Server
Also previewed in Labs 3 is Microsoft SharePoint compatibility from within Microsoft Office that makes Office applications think they are talking to a SharePoint server. Microsoft released the SharePoint protocols this spring as part of its compliance with the European Commissions’ decision issued on March 24, 2004 along with an increasing tendency by Microsoft toward interoperability. Alfresco is the first ECM system to implement the Microsoft Office and Windows SharePoint Services protocols as a compatible server. This allows Office users to browse and find documents within the repository, checkout / checkin / version documents, share the documents in shared workspaces and access the additional menus and task panes reserved for SharePoint. All of this is available with no additional software needed to be added to Office.
The entire team is getting way too big to congratulate individually, but everyone has done a great job so far getting this beta to realization. For this, I am extremely grateful. We look forward to providing the next update in early September where the following will be provided:
- New REST APIs based upon ATOM Publishing
- New look and feel for Alfresco Share
- Additional collaboration components, including instant messaging
- A new properties framework for extended metadata
- New people and site search capabilities built around social networking
- Web views support for Microsoft Office SharePoint emulation
- Associated technical documentation
Our current plan is that the Enterprise version of Alfresco 3 will be available in mid-October.
We think that Alfresco 3 will provide our users and customers choice in developing collaborative application and in supporting basic content management and collaborative sharing for Microsoft Office users. Rather than a single fixed platform, Alfresco offers a choice of operating system, database, application server, development environment, and web browser, including those provided by Microsoft. In addition, through our work with Unisys, we have demonstrated a platform that is much more scalable. By providing this new platform as open source, we hope that you will also help us in making it a better platform and contribute new collaborative capabilities and components that we could not even have conceived.