From Confluence to XWiki: Customer migration interview with VRVIs

28 Mar 2023 5 min read

This interview is part of a series of interviews with XWiki customers that migrated from Confluence.


AL: Hello Christoph, and thanks for agreeing to discuss this with us today. We are planning a discussion between 30 and 60 minutes. It is well noted that we will not record the interview, just transcribe it. Or could we record only the audio? It would help us with the transcription.

CZ: It is ok to record the audio.

AL: Could you please present yourself and the company in which you are working?

CZ: I am working at VRVIs. It is Austria's leading research center for Virtual Reality and Visualization. VRVIs has many research groups such as the biomedical group which investigates and develops methods providing efficient access to information encoded in biomedical images. Another group worked on a project for creating a fire extinguisher training in Virtual Reality where you stop a curtain fire by using a virtual fire extinguisher. Most projects are at least partially funded by public funds and industry partners and we collaborate heavily with the Vienna Technical University. You can check our annual report on our website to see additional details.

AL: It would be impolite if we were not presenting ourselves as well. Ștefana Nazare (ȘN) is an engineer and our Account Manager specializing in Confluence to XWiki migrations. She thinks, dreams, eats, sells, and executes Confluence migrations. Dorina Anton (DA) is the Marketing Specialist in charge of XWiki. She is the one trying to have me writing and saying wise things. She does not always succeed. My name is Arnaud Laprévote (AL) and I am an engineer and an entrepreneur in the field of open-source for many, many years now since I created an open-source service company in 1996. I contacted you because in November 2022 you purchased a license for the Pro Macros package for XWiki for 250 users. This means that your organization switched from Confluence to XWiki, our open-source professional wiki and that you handled the migration yourself. A migration from one software to another is no easy operation. We are trying to understand how we can continue to help others do the migration themselves, improve our software in that direction, and, at the same time, to reassure other users that wish to do the same migration.

XWiki usage

AL: Does XWiki support you, your team, and your business? If yes, in which ways?

CZ: For clarification, our instance is not in production yet. We are still in the migration phase. At the moment, two or three teams are using XWiki. One group expressed that the instance is working rather well and that they have no issues integrating into the new system. The usage depends heavily on groups and how they use Confluence. One of the things we use it for is an intranet for our company.

At first, we started with XWiki on a test server and read the documentation. We worked on a first migration. Then Ștefana gave us access (three times) to the Pro Macros for testing and that was helpful. Ștefana also gave us a lot of support whenever we had questions or encountered a blocker. We appreciated that our requests, such as the macro list, were taken seriously.

AL: So today, do you have an idea of the number of users and the number of pages or the global size of your wiki? Maybe even the version of XWiki, your server/client configuration, if I am not too indiscreet?

CZ: In Confluence, we have a 250-user license, with 245 users in total, of which about 100 are internal users from our company. We want to sort out the number of users and have only the necessary ones. There are 93 spaces with 1 to 100 pages. Confluence does not have a tool with a global view of pages, therefore we don't know for sure how big some spaces are, while XWiki has this type of global view.

AL: What do you think of our prices? And of our position regarding open-source? 

CZ: We bought a Pro Macros 250 users license and did not purchase the Silver support package. We were thinking about doing this, but we don't need it right now and we decided to leave Confluence for good due to the high costs. At the moment we are just using the Pro Macros license.

Migration reasons & process

AL: Why did you switch from Confluence to XWiki?

CZ: There are a few reasons that stood behind our decision to migrate. There's no option for on-premise hosting starting with 2024 and we don't want to host things in the Atlassian cloud, since we're concerned with data security. We've also read about many Confluence backup system issues in the past, plus, we are really big fans of open-source and self-hosting our solutions and want to know exactly where our data is located. Furthermore, the cost of Confluence is high, and we are also not happy with the support there.

AL: Are there issues that XWiki could solve and Confluence didn't?

CZ: We can deploy XWiki how we want, and it's working great for us now.

AL: What are the pros and the cons of XWiki and Confluence?

CZ:  For XWiki some pros are: 

  • The XWiki Debian repository is great and well-maintained. Doing an update is really easy and we appreciate that a lot. You maintain your Linux repository very well. In contrast, the Confluence upgrade is really complicated;
  • We had a problem with special characters in page titles (letters and emojis), but I see that it was fixed in version 15;
  • We don't need to use PHP;
  • Customizable solution;
  • The permission management is well done in XWiki. It is concise and consistent;
  • You provide extensive documentation.

Some minuses that we noticed in regard to XWiki from our perspective are:

  • Automatic emoji mapping is sometimes a problem such as conversion to smiley emoji for example (but easily fixed via global config);
  • The Confluence migrator did not work for us because in the beginning and we had problems discovering our Confluence spaces and it was failing at the Nested Pages step. So we had to do the migration manually. In the meantime, the issue has been fixed in XWiki 15. We do not understand however why the migrator required us to connect to the Confluence instance since there is an export after from Confluence and an import in XWiki.

ȘN: Maybe I can address this shortly now, XWiki does that connection to the Confluence space in order to know if there are going to be problems during the import in XWiki and if there are pages that are in a too long of a hierarchy because they might pose issues during the migration. In previous versions of XWiki, we didn't convert that well pages that have really long names/hierarchies and we needed to find them so that we can convert them with a certain script. Now in XWiki version 14, this issue is obsolete because you can just skip the connection, the first analysis, and the post-import fixes because this was included in the core XWiki product. This is still there though because there are people using older versions of XWiki. On the nested pages, it might be a question of the used version. On the topic of special characters, now the core product converts special characters by removing them from the page name but keeping them in the title. There are still some characters from some languages that are not recognized. At the moment, they need to be fixed on the Confluence side but it's work in progress on our side as well. There also may be artifacts when upgrading/downgrading the extensions and a fresh install would be better. I'm noting this down to come back to you when we fix this link issue. We are also working on an importer that would be able to import many spaces at once.

CZ: Ok, thank you for explaining! Moving forward another aspect that we noticed is that the documentation is really extensive and it goes in great detail and then there are some pages where there is not much information. For example, we are now using the filter stream converter app and the documentation provides only one line of explanation. We had to go through trial and error many times to figure this one out.

ȘN: Did you arrive on this page there? On the product website (XWiki community side) you can find the documentation. But indeed, we need to do a link between these 2 resources.

CZ: You're right, there's more information there. And on another topic: the macros conversion. Some macros are converted automatically. It would be nice if it was possible to do a manual change for the non-converted macros. If it was possible to remap macros. For example, User profile in Confluence to User macro in XWiki. Is there any way to do the conversion automatically?

ȘN: That's a good point and we are doing that for a few macros. In order to migrate from Confluence to XWiki, we need bridge macros that are identical to the ones in Confluence (name and parameters). Sometimes there are some small differences that don't allow us to properly map it. It might work for 90% of the situations, but then there might be a situation with a parameter that is not working. Is there anything else from your side?

CZ: I understand this from your perspective because you can't possibly know all the macros that a user might use. Last year, for example, we went through all the macros and deleted the ones that weren't in XWiki as well and we had a space with someone's favorite macro, the Cheese macro. But that's not exactly your problem. Another aspect that is really annoying is the permissions. When I look at user rights, there are 10 pages of global user permissions. There is no option to sort for user names or filter for "scripting rights" to just see who has these rights or show me only the people that have edit rights in a specific wiki. In Confluence, you can see a big table with all rights for all users. There is no way in XWiki to see a permissions summary for a page. For example, Windows has a nice feature: it can show you "effective access" for a given user per folder. It would be useful to see something like this in the wiki as well. The permission management is well done in XWiki, it is concise and consistent, but it is difficult to display it at the page level and use it like this. The information is there, we would need to get it from the backend.

ȘN: That is very interesting. We have been working on a simplified version of this but it isn't yet in production. You defined clearly the problem and what is needed: show what rights apply on a page/group of pages in the info tab. Do you have any other pluses or minuses for XWiki?

CZ: One thing that I want to add that is frustrating is that we could not brand our login page or customize the blue button on the page with our logo or something else. Otherwise, XWiki I'd say it's easy to customize. On the other hand, Confluence has a few things that they do well such as:

  • Global theming;
  • Table formatting is much better.

Confluence cons:

  • High cost;
  • Updating Confluence is more difficult.

AL: How long did the process of decision take from first starting the research, comparing options, testing, migration, setup, etc?

CZ: We started 2 years ago when Confluence announced their full migration to the cloud. Since then we tested 2 or 3 solutions one of which was XWiki. Afterward, we had a break for around 3 months due to other projects and in November 2022 we bought the Pro macros package. Before this, the trial license for the Pro macros was extended 3 times by Ștefana and that has been very helpful for carrying out our tests.

AL: Did you or your team have any fears before migrating? What were you concerned about?

CZ: We had many doubts because changing platforms is always a lot of work. But XWiki tried to help each time, even if the process was not easy.

AL: What criteria did you consider when making the decision to migrate and what didn't matter much?

CZ: XWiki is truly comparable to Confluence. After looking at the competition, the decision was clear for us. Other wikis are focused on documentation with one page in a subspace, while XWiki can be heavily customized according to needs and has many extensions. Also, as I mentioned, not being based on PHP was another essential aspect for us. Besides these points, we really appreciated the Debian package and PostgreSQL. XWiki is open-source and that was a big factor for us, it is customizable and easy to use as you want.

What didn't matter much to us was that the LDAP authenticator did not work, because we developed our own macro and solved the problem.

AL&ȘN: We'd suggest buying support to mitigate and solve these types of issues that arise.

AL: Why did you decide to go with us versus other companies or alternatives?

CZ: The programming language was a criterion for us, and we didn't want anything in PHP. Also, XWiki looks well maintained. We upgraded from version 13 to 14 and then to 15 without issues.

AL: Who was involved in the decision-making process of picking the software?

CZ: Me and the two colleagues from system administration. After talking to various employees and group leaders in our firm, we had a good list of requirements that we used for choosing a solution.

AL: What is the summary of your migration experience (difficulties, happy surprises)?

CZ: We discussed that already. Most of the things we needed were working out of the box. We only needed to do a bit of fine-tuning. 

DA: What documentation would have been helpful to have? 

CZ: There are a lot of great docs already available, but for third-party integrations, it is not always the case.

DA: Did you discuss this with other companies?

CZ: I asked a former colleague, but they did not want to change to another software.

AL: What do you say to companies that hesitate to migrate?

CZ: People who manage Confluence know that Atlassian in itself is a good enough reason to migrate to another tool. They have issues that haven't been fixed in the last 12 years. You get fed up from this.
In contrast, XWiki is open-source and uses the feedback received from users, and the willingness to take feedback into account is a good sign. I noticed that XWiki fixed issues and added new functionalities from the users' experience. The community is alive and responsive on short notice, especially Vincent, who gives a lot of great answers. 

XWiki improvements

AL: What would have helped you?

CZ: Although we did not pay for support, we are grateful to Ștefana for all the feedback and clarification she provided us. We decided to buy the Pro macros package afterward so that we also give something back and because it was essential for migrating our Confluence spaces. In general, you do a really good job providing help and guidance.

AL: What else would you like from your XWiki software?

CZ: Reworking the UI for permission management would be a big help. Otherwise, the software is a great deal as it is. I do not have any special requirements at the moment.

Other questions

AL: Are you using a lot of open-source software?

CZ: We try to do everything in open-source—Linux, Debian, Nginx, HAProxy, firewalls in Debian, Samba 4, OpenLDAP, CodiMD, Zulip, and many more. Firefox and Thunderbird are the default setup for our desktop computers. We moved away from Adobe products and try to find open-source alternatives for their products, like Inkscape instead of Illustrator. Also, we use Ansible for deploying software.

AL: Did you try CryptPad, our open-source collaborative web office suite?

CZ: I have used it in the past, but never with XWiki. But there is no need for it in our organization. We have other ways to exchange files and encrypted messages with the outside world.


AL: Do you have a conclusion? Do you want to share something with the XWiki team?

CZ: XWiki is very impressive for an open-source project. Developers and users offer us a lot of support. We encountered a few hiccups, but if we had complaints, Vincent and Thomas always gave us timely answers on the XWiki forum.

AL: Thank you a lot for your time! We'll stay in touch.

If you have any other questions or would like to benefit from Ștefana's expertise, you’ll find her at: or you can book a call directly with her here.

Check out our post-webinar article about the new Confluence Migrator (Pro)

Looking for an even smoother process to transition from Confluence to XWiki? Well, we've gathered feedback from the market, and we've poured resources into developing a more powerful migrator. The new Confluence Migrator (Pro) has many new improvements such as:

  • A 2-step migration process
  • Multi space import
  • A clear report detailing the logs of the import process
  • A new, more straightforward UI

Discover below in our newest article the complete set of features and functionalities for a hassle-free migration from Confluence to XWiki. Last but not least, you can check out the post-webinar article for the demo and Q&A session.


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