Joomla 1.6, time to reflect, or is there?

Posted on Friday, February 4th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Joomla 1.6 PageJanuary 10 2011 saw the release of the much anticipated release of Joomla 1.6.  Like many other Joomla users world wide I too was eager to get a hold of 1.6 and give it a whirl.  With a reported 2.7% of the worlds web sites supposedly using Joomla, the 1.6 release had the hopes of a significant amount of people to take their web site to the next level.

I installed Joomla 1.6 as a fresh test site and had a play with the new features and began to get familiar with the new layouts, templates, categories, menus and user system.  It was nice, it had a better interface and from what I could tell it seemed quicker and sleeker than the 1.5 version.  Of course this was a fresh install with no added extensions but it still had the new feel to it that was a draw card.

Ok so after a few weeks having a play with it time to trial setting it up and using it as a real web site.  Ok so the obvious thing to do is upgrade an existing Joomla 1.5 site to the new 1.6 version.  So I went back to Joomla and to the 1.6 release page and went through many pages looking for information about how best to manage an upgrade from 1.5 to 1.6.  I was expecting to find a downloadable tool that could be installed either on the 1.5 site to upgrade it or to install on a fresh 1.6 site and have it import the data from the 1.5 site.  To my shock and after reading many pages on the Joomla site I had to go to the forums and to the migration and upgrade forum for 1.6 to find out there is no upgrade tool, none, ziltch, nothing.  Not even a written guide and there is not even a notice saying there is no tool to perform the upgrade. Needless to say I was a little puzzled how the Joomla people could be having so much fan fare, marketing, Joomla parties and the sort and not have a tool to perform an upgrade, it just did not make sense at all.

Following discussions on the Joomla forums just added to the confusion, for one thing the title being MIGRATION and upgrade and not just Upgrade, why is there a need to migrate?  You may have noticed that this web site uses WordPress, I have forgotten now for how long I have been able to update not only the core of WordPress but also the extensions I use in it, all with the click of a single button. If WordPress can do it then why not Joomla, I am sure the Joomla core team is clever enough to do it.  I am not the only one asking that question either, if you read through the Joomla forums you will see others have made similar comments.

In relation to the upgrade tool I am told to wait for a 3rd party to develop an upgrade tool, which is fine but in all reality this should have been developed alongside Joomla 1.6 and its release.  It should come from the core group as they know it best, they know its detail and then there is no reliance on a 3rd party that may miss something as part of the upgrade process.  Low and behold there are now a couple of upgrade tools, however both neither work well enough and one is a commercial add-on, maybe it is owned by one of the Joomla core developers, who knows?

Interestingly some of the advice coming from what I would regard as Joomla Gurus, as aptly titled by the forums, is why upgrade?  If you are happy with 1.5 stay with 1.5 and forget 1.6.  But hang on a second wasn’t 1.6 meant to be the new age for Joomla?  Apparently not, it is only a ‘minor’ release that will only be around for 6 months and then 1.7 will be out, which will also be only around for 6 months as a ‘minor’ release before an apparent Long Term Release of 1.8 as a ‘major’ release will be out in early 2012.  So the questions have been asked, should I use 1.6 or not, and that includes for new sites/installs as well and the advice is mixed, some yes, some no, but many undecided.  Also why all these numbers that look the same, I mean if it is a minor release call it 1.5.23, but apparently it is too feature rich compared to 1.5 to call it 1.5.23.  Well if that is the case then and it is a minor release as 1.6 then the coming 1.8 which is apparently a major release should then be 2.0, confused yet?

What I am also seeing is the absence of any real review being done (or at least discussed).  How has 1.6 performed, how well has it worked in the real world use, what issues have been identified, what improvements can be made, not just on the solution but the way it is managed and released.  Of course the first and foremost is the lack of an upgrade tool.  As part of any project for any reason a review needs to be done, without it you cannot improve and learn from it and get better.  While I appreciate that Joomla is provided free, I also believe that most, if not all, core Joomla developers would also be making a tidy sum on the side in further development, paid work in relation to Joomla and extension building.  I do not believe everyone is doing it just for fun and getting nothing out of it that benefits them.  All projects need to be managed, all projects need to have people to manage them and to take the lead roles for certain aspects of any project, Joomla is no exception it would have a similar structure, or is that should?  That structure and management needs to be reviewed as well to ensure it is working the best way it can be, and that includes taking on-board feedback and ‘constructive’ criticism without taking it personally.  Either way the project managers need to accept the release of Joomla 1.6 while it started good fell quickly into a ball of flames simply because of the lack of an upgrade tool that should have been included with the release of 1.6.

In the end the choice to use Joomla 1.6 or not is up to each person that uses Joomla, and the work involved will depend on if you are doing a fresh install or not.  Happy Joomlaing everyone 🙂

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