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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 Frequently Asked Questions

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