A Little Rant About Joomla

Joomla is a content management system – hereafter called, a “CMS”, in the grand tradition of techie acronyms which confuse the uninitiated. It is a “fork” of Mambo – another CMS. The codebase (like the foundation on a house) for Mambo, was older, and built before coders had figured out that there were ways to do it that made it more sustainable (again, like a house built before there was such a thing as a building code).

So the Joomla team fairly quickly realized they’d have to rebuild a good deal of the codebase if they wanted to continue to improve the CMS in ways that users needed to have it improved. They worked on this for years, and last January, they released Joomla 1.5 to the community at large.

I’m somewhat puzzled by the response of many within the community. There are now two versions of Joomla – 1.5, and the older 1.0. There are people who cling to 1.0 as though it has a future. Yet anyone could see, the minute Joomla 1.5 was released, that it sounded the death knell for Joomla 1.0. At that point, it was no longer wise to build a new site in 1.0 – why do so when you’d just have to rebuilt in a year or so when 1.0 became unsustainable? Not a good choice to make for myself, or on behalf of a client. (We ended up starting over on two contracts in order to put them into 1.5, and will be migrating the ones that were too far along at the time to rebuild easily.)

Yet we still have people building new sites in 1.0, clinging stubbornly to the past. There are a few RARE instances where the necessary new components are not yet ready, but for the most part, there is now as much available for 1.5 as for 1.0, and many things available for 1.5 that are not available for 1.0.

The best templates are compatible only with 1.5. Some of the best new extensions are available for 1.5 exclusively.

We went out on a limb with a few contracts, building in 1.5, on the expectation that the extensions we needed would be available by the time we needed them. This has proven to be the case – all have been updated in time for us to use them with 1.5, or we have been able to locate alternates.

Most extensions (except a few rare ones) are now either compatible with 1.5, or being rewritten to be compatible with 1.5. Most coders have abandoned further progress for 1.0. The majority of new sites have been built in 1.5 for the last several months, and smart designers are migrating sites on a consistent basis. A few coders have delayed releasing versions that were compatible with 1.5, and new coders have come in to fill their place with 1.5 compatible alternatives.

What I do not understand is why the holdouts did not see this coming. Why they still foolishly cling to a system that will no longer be improved, instead of rebuilding their sites in 1.5 and moving forward. Yes, I know a few have compatibility issues, and I am fully aware of the issues in moving a very large site. I’ve done it – not once, but about 5 times now. Each site took between 2 and 20 hours, depending on the complexity of the site. I did a lot of hand database recoding on sites that could not be migrated using the migration tool. Even with it, I had additional work to do to get it right in 1.5.

I didn’t really want to move forward in this way either. It is a pain in the nether regions to have to rebuild a large site. But it is preferable to do it on my time now, than to be forced to on someone else’s schedule later. And I just cannot see saddling a client with the cost of building now, an rebuilding later, when a little wisdom on my part would eliminate the need for a rebuild.

There is no room in technology for standing still. Sure, you don’t have to use it all, but when you depend on a structure like Joomla, and it is clear that one option has a future, and the other does not, it is time to get on board and learn to work in the future instead of the past.

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