Git-Based CMS vs API-First CMS: Is It Either-Or?

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Amanda Jones

Headless CMS platforms have taken over as modern enterprises seek out adaptable and flexible tools to help them keep up with customer demands. Future Market Insights predicts that the headless CMS market will be valued at $3.8 billion by 2032.

Whereas traditional CMSs like Drupal, WordPress, Adobe AEM, Sitecore and all other legacy systems were originally built to manage content for a single digital channel (a website), a headless CMS is built for the omnichannel world we live in today. 

Content can be delivered to just about any channel, and developers are also given the freedom to choose the front-end frameworks and technologies they want. In most cases, a headless CMS is either categorized as an API-first CMS or a Git-based CMS. However, the reality is that these capabilities aren’t mutually exclusive but are instead only features of a particular CMS. 

We’ll shed some light on where this confusion comes from and explain how the right CMS can offer both to modern enterprises looking to innovate. 

What Is a Git-Based CMS?

A Git-based CMS relies on a decentralized Git repository and stores content as files in the repository. All content changes are reflected in the repo, and depending on the CMS’s support for preview, workflow, and content publishing, approved changes are deployed to the production application or website where content is served to end users. 

By leveraging a Git repo, a Git-based CMS benefits from all of Git’s version control capabilities, and enables simple rollbacks, content auditing, branching, as well as compatibility with modern Git-based workflows, DevOps processes, and tools. 

Read More: What Is a Git-based CMS

What Is an API-First CMS?

An API-first CMS separates the front-end presentation layer from the backend content management and storage layer. All content assets get stored in the backend content repository and this layer is connected to the frontend with the help of APIs. 

As a result, an API-first CMS enables businesses to deliver content to websites, intranets, customer portals, IoT devices, AR/VR tools and any other digital channel. An API-first CMS makes companies future-proof when it comes to content management. If new digital channels and interfaces emerge, they can still deliver content to them using APIs. This enables businesses to create engaging omnichannel experiences that span multiple platforms. 

In addition, developers have more control over the frameworks they use to build digital experiences without the restrictive templates they might have encountered in a traditional CMS. 

Read More: Crafter: The Ultimate API-First CMS

Git-Based vs. API-First: Why the Confusion?

The main source of confusion regarding a CMS being Git-based or API-first comes directly from vendors. Since a headless CMS is usually one or the other, vendors tend to position themselves against each other based on that set of features. However, that’s all each represents, a collection of features. 

Even design agencies get confused. For example, Bejamas thinks that there are “two types of headless CMSs: Git-based and API-driven”, which in fact is not true: these two features are not mutually exclusive.

Many Git-based CMSs don’t offer a content delivery component. Instead, they use Git (or a Git-based platform like Github) and Git-based workflows in a simple way to move around Markdown, HTML, CSS, and/or other static content. Many headless CMS platforms that are considered API-first focus on the content-first capabilities it provides. They can bring content processes and DevOps processes together, producing change, and improving time to market and efficiency. 

However, the versioning capability of Git simply makes it a much better version control system than database-centric CMSs. These two things combined - Git-based AND API-first, can make a CMS unstoppable, and there is no reason why you can’t combine them. t. 

Watch: CrafterCast Episode 10 - Git-Based CMS vs. API First CMS

CrafterCMS: A Headless CMS that is Git-Based and API-First 

CrafterCMS doesn’t force organizations to choose between a Git-based CMS or an API-first CMS. Git is integrated into CrafterCMS’s content repository enabling the all the powerful version control benefits it provides. On top of that, it provides an API-first headless development environment for both a content authoring (to easily compose a highly tailored WYSIWYG authoring/editing/publishing experience) and a content delivery platform for building any type of end user experience using any front-end technology. CrafterCMS is a truly decoupled content management platform, separating content authoring from content delivery, to meet the needs of a vast majority of leading enterprises where performance, security, productivity, and cost effectiveness are paramount.

With most other Git-based CMS’s, only static files (markdown, etc.) are managed in a Git-based repository like Github. Content authors have to manage content by editing these static files, and then deploy the content to the production delivery system (web server). 

In contrast, the open source Git library is embedded as the core content repository within the CrafterCMS content authoring platform, and it manages both static content (e.g., CSS, HTML snippets, images, etc.) as well as dynamic content (e.g., XML files containing metadata and content that is processed and rendered by Crafter’s content delivery system, Javascript, Groovy scripts, content targeting info, persona configurations, etc.). Content authors can then use Crafter Studio, our WYSIWYG content authoring app, to perform all content creation and editing, in-context previews, drag-and-drop experience building, and more robust features without having to know anything about Git. They simply get all of the benefits and work through a user-friendly interface. Content is saved and versioned in Git and facilitates DevContentOps through APIs and DevOps automation via Git mechanics. 

With CrafterCMS’s unique support for DevContentOps processes that are enabled by its Git-based content repository, the seamless collaboration between software development teams, content teams, and IT operations is finally possible, eliminating the content freezes, silos, and other issues that can occur when these teams are forced to work separately with database-centric CMSs. 

In addition, Crafter Studio is a React app that rides on top of our API-first content authoring platform, meaning enterprises can customize Studio to compose their own authoring experience, integrate in a Front-End-as-a-Service (FEaaS) solution, or extend Studio with plugins from CrafterCMS Marketplace

After running content edits through workflow and any necessary reviews and approvals, content is then published to the content delivery system powered by the API-first Crafter Engine, where dynamic content responses can be served as APIs (REST, GraphQL, etc.) or rendered content (server-side rendered HTML). Ultimately, it’s possible to get the best of both worlds by combining API-first and Git-based capabilities into the same CMS platform. 

With CrafterCMS, it doesn’t have to be Git-based or API first. You get both. Learn more by reading our White Paper: Advantages of a Git-based Headless CMS

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