From the director's office
I mostly blog about the Joomla! Content Management System, business networking, and other geeky subjects which I think are interesting.
Joomla! 1.5 - 1.6 - 1.7 - 1.8 ...... Migrate, Upgrade, or wait?
I remember sitting at Joomla!Day UK 2010 in Maidstone and hearing the Joomla! core team talking about how awesome 1.6 was going to be - with the implementation of customisable access control levels, new templating system and all the other exciting developments planned it was like being a kid in the sweet shop! I also remember the response when the team were asked when it would be released was 'Sunday - but we're not telling you which Sunday' ..... finally on 10th January 2011 the first stable release was made available!
Initially like many other people working with Joomla! websites I was quite hesitant to embrace the new version due to the fact that there were very few extensions available for 1.6, and it had only just come into stable release - having gone through this with Joomla! 1.0 to 1.5 I remember the teething problems in the first 5 revisions of 1.5 only too well! However, a few sites came about which could use Joomla! 1.6 so I started to selectively develop in the new system - according to the JED there are now 1000 extensions which are 1.6 compatible.
So, why after such a short bedding in period are we now expecting the release of Joomla! 1.7 in July 2011? The answer lies with the fact that Joomla! 1.6 is a short term support release - it has a support cycle of only 6 months.
From what I understand, the changes happening at 1.7 are mainly of interest to developers rather than adding tons of functionality like the 1.5-1.6 migration.
Basically they involve separating the Joomla! platform - think of this as the base upon which the Joomla! CMS sits, which allows it to work - to be its own entity rather than be intermingled with the Joomla! CMS. The reason for doing this is it makes it easier for the Joomla! platform to be used in other projects than the Joomla! CMS. Therefore a developer could take the Joomla! platform and build something which leverages its existing features. I believe that this concept is somewhat similar to some of the template clubs which use a framework upon which they base their templates - 960 grid system for Rocketheme, T3 for Joomlart and Zen Grid for JoomlaBamboo.
Of course, if there are other feature improvements which can also be incorporated in this release then they will be.
The slightly frustrating issue with this upgrade is that it too, like 1.6, is a short term support release - i.e. the next version (1.8) is slated for release in January 2012 which will then be a long term release.
Joomla! 1.8 is going to be the next long term support release, which will be supported for 18mths. It's quite difficult to say what features will be included in 1.8 because this is largely driven by input from the community (that means you!) however it is worth bearing in mind that changes as complex as the ACL system can take many years to develop and iron out any bugs - so given the short turnaround time since 1.5 I personally don't foresee there being any major earth-shakers in this release.
If you're already on 1.6, when 1.7 is released you will be able to upgrade via the upgrade manager (and presumably via Admin Tools if you use it) however if you're on any version lower than 1.6, you will need to migrate your site to 1.6 before you can upgrade to 1.7.
Unfortunately, there's no way of getting around upgrading your site any more, it's got to be done if you wish to continue developing your site and receiving support for your extensions. There is talk that there will be a 1.5-1.8 migration so if you don't have any desperate need to migrate to 1.6 it may be worth your while to wait until this happens.
So do I upgrade now, or wait?
Whatever happens you have to face the fact that you're going to need to upgrade at some point, even if that means waiting until 1.8 stable is released. Our advice to customers is that if they have a site which would benefit from the features of 1.6 we will look at the feasibility of upgrading it to 1.6. Whether we go for the upgrade or not is largely dependant on whether the extensions and templates in use are available in 1.6, and also what the realistic gains are in comparison to the cost of the upgrade.
For other sites, we're absolutely not sitting back and waiting for 1.8. We are actively planning the projects that we know are in the pipeline to upgrade these sites, such that when the time comes we're ready to upgrade. We are also advising our clients of the anticipated costs associated with upgrading their websites which means they are able to plan their financial forecast to allocate the funds to ensure this is able to happen.
What about new sites?
If you're developing a new site, and all the extensions and templates you need to use are available in 1.6, then I see no reason why you should not start developing in this system. It gives you a chance to familiarise yourself with the new layouts and the way the system works before you have to start using it in anger and troubleshooting complex things when you begin migrating sites. There are enough extensions available now for 1.6 to make most site implementations viable, so give it a go!