Joomla: Upgrading Open Source Content Management

Jul 19, 2011

Open source content management system (CMS) Joomla has released its newest version, Joomla 1.7. The six-year-old software has had over 24 million international downloads within the last couple of years, including 2 million downloads of the Joomla 1.6 version that was released in January.

According to Ryan Ozimek, president of Open Source Matters, the not-for-profit created to provide organization and support to the Joomla project, Joomla is not backed by a corporation and has no full-time employees. "It is 100% volunteer driven, but is 2.7% of the world's websites," says Ozimek. "So we're pretty happy with where we're at today." One of the new, and most important key features offered in version 1.7 is the ability for current users to upgrade easily and seamlessly.

"For most open source software, when you tell somebody about upgrading, they think about going to a command prompt and typing in some code, and having to dive into a database," said Ozimek. "The upgrade process for Joomla now, is clicking a couple of links and buttons."

Beyond the simpler upgrade process, Joomla is focusing on faster lifecycles. Previously, software was released whenever it was ready, but it is now becoming available at a steadier pace.

"We made a promise to the community to release this new version of Joomla six months after the last one," said Ozimek. "And it's a six-month pace from this point forward. We're really happy to have kept our promise."

Joomla's platform will see a split with the upgrade to 1.7, separating the platform, which includes libraries folders, from the actual CMS. The two developer communities will be able to work on their individual areas, and can combine their efforts to produce each new wave of software.

"What we have now is essentially one Joomla community with two projects living side by side," says Ozimek. "One for the framework, and one for the content management system that people know and love."

According to Mark Dexter of the Joomla Production Leadership Team, version 1.7 will offer many small improvements, one being for Joomla's multi-language options. The international community that uses Joomla will find an enhanced ease of use when it comes to navigating multi-language websites.

"If you have a site where you're catering to people that speak several different languages, they can just click a button and change the presentation and see the same article in another language," says Dexter.

Lisa Lagrou, owner and editor of Oakland County Moms, an online resource for families in Southeast Michigan, has been using Joomla since the inception of her website seven years ago. "I love the ease of organizing articles in different sections, viewing their hits, setting up ads on my site and checking on the click thrus achieved," says Lagrou. She plans to upgrade her current site to Joomla 1.7, and is particularly anticipating the security that comes with upgrading within the software.

"I also look forward to the possibility of improved SEO," says Lagrou. "There are many debates out there about which CMS will get you the most results. I am hoping that this upgrade will give me a bigger competitive edge."

Dexter believes that from a product point of view, the key things that Joomla offers are ease of use, power, and functionality. "We don't think that it's an either or situation, we think that you can have both and that's what we're trying to do," says Dexter. "We think the reason that we're the most popular full-functioning CMS program in the world is because we combine those two."

Future Joomla upgrades will strive toward functionality with multiple database platforms and continuing to provide clean software at the six-month releases. Most importantly, the changes will happen in an incremental way. "We have millions of users out there," says Dexter. "We don't want to be in a position where we scare them away with feature overload, or by changing things at too rapid of a pace."