After three years in development, the open source Joomla 1.6 content management system (CMS) is now generally available. With the new release, the project has built new abstraction layers to further enable the CMS to run on different database backends as well as leaving the door open to future innovation.
Joomla 1.6 also improves the enterprise usability of the open source project with enhanced access control. Joomla is among the three most popular open source CMS systems which include Wordpress 3 and Drupal 7, both of which recently released their own respective updates.
"There wasn't a specific charge to make Joomla 1.6 enterprise ready, but there was a good understanding that there were key features under the hood that were necessary for larger scale or more complex installations," Ryan Ozimek, president of Open Source Matters the non-profit group that runs the Joomla project told InternetNews.com. "One of the key things is the implementation of a robust Access Control List (ACL)."
Ozimek noted that with the ACL, administrators have better control over groups and actions that can be taken based on privileges. Ozimek explained that access control was part of the previous Joomla 1.5 release, though the system wasn't particularly flexible or robust for an enterprise administrator to make changes and manage.
The extensibility of Joomla has also been improved with the 1.6 release. Ozimek explained that Joomla 1.6 has enhanced hooks and integrations that make it easy for extension users to get notifications of new releases and updates.
While there are both open source and commercial extensions available for Joomla 1.6, the Joomla project and Open Source Matters do not directly sell or take commission from extension sales. Ozimek noted that there are ads on the extensions.joomla.org site and the project generates revenues from the ads. To date, there is no commercial app store model in place for Joomla, though Ozimek did not discount the possibility that one could exist in the future.
Joomla sites will now also benefit from improved semantic XHTML layouts that are supported by the Joomla 1.6 release.
"Joomla 1.5 was a step toward moving away from table based layouts, but we still had tables left in there by default," Ozimek said. "With Joomla 1.6 those have been removed, so the only things left to design your layouts are divs and CSS, and table layouts are only used where tables are necessary to display tabular content like numbers."
From a platform perspective, the Joomla 1.6 release introduces a new query abstraction layer that lets Joomla users run the open source CMS on any number of different database backends including MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle.
With Joomla 1.6, the open source project is also separating out the underlying framework from the CMS.
"Starting with 1.6, a user could take just the framework, which we're now calling the platform project, and write a web application that has nothing to do with the content management system and get all the benefits of the community framework," Ozimek said.
Ozimek added that the Joomla platform project can potentially be the glue used by an enterprise to tie different web services together and provide customized services..
"CMS is an application that runs on top of the platform project," Ozimek said. "There is a growing community of developers that are looking to build the next generation of tools."
Ozimek noted that moving forward, each Joomla CMS release will come out at the same time as new versions of the platform project. As opposed to the three year gap between Joomla 1.5 and 1.6, the plan is now to move to a more agile release cycle.
"We're moving from feature based to time based release and the goal is a six month release cycle," Ozimek said. "With that we can focus on a smaller set of features and move forward more effectively. So for us, the Joomla 1.7 release is focused on empowering content managers with tools for better searching and content functionality."