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What is Serendipity?

The Serendipity blogging content management system (CMS) is a streamlined solution for bloggers and small businesses. Written in the HyperText Preprocessor (PHP) scripting language, Serendipity is a content management system and blogging application that has a lot to offer to novices and professionals alike.

Serendipity (or s9y) relies on widely supported standards and frameworks and it is free. The CMS is published under the BSD license and the latest stable release (1.7.8) was launched in early 2014.

Besides being free, Serendipity is also available through one-click installation services and its modular plugin architecture allows users to tweak the appearance and the feature set of their websites with a limited skill set.

The CMS side of the business

Serendipity comes with a relatively basic layout and interface, but it is extremely flexible and can be tweaked with dozens of templates and styles.

Serendipity’s Smarty system of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)-based templates give you (or even visitors to your site, if desired) the ability to adjust the layout and style of your site on the fly.

Advanced templates are also available, allowing users to tweak the PHP code on their own. The PHP code itself is relatively simple, so the learning curve shouldn’t be too steep even if your PHP skill are limited.

Further customisation is possible through Spartacus, the Serendipity plugin manager. Sidebar plugins are available as well and setting up some of them is merely a drag-and-drop affair.

    Serendipity content management and UI features include:
  • Support for CSS 2.0, XTML 1.1, RSS and Atom
  • Customisable permalink structures
  • Advanced URL rewriting
  • Dynamic caching
  • Automated comment moderation system with anti-spam
  • Optional WYSIWYG editor and HTML editor
  • Easy to use media manager with browser upload support
  • So, as far as content features go, Serendipity has all the basics covered.

    But what about hosting?

    Serendipity server side requirements

    Although Serendipity has no unique or special requirements when it comes to the server platform, it is a good idea to check whether or not hosting companies guarantee compatibility (or preinstalled/one-click installation of Serendipity).

    Serendipity was designed with Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (LAMP) server environments in mind. It requires a PHP installation along with a MySQL or PostgreSQL server. The CMS also requires Apache. The developers also recommend the use of ImageMagick’s convert binary or a PHP installation with gd2 support enabled. Apache should also be set up to take notice of the ‘.htaccess’file in your document root.

    There are also a few server permissions to keep in mind and detailed info is available at ww.s9y.org. Compatibility issues can also arise, so if you intend to run Serendipity on a server running PHP 5.3 or later, you have to use Serendipity 1.5.5 or later.

    Open-source and available as a free download, Serendipity is easy to install and should not add to your basic monthly hosting costs. It's also available as a one-click install from many hosts via the hosting control panels included with their hosting packages. PHP and SQL support should not be an issue on the vast majority of hosting plans.

    Serendipity vs. WordPress

    As far as free content management systems go, WordPress has become the de facto standard and it has set the bar rather high. The Serendipity team likes to point out a few advantages it offers over WordPress.

    Unlike WordPress, Serendipity is BSD-licensed, which means it can be used to build commercial applications and sites, although you need to credit the team. Use of the Smarty Framework means no PHP knowledge is required to tinker with templates.

    Serendipity also features a central plugin repository, offering an added level of security and promising better compatibility. Serendipity also supports multiple database standards and developers say their simple PHP code style makes tweaks easier and faster.

    Depending on the niche, some of these features could be very appealing to developers looking for a lean and simple CMS. Of course, there are a number of limitations. WordPress has superior Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) features as well as superior social networking integration.

    The Serendipity user base is much smaller, which also means development opportunities are limited. This may be its biggest shortcoming. While it has a number of interesting features to offer, Serendipity is dwarfed by WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other big CMS platforms. Simply put, few developers will invest their time in developing themes, plugins and other components for Serendipity.

    Serendipity Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

    • What is Serendipity?

      Serendipity is a content management system and blogging platform first developed in 2008 with version 2.0 issued as a stable release in early 2015. Built in PHP, Serendipity serves as a easy to use platform for running a blog, online diary, or website for personal or business purposes. Like many open source content management systems, Serendipity has a variety of templates for custom design and plugins for numerous website additions.

    • What are some good reasons to use Serendipity?

      The most attractive feature of Serendipity is how easy it is for any user to pick up and begin using to build their website. Like many standard blogging platforms, Serendipity comes packaged with a WYSIWYG editor, comment threads and anti-spam, XML support, international languages and trackbacks. Plugins and themes for customization and multiple database support options are also available.

    • Are there any reasons not to use Serendipity?

      Serendipity is lacking as a content management solution if you are looking for a platform that is feature-rich, or a CMS that can be customized to run business applications. While you can customize Serendipity with plugins and themes, it performs the best as an online diary or blogging platform.

    • What are the alternatives to Serendipity?

      WordPress and Moveable Type are the two most commonly suggested alternatives to Serendipity. If you are looking for another option that can be self-hosted for your blogging platform, b2evolution might be a 3rd option worth reviewing. b2evolution is built on a very similar platform to WordPress, however it does have a smaller community for support than WordPress.

    • What are the requirements for Serendipity web hosting?

      Hosting for Serendipity is a pretty standard setup. You are going to need an Apache web server with a Linux operating system, a MySQL database, and PHP programming capabilities. This LAMP configuration (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) is readily available from most hosting providers. If MySQL is not a database option, you can also use PostgreSQL as your server.

    • Are there any additional specific hosting recommendations?

      To properly operate Serendipity, you are going to need to have ImageMagick installed on your server. If that isn't an option, you can also make sure your PHP installation has gd2 support. Serendipity actually recommends the PHP/gd2 support option over ImageMagick. Also, make sure your Apache server recognizes your .htaccess file, or else Serendipity won't run the way you expect.

    • Do I need to be concerned about installation?

      Serendipity installation is pretty straight-forward. Once you download the file to your computer and upload it to your server, make sure your server is writeable and then open your website in a browser. An installation screen should come up in your browser and follow the installation instructions. You should be up and running after that very fast!

    • Is there any reason not to use a one-click installation wizard?

      Serendipity is available as a 1-click installation with many leading hosting providers. If it is available, you should feel pretty confident about running the 1-click install. There are not too many customizations that require expert knowledge or the need to install things personally. Consult with your hosting provider if you are unsure if your Serendipity installation can be done with 1-click or manual setup.

    • What does self-hosted mean? I don't have to run a server myself, do I?

      Self-hosted websites do not require YOU to personally own a server and manage it to host your site. Instead, self-hosted simply means that hosting is not provided directly by the development team that created Serendipity. In order to use a self-hosted content management system like Serendipity, you will need to contract a hosting provider before building your website.

    • Can I host a Serendipity blog on a shared hosting plan?

      Yes. With most shared hosting plans, LAMP server setups are the standard server setup. With the 1-click installation option, shared hosting should be more than enough to power a Serendipity website. If you are going to host multiple Serendipity blogs on one shared hosting plan, you may want to consider a virtual private server or a dedicated server. Otherwise, one Serendipity blog shouldn't be too much for a shared hosting plan.

    • Do I have to know how to program to use Serendipity?

      No. Serendipity is very friendly to people who want to blog and run a website while not learning how to program. However, if you know how to program or want to learn how to program, Serendipity may be a good choice for you as a platform For what's it's worth, if you are looking to do some custom programming with Serendipity, it should be pretty easy to make some very advanced improvements to their platform.

    • How does Serendipity compare to Wordpress as a blogging CMS?

      Serendipity is recognized for its simplicity of use, compatibility, easy plugin integration from a central repository, flexibility without the need to adjust core files and seamless upgrades. While WordPress is known for having certain issues (especially with upgrades and hacking attempts), it is still the most popular content management system on the web. With WordPress, you can find and install a plugin for almost any solution, compatibility with different browsers and devices should work, and the user interface of the admin is very friendly for inexperienced web users. If simplicity is important to you, then Serendipity may make a great CMS solution for you. However, the more features you want from your CMS, the more likely you will need WordPress.

    • Do I need managed hosting in order to use Serendipity as my blogging CMS?

      The answer to this question depends on your answer to the question "how much responsibility are you willing to accept for the maintenance of your website?" The more complex your site becomes with widgets, plugins, multiple blogs and theme changes, the greater your need will be for professionally managed website hosting. Shared hosting often comes with some managed services included. If you have a dedicated hosting solution, however, managed services are likely required as part of your agreement. To be fair to Serendipity, this is the case with any self-hosted content management system - not just Serendipity.

    • How does Serendipity compare to Moveable Type as a blogging CMS?

      Serendipity can be downloaded with a BSD license instead of a paid download. Because of cost alone, Serendipity can be a better hosted solution for your blog or website. Unlike Moveable Type, Serendipity is also built on PHP and not Perl - which is better for the web as a whole. One of the biggest benefits of Serendipity is the fact that it comes equipped with an engaged open source community - and not a large company.

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