29 Aug 2007

Joomla and other open source CMS : safe to use ?

Just happened to stumble across the truly interesting article Joomla goes GPL - again -- to make it short, it´s about a sort of "war" between 2 parties:
  1. the Joomla core development team, which has sort of redefined their GPL license and declared that commercial extensions have to be released under the GPL as well

  2. the makers of commercial Joomla extensions who - until now - were safe to do provide their work under commercial license and also encrypt their code, what´s now obviously not allowed any longer.
I´m honestly far from completely understanding what´s going on there and why, BUT :: I´m a developer of custom-made CMS systems -- and at times I´m also a "solution provider" and "consultant" who (depending on the project´s complexity and special demands) of course gives his customers the option to rather have his website built upon existing CMS frameworks such as Joomla in order to make things easier and less expensive to him.

However, this "conflict of interests" certainly does affect folks like me, and it´s most likely to seriously affect those (fortunately very few so far) of my customers which have been talked into using Joomla and using solutions relying on commercial extensions -- brutally said :: neither me nor my customer can now be safe that the developer of extension X will continue providing his work in the future respectively be willing to release updates/bugfixes at all !!

IMHO this incidence does reveal something unexpected :: using an Open Source product as such does not provide *any* warranties to you after all, because :: me or you, the probably somewhat naive developer respectively customer/user, who blindly assumed that everything will be "love, peace and harmony" once you start implementing an Open Source solution, might turn into a victim of *politics* over night, and all your work that´s based on it might be doomed on the short or long run !

Honestly said, it now seems that - once and for all - building your stuff based on well-established commercial solutions might not be the worst decision after all, because once you pay for it, you do at least benefit from explicitely expressed warranties -- established and reputable companies providing commercial development applications (such as Adobe´s Dreamweaver) usually do have a very clear & public view of what they´re doing and why, and as their license scheme is clear, you´re free to sell your work or not, and Dreamweaver extension developers are not forced to give away their work for free either.

Very regretfully not so with Joomla, I have to say, and everyone who´s now affected by all that, should be thinking twice and generally rather switch to something "real", even if they´d have to pay for it.

Providing a CMS to your customer is BTW not "fun for the sake of it" -- it´something that needs to work and be supported even years later. I´m now certainly in a somewhat disproportionately skeptic mood, however :: maybe the whole Open Source / GPL - model might not be the right thing if you need true reliability and persistance ? You always get what you pay for -- and if you don´t have to pay for what you get ... make up your your mind.

Let me just add a final note on "extensions" in general, regardless if for Joomla, Dreamweaver or whateverCMS / development application :: IMHO well-crafted and "relevant" extensions which add important features to their host application, should always have the right to be distributed commercially ! Creating & maintaining & supporting a "good" extension is very hard work after all, and - honestly said - "applications" like Joomla or Dreamweaver would be nothing without all those dedicated folks who added notable value by developing open source or commercial extensions. Mind you -- at times programmers even have to have something to eat on their tables, now where does that come from ?

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