As published in Midwest Meetings.
Open source is computer software code that is open to the public for use and modification. This collaboratively-developed software tends to drive down costs dramatically as the base code is free. Software developers don’t have to start from scratch and, instead can use these building blocks to create new applications in a much shorter time.
Linux is the classic example of open source. This free operating system is the most widely used on computer servers around the world including more than 90% of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers.
WordPress and Joomla are two open source web content management platforms enabling low-cost web software development through the use of plugins (website building blocks that can do almost any web task that you can think of).           
WordPress, commonly known as a free, user-friendly blogging site, is actually far more than just for blogging. WordPress has been used to build thousands of significant websites such as the Vancouver Convention CentreMashableNetwork, and TechCrunch.  The WordPress web building platform contains more than 24,000 plugins covering virtually any web task including registration, CRM management, membership management, social media links, and search engine optimization just to name a few.

Joomla is used in 2.8% of all the sites on the web including some the largest brands:  ebayBarnes & NobleGE,IKEA, and McDonald’s. With more than 6,000 extensions (plugins), Joomla can meet virtually any web building task at a fraction of the time and cost of building a site from scratch.
Jeff Rasco, CMP, Founder and CEO of Texas-based attendee management service firm AttendeeNet, has used a number of the major online registration software packages for several years. His company has also been an early user of Joomla and WordPress for some clients. Rasco describes his experiences using them:
“We found Joomla to be very workable for event registration applications, CRM systems, calendars, and beautiful templates to make the sites look great and function as well or better than many of the major standard online registration companies we knew. It didn't really matter that the entire package cost a small fraction of the major online registration companies, but it sure didn't hurt! We've since moved into WordPress on a smaller scale, and finding many of the same advantages.
We haven't dropped the use of SaaS registration software, as there are advantages for many clients in reporting, managing housing, roommate and appointment matching, and other functions that the Joomla!, WordPress, and other open source solutions can't easily match. But for many meeting and event professionals, they can be an extremely valuable and useful tool in the kit.”
There are a number of companies emerging that use WordPress or Joomla for low-cost, meeting-specific web applications. Here are a few of them:
Event Espresso
Features: Event web sites, online registration with multiple pricing options, ticketing management, event calendar, venue profile manager (to reuse venues for multiple events or multiple venues for the same event), payment collection, staff profile manager, attendee profile manager, mobile ticketing using QR codes, waitlist manager, multiple attendee registration, easy reporting, social media integration, invoice payment reminders, administrative pre-approval to allow only authorized individuals to register, easy WYSIWYG page editing, MailChimp integration, 15 languages.
Platform: WordPress
Pricing: US$89.95 (1 site, 1 year of support/upgrades) to US$499.95 (5 sites, 1 year of support/upgrades)
Events Manager
Features: Recurring events, calendaring, speaker submission/management, Google Map integration, online registration, multiple ticketing/pricing, online payment, automated email confirmations/reminders, discount manager, spam protection.  
Platform: WordPress
Pricing: Free with limited options, US$75 (1 site, 1 year support/updates),US$150 (5 sites, 1 year support/updates)
Features: Event web sites for multiple events, 6 color palettes, conference schedule with multiple tracks, speaker management, session management, social media integration (Facebook, Twitter, slideshare, Livestream), picture and video integration, EventBrite online registration integration,  5 languages  
Platform: WordPress
Pricing: US149, unlimited number of sites, 1 year of support
Features: Event web sites, online registration with multiple pricing options, ticketing management, venue management with geo-location, search engine optimization, mobile app (both native and HTML5), email management, payment management (through PayPal),multiple templates, onsite and offline payment management, MailChimp integration,  33 languages
Platform: Joomla
Pricing: €29 (1 sites, 2 months of support/updates), €249 (lifetime updates/support for unlimited sites, mobile app included)
Events Nova
Features: Designed as an plug-in to an existing Joomla site: Event registration, waiting list, attendee list, Facebook comments, email templates/management, recurring event manager, email templates, multiple themes, payment gateways, analytic dashboards, SEO optimization, social media integration (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, MySpace, dig, delicious), video uploading (YouTube and others), image gallery, multiple languages.
Platform: Joomla
Pricing: US$59 (1 site, 3months support/updates)-US$99 (unlimited sites, 1 year of support/updates) 
Features: Online booking for social events, ticketing, multiple registration processing (phone, email, web form, external link), multiple events, multiple sessions in one event, session limits, waitlist management, segmented pricing, automated reminders, payment through PayPal and Epay, WYSIWYG editing, 5 languages
Platform: Joomla
Pricing: Free to €11/month depending on options.
As technology continues to advance, we are seeing the price of technology continue to fall. These software programs built with open source platforms are providing lower cost options for event managers. Check out the user reviews and one of them may be a fit for your needs.
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