In this thirteen minute interview with Chad Windnagle, Senior Web Developer at s-go Consulting, Chad shares his thoughts on previous post regarding the advantages and disadvantages of developing with Joomla and WordPress.
A shout out to Chad for his contribution to the Web professional community and for being the professional that he is.
Chad Windnagle in “his own” words:
After reading much of the misinformation that was posted by Alec, a creative director of the company Foliovision, on a previous Webprofessionals.org blog post,, I felt the need to respond to the factual references regarding Joomla. I intend to do this without addressing Alec’s opinion. Opinions and preferences aren’t something to be contested, but factual information should always be set straight in the record, that’s what I intend to do.
Alec starts his post by addressing “Joomla” as “Joomla/Mambo” – and that’s just the beginning.
To be fair, Alec is right about Joomla and Mambo being related. That relationship ceased to be when Joomla 1.5 was released. The history of the Joomla project is really interesting, and those of us developers using the product who have ‘been around’ know most of it by heart. I’ll quote Wikipedia’s information on it:
“Joomla was the result of a fork of Mambo on August 17, 2005.” 1
Joomla version 1.0 was essentially a renamed version of Mambo. The code base was the same. However with the release of Joomla 1.5, the code core was a total rewrite, with some legacy code in place to help with migration. Joomla 1.5 Beta was released in September 2006, a little more than a year after the Mambo split. 2
So at this point, a post written in 2011, nearly 6 years after the split and 5 years after a total code rewrite, putting Mambo and Joomla in the same sentence is quite insulting to everyone in both projects. They aren’t related, they are different products.
To add to this, Joomla 1.7 is now the latest short term release of Joomla, and it’s a far cry from Mambo, Joomla 1.0, and Joomla 1.5! I notice that while Alec didn’t seem to do his research on Joomla & Mambo, he acknowledged that WordPress is no longer going by the project name ‘b2/cafelog’ either. (WordPress started as b2/cafelog before being forked in 2003) 9
Moving on to the next point of Alec’s post, he addresses some advantages and disadvantages of Joomla. This is something that can get pretty opinionated, an advantage for one person is another developer’s disadvantage. But there’s some serious problems with both of his lists:
Good menu system.
Strong static page structure (cf. weblog).
Built-in membership/community features.
Long time on the market.
I’m searching here.
Joomla’s static page structure might be good, but a majority of the time developers use Joomla’s categorical structure for sites. Joomla 1.0 and 1.5 both featured a Section / Category / Content (or article) hierarchy content structure, not much unlike WordPress’s category structure. Joomla 1.6 introduced the category and unlimited subcategory concept as well.
Moving on, Alec talks about built in membership / community features. To this I have to say “what the hell?!”. Joomla does not have built in membership or community features. It has a user manager with some built in user access settings. But it is certainly not a membership system or a community system by any means. To quote Joomla co-founder Brian Teeman:
“Please can you show me Joomla’s built in membership/community features as I’ve been using Joomla for 6 years and 16 days and I’m still to find them.” 3
Now without knowing what Alec’s exact situation was I can’t say that his distribution of Joomla didn’t have some community features that came with it when he installed it, but I can promise anyone who installs Joomla’s core package will not find anything resembling a membership system or a community-centric application.
Alec ends his list of advantages by saying he’s still searching for more advantages. While I could certainly help him out with that, I just want to point out a few of the advantages he boasts about WordPress that he apparently failed to recognize in Joomla:
Easy to theme in a unique way. A WordPress site does not have to look like a WordPress site.
Great plugin architecture.
Plugins for everything.
Lots of great professional developers.
Fast development cycle. Improvements every year.
Huge community. Joomla has a decent sized community. Forum.joomla.org has these statistics: Total posts 2,447,339 | Total topics 575,025 | Total members 512,054 4
I’m not here to compare Joomla’s community to WordPress, they’ve got some great people and I’m happy for them, but to recognize WordPress for it’s community, and not Joomla for it’s community is a clear and rude bias. Joomla has a huge multinational community in many different places, whether it be official channels like Joomla.org, or on some other sites like ataaw.org, nooku.org, mailing lists, twitter, facebook – the community of Joomla is enormous.
Whether or not Joomla is or isn’t easy to theme is subjective, but, does a Joomla site have to look like a Joomla site? Certainly not! To expound on that further, anyone experienced with different web applications can spot ‘tell tail’ signs of applications. One thing I always notice with Joomla is the signup / login module. With wordpress it’s that ever-present Month / Date category filter on the right side of nearly every wordpress site in existence.
Now with all that said, who really cares if you can spot a Joomla site or a wordpress site. Are you ashamed of it or something? Does a site have to be ‘untraceable’ for some reason? Is there an unspoken rule I’m not aware of here?
Plugins for everything – That’s awesome for wordpress. I’m glad that they’re able to meet a lot of different application scenarios. Joomla has plugins (we call them exensions) for ‘everything’ too. Why didn’t that make it onto Alec’s post I’m not sure. But, if there’s something in particular he was looking for from a plugin he couldn’t find, what was it? (And was it available for WordPress?)
“Lots of great professional developers” is again, a pretty subjective advantage, but again, good for wordpress! Joomla also has what I would define as great professional developers too. If Alec is able, he has my personal invite to any Joomla day he’s able to make time to attend. I’m sure after a few beers with some of the very open and welcoming Joomla community he’ll agree that we have great and professional developers also.
A fast development cycle is something that Joomla is pretty behind on, but we are making progress in this area. The project has moved to a Long Term / Short Term release system. The project has planned for short term releases being put out every 6 months and long term releases approximately every 18 months. 5
Alright so now it’s time to look at the disadvantages that Alec has brought up about Joomla. Again, it’s important to remember, opinions are just that, opinions. But there are a few factual items to look at:
Built-in performance pretty sluggish/clunky.
Weak weblog section
Hard to theme. A Mambo/Joomla site looks like Mambo/Joomla, like it or not.
Crappy built-in SEO. Leading SEO plugin belongs to a very peculiar developer and is encrypted (have fun repairing the SEO plugin, we reverse engineered and decrypted it for our site to make our changes even after paying for it).
Nasty, nasty core code. Very difficult to fix broken items
Most good plugins are pay.
Rather mediocre developers. Anyone who likes to code in Joomla/Mambo in 2011 ought to see a psychiatrist.
Developer pricing is all over the map as there are many old-school Mambo/Joomla developers still ought there churning out convoluted future-resistant code quite affordably.
Performance is a never-dying discussion in any circle. But let’s be honest, we don’t know what kind of environment that Alec had installed Joomla in, and it could’ve been a top of the line server with all the perfect settings, or it could have been an overloaded GoDaddy account on a day when Alec’s internet connection was being hit pretty hard. Only Alec can answer this of course, but to cite something as subjective as performance as a disadvantage without saying what environment it’s in is pretty weak.
Weblogging, blogging, is something that WordPress is designed to do, and it does it extremely well. Joomla is designed to manage content (hence why WordPress is a blogging platform and Joomla a CMS platform), it can be used (like WordPress) to do many different things, and blogging is one of them. But Alec is right here, blogging in core Joomla isn’t as plug-and-play as WordPress. However with certain extensions it can be a great blogging platform. Just like WordPress being a great ecommerce platform with the right extensions as Alec talks about in his interview. Fair is fair, here.
I already talked about the appearance of Joomla site’s, and there’s a lot of great Joomla developers building sites that look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Changing the appearence of any site is a matter of modifying HTML, CSS, and images. If a Joomla site looks like another Joomla site it’s not because Joomla makes it hard to change, it’s because a developer didn’t bother to change it.
SEO was a huge complaint in Joomla 1.0 (or Mambo) from the (“nonexistant”) Joomla community, and the core developers worked hard to improve this in Joomla 1.5, and even more to improve it in Joomla 1.6. Not many expert Joomla developers use the core SEO functions, and Alec admits that he and his team paid for an extension, the ‘leading’ one. I don’t know which one it was, but a quick look at the extensions Joomla directory for the Editor’s pick and the most popular extensions shows that sh404sef is the current ‘leading’ extension. 6, 7
A quick look at sh404sef’s Terms of Service shows one thing: GNU GPL license. (8). What that means is if Alec was using the ‘leading’ extension, and that leading extension was sh404sef, he should have received a GNU GPL extension, freely modifiable under the license’s terms. Reverse engineering doesn’t exist by definition with GPL licensed software because the nature of the license is to encourage exploration in the code, to help to contribute, and I’d like to thank Alec for helping to fix any issues and contributing back to the Joomla project. I hope he let the developers know what he did so they could see what he and his team fixed!
Alec complains about the core code of Joomla / Mambo being ‘nasty’ and ‘difficult to fix’. Since I’m still not totally sure what Alec was using (there’s a big difference, as we already discussed, between Mambo and Joomla) this could be true, or false. All software has bugs, though. There’s many people in the Joomla community who would agree with Alec, and many others who wouldn’t. That said, whether or not the code is nasty will always have to remain a personal opinion.
The Joomla community is really quite unique, but Alec states that the community is fractured due to the fork. People in the Joomla community are passionate. They love what they’re doing, they are opinionated and they want to see the best for the community. The Joomla community is community lead, there is no single company or owner to tell people what to do or direct the project. When highly opinionated, skilled, and passionate people get together amazing things happen (like the three world renowned, and also free content management systems!), unfortunately sometimes disagreements cannot be resolved. However, its important to appreciate the fact that differences of opinion has lead to some really cool Joomla-centric projects being created. But again, now we’re getting into perspective. The truth is that yes, not everyone in the Joomla community is willing to forgive and forget, but it certainly isn’t the majority of us!
Now here’s something that Alec states as a disadvantage that I’m not at all sure why he thought it was: “Most good extensions are pay”. First of all let’s take a look at the most popular Joomla extensions according to the JED10:
Community Builder (free)
Expose Bridge (free)
Phoca Gallery (free)
Googlemaps Plugin (free)
Ozio Gallery (free)
JCal Pro (paid)
There’s 20 of the most popular extensions on the JED. There’s two that are paid. That’s 10% of what is arguably the good extensions being paid extensions. Most of the ‘good extensions’ on the first page of the JED’s are actually free – 90% of them, to be precise. To top it off I did a quick check on the Joomla extensions directory and found that 5434 extensions of the 8166+ 10 of all the extensions in the JED non-commercial. That’s about 67% of the entire JED being listed as free, non-commercial licensed extensions. A little more arithmetic shows that 2732 actually are commercial (33%).
The point is, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is that Alec is dead wrong when he says that most of the good Joomla extensions are commercial. They most of the extensions, and most of the good ones, are free!
Now Alec starts to say some things that I’d call fighting words: “Rather mediocre developers. Anyone who likes to code in Joomla/Mambo in 2011 ought to see a psychiatrist.” Now, I understand that Alec was just trying to be jovial and good humored, but this sort of comment is really quite offensive to the people who’ve contributed to the project. There’s lots of people who enjoy ‘coding in Joomla’ (not sure about Mambo!). And, a lot of them are senior developers who have either given up jobs or positions at companies to work in Joomla, or have been hired out of the Joomla community to become senior level developers for other companies.
The final point that Alec makes about Joomla is a rather curious one. He states that ‘developer pricing is all over the map’. I didn’t see any sources or research that he provided to back up this point (or any of his other ones, actually) but I suppose this sort of thing might be true. But I highly doubt it’s true for Joomla alone. Developer pricing can vary by experience level, location, economic market standards etc… For any CMS platform, WordPress and Drupal included.