Continuing on with our series of reviewing the most popular content management systems out there, this week we shall explore Joomla! (The exclamation point is there’s, not mine.)
Joomla!’s origins are a lot more exciting than a lot of software, being born out of a tech divorce worthy of a Maury Povich show. The team that created Joomla bailed from a previous software package called “Mambo” after a very public spat over differences in approach, and whether or not the old team had violated open source principles. See the discussions if you’re really curious: the discussions are too complex to be summarized easily.
After the storm
What’s important is what came out of it, and that is a content management software package that won awards straight out of the starting gate. Like it’s rival Drupal, Joomla!’s open source nature has created around a worldwide community of developers who are loyal to it, and who have authored for Joomla! more than 7,000 extensions.
The package has been downloaded more than 20 million times, though to date this hasn’t resulted in the impressive resume that Drupal has acquired. Still, if it can’t claim whitehouse.gov, it can claim Linux.com: from some geeks’ perspective, that’s arguably better.
The facts of the case
The reason behind this lower profile showing can be considered both its primary advantage and disadvantage: Joomla! is invariably described as being easier to use. This manifests itself in an easier installation, less work on those who just want to setup a simple website or blog, more comprehensive tutorial support (enter “Joomla” into Youtube and you’ll get dozens of hits, including its own channel), and a more extensive administrative backend.
While this may make it more attractive to the new webmaster, however, this makes it less attractive to the expert developer. The user is usually locked into a page or website design that doesn’t allow for much customization: and while a number of plug-ins can fix some of the issues that you’ll encounter, not all of them are free.
Joomla! also has a curious number of technical shortcomings. It is considered bulkier, slower, and more resource hungry than Drupal (though both being open-source, one of them has to be). It is also not SEO-ready (search engine optimization) out of the box: again, you’ll need do add some extensions for this. It also doesn’t come initially with the capability to support more than one login.
A middle ground?
While Joomla! is described as more-user friendly and hence restricted than Drupal, it is alternately described as the opposite in relation to WordPress. Could this be a case of a software package trying to find a middle ground between being easy yet powerful? This could account for its almost schizophrenic set of qualities, that can be seemingly looked at as either half empty or half full.
What does appear to be true regardless of all of this is that Joomla! has become one of the open-source packages to develop something of a fan following. That fan base doesn’t look to be stepping away anytime soon which means that, whatever Joomla!’s current shortcomings, if you go with it and stick with it, you probably won’t have to either.