Joomla! extensions done right
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Joomla! e-commerce finally took large steps forward in 2010, with a few serious extension developers entering the ring with there brand new Joomla! e-commerce extensions. Some of the new extensions, like Magebridge, Tienda and redSHOP, are challenging Virtuemart head on to become the favorite e-commerce extension of Joomla! developers everywhere.
The state of Joomla! e-commerce blogs are a series about the developments in the Joomla! e-commerce area and my thoughts about those developments. Click the "e-commerce" label/tag to read more articles about this subject.
Lets start of with a short history of Joomla! e-commerce and the primary player in that history: Virtuemart!
From phpShop to mambo-phpShop to Virtuemart
In the beginning, there was phpShop, a standalone e-commerce platform, comparable to Joomla!. You would install phpShop on a server and get the ability to create an online store with it. phpShop is now dead as a project, and no longer worked on by the developers.
A man known as Sören Eberhardt-Biermann decided to port phpShop to Mambo (the predecessor of Joomla!) and call it mambo-phpShop. When Mambo became Joomla! in 2005, Sören renamed the mambo-phpShop project to Virtuemart.
For a long time, Virtuemart was the only serious e-commerce extension for Joomla!, and Sören was the lead developer. Development was slow, and Virtuemart was buggy. But because it was ported from phpShop, a "full blown" e-commerce platform, it had many features, and it kept Joomla! users happy.
Joomla! 1.5 and Virtuemart 1.1
Then, a few years later, in 2007 threw 2009, there was actually still only Virtuemart. Joomla! had released version 1.5, under the leadership of Johan Janssens, which was becoming very popular, and Virtuemart automatically lifted on Joomla!'s success. Virtuemart is probably still one of the most popluar Joomla! extensions and used on at least tens of thousands of websites. It wasn't state of the art or top-off-the-line, but it had the most features and at the end of the day would get the job done.
Virtuemart 1.1 was released as a Joomla! 1.5 compatible version. But it was actually the same old Virtuemart as before, just with some changes to make sure it worked in Joomla! 1.5, and little added functionality. While Joomla! 1.5 had a shiny new framework and improved code over it's predecessor Mambo, Virtuemart 1.1 was still largely based on code from 2003 and earlier.
Users started to get irritated with Virtuemart, because development was still slow in 2009. Promises made by Sören about a new Virtuemart 2.0, faster development, quicker responses to security issues etc., where not kept. Compared to Joomla! 1.5, Virtuemart looked even more buggy and because of that people started having the need for a more stable, more professional e-commerce extension. It was only a matter of time before someone would try to address that need.
Contenders to the Joomla! e-commerce throne
These extensions are developed by commercial Joomla! developers, where Virtuemart was always a "free" project. The new Joomla! extensions redSHOP and Tienda also have a free version, which has plenty of options, but also have a commercial model to fund development (and make a little profit). Because these Joomla! developers are commercially backed and work on Joomla! full time, the development of these extensions is extremely fast and we are seeing some innovation.
2011: the year of Joomla! e-commerce?
Personally I think these changes in the Joomla! e-commerce sphere will only fully become visible in 2011, as more users investigate alternative options to Virtuemart, and the other solutions become more stable and more complete.
The development of Virtuemart has being taken over by a small international team, that is working hard on a new version, Virtuemart 1.5. This version is completely rewritten and should be a lot more stable, but have no new features. It is expected that this version will be released somewhere in 2011.
These developments make it interesting to keep an eye on the situation, as I expect a major shift in what Joomla! developers prefer to use when developing a Joomla! e-commerce website. Next year, 2011, will be a very interesting year for Joomla! e-commerce!