Has Joomla Finally Reached Maturity?

Back in January 2011 (7 years and 1 month ago), people started migrating from Joomla to WordPress or Drupal in droves. The main reason for this mass exodus was the absence of a non-technical migration script from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 1.6 which left many Joomla administrators with 3 options: 1) pay a lot of money to a professional to migrate their sites to the latest version of Joomla, or 2) migrate to another (more reliable) platform with the help of a professional, or 3) start from scratch on another platform.

What made things worse was the fact that the two subsequent Joomla releases, Joomla 1.6 and 1.7, were both unreliable platforms, and so even some of the people who migrated their sites switched to another platform, as it seemed, back then, that Joomla was self-imploding.

In February of 2012, Joomla 2.5 was released, and while it addressed the stability issues found in Joomla 1.6 and 1.7, it still didn’t solve the major migration dilemma from 1.5 to 2.5. So an additional batch of Joomla administrators left the platform.

At the end of 2012, another major event happened in Joomla, and it was the release of Joomla 3.x (which we are still using today). The migration of Joomla 2.5 to Joomla 3.x was, in most case, a non-seamless experience, and so more people (who couldn’t take it anymore), left the platform to another one.

At around the same time, there were many internal strifes within the Joomla community itself, projecting an impression that Joomla’s future was far from secure. In fact, some serious concerns were voiced back then that Joomla was heading down the Mambo road – in other words, it was going to die and something else was going to be reborn from its ashes. Many enterprise sites using Joomla dumped the platform at that point because nobody wanted to stay in what seemed to be a sinking ship.

But, for some mysterious reasons, Joomla survived (after reaching its lowest point in 2014), albeit with a smaller userbase. The very stable Joomla 3.5 was released, and then Joomla 3.6, Joomla 3.7, and finally Joomla 3.8. Each Joomla iteration since the end of 2014 was better and more secure than its predecessors. There were some exceptions, but these exceptions were immediately addressed and a patched version of Joomla was released typically within a week of the botched version. Never was Joomla that dynamic, and that dynamism has ensured that existing Joomla users were retained, and new ones were acquired.

So what are the factors that lead to Joomla’s revival?

There are several factors that revived Joomla and made it regain its users’ trust:

  • Listening to the mainstream Joomla community: In the early days of Joomla, only opinions from important people in the Joomla ecosystem had impact on the actual coding of the CMS. This is no longer the case today. For example, the very active Joomla forum has a place to discuss each Joomla version when it’s released, and any bug reported by anyone is taken very seriously and is addressed almost immediately.
  • Genuine commitment from the core developers to the product: Unlike WordPress and Drupal, Joomla’s core developers are paid zilch for their contributions, so one would reasonably expect very little commitment from Joomla’s core developers to the product. This is not the case, in fact, the lead Joomla core developer seems to have assumed ownership of the product, which is a good thing, as that same developer has lead Joomla from the brink of extinction to the solid and reliable product that it is today.

  • Sudden (and welcome) attention to performance: A few years ago, not a single core Joomla developer cared about the performance, and the general assumption was that Joomla was mainly used by small websites. We know, for a fact, that Joomla powers some very high traffic websites, and we have complained for ages that Joomla needs some serious optimizations in the core. Our pleads went unheeded, until recently, when Joomla’s core developers started taking performance more seriously. In fact, the negligible performance hit resulting from updating from Joomla 3.7 to Joomla 3.8 (there is a huge technical difference between the 2 versions) is an indication that Joomla is finally on the right track when it comes to performance.

  • More robust security: When was the last time you heard that Joomla had a serious security flaw (other than a minor XSS issue)? Compare that to a few years ago, when security flaws from legacy code were abundant.

  • Less bugs: While we still think that the testing of the Joomla product is mediocre at best, we have to admit that the number of known bugs is decreasing with each Joomla iteration, and the days where a Joomla iteration is specifically released to fix the problems caused by the previous iteration of Joomla are almost behind us.

  • Quick adoption of latest technologies: As of 2015 (possibly even before), Joomla has been a pioneer in adopting new technologies very quickly. The competition, such as WordPress and Drupal, are very slow in that aspect. In fact, neither WordPress nor Drupal have adopted MVC yet, which has been adopted by Joomla since version 1.5.0 (which was released in January of 2008, that’s 10 years ago!).

  • Seamless updates: Very few people know that the update from Joomla 3.7 to 3.8 is technically a migration, and not just a normal update. With some exceptions, that update went super smoothly for Joomla administrators. Who would have thought that Joomla, the same Joomla with the messy 1.5 to 2.5 and 2.5 to 3.x migrations, was finally able to do that?

There are many other factors such as cleaner code, cleaner interface, better code management, etc… that indicate that Joomla has indeed reached maturity, and is now, again, a very stable and a very trustworthy CMS that people can rely on for many years to come to power their websites!

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