Now that major Joomla releases have moved to a timed model (every six months), users need to update their sites more frequently. And despite my prediction that future major releases would be smooth, that wasn't the case for many of you with version 2.5. Despite the fact that beta versions were available for weeks before the final release, some extension developers were unprepared and their extensions broke when users upgraded to 2.5. It's now a couple of months since the release of this latest version and one major extension we use is still classed as beta for their 2.5 version.
This has the potential to become a real mess. If users have an unfriendly experience, they will stop using Joomla. If users depart, developers, particularly those who produce fine commercial extensions that give Joomla a good reputation, will also lose interest. And then the whole thing will fall off a cliff. To be fair, I can't see this happening any time soon and it is still relatively early days in the new release schedule, so there is time to improve. But here are a few things worth considering.
Firstly it is important to note that there are two types of Joomla updates; let's call them major and minor releases. I'm talking about major releases such as the change from version 1.5 to 1.6 and 1.7 to 2.5. Minor releases are vital as these contain security and bug fixes and it is a credit to the Joomla team that they keep on top of this so well. When I think back over the years, almost every time there has been a minor release, the change has gone smoothly. There have been a couple of exceptions, but problems were rectified pretty quickly.
Secondly, this challenge is not unique to Joomla. Wordpress users have complained for years that updates are too frequent. And if you're a Joomla extensions developer, thank your lucky stars that you chose to build Joomla solutions instead of the Firefox extensions. Their releases are every six weeks and developers are always chasing their tail, trying to keep up. No – the problem isn't Joomla – it's the nature of open source. And that's why the thing I love most about Joomla is also the thing I most hate about Joomla. Anyone can come along and build an extension. Many of these are free and it's pretty hard to make money at that price point, so they tend to be part-time projects. When a new version comes along, developers have to balance their full time jobs and family as well as make time to check that their extensions will work in the new version. Frankly it isn't much easier for commercial developers. Technical support and bug fixes soak up an inordinate amount of time.
Thirdly, some developers will not be able to keep up with this pace and this might be a good thing. I would rather see fewer good quality extensions by developers who have the time to provide ongoing development.
So who is to blame and what can be done? The blame, I guess, rests with Joomla who chose to move to a timed release schedule. But was this a bad move? There was a huge amount of time – 3 years - between version 1.5 and 1.6. Now there is a known release schedule. So the problem rests with developers. They need to factor in the new versions and allocate appropriate test time prior to release. Many developers do this well, but others are still coming to grips with this new routine.
What do you think? Is the new Joomla release schedule causing you grief? Have you experienced issues with extensions breaking after upgrading? Do you think Joomla is in danger of falling off a cliff? Please, share your thoughts below.