Confusion over Joomla versions and releases?

Recently, Barrie received an email asking questions about Joomla versions and upgrades, and how the system will work going forward. We are happy to take requests from our readers and address them here in our newsletter!

There’s a new Joomla version every 6 months?

Yes! That is correct, there is indeed a new version of Joomla every six months.

Joomla’s latest versions are released as a series. A series is defined as two short term releases and one long term release.

Short term releases are supported for 7 months. That is 6 months of active development and use, followed by a 1 month period for switching to the next version of Joomla. At the end of the 7 months, short term releases reach their end of life, meaning there are no further security updates.

Long term releases are good for at least 18 months, and they may be supported for longer than that. Joomla 1.5 was a long term release, and when it reaches its end of life in April 2012, it will have been supported for 4 years, 4 months.

Here’s a table outlining the current series we’re in, plus Joomla’s next series of releases (the 3.x series).

Joomla version Release date End of life Short or long term?
Joomla 1.6 Jan 2011 Aug 2011 Short
Joomla 1.7 July 2011 Feb 2012 Short
Joomla 2.5 Jan 2012 July 2013 Long
Joomla 3.0 July 2012 Feb 2013 Short
Joomla 3.1 Jan 2013 Aug 2013 Short
Joomla 3.5 July 2013 Jan 2015 Long

The impact of releasing in a series is significant.

  • We have been promised that extensions will remain mostly compatible across a series. If an extension runs in Joomla 1.6, it almost certainly runs in Joomla 1.7. In some cases, a small amount of tweaking is required, but it’s not a lot of work. Most extensions developers did little to no tweaking to transition extensions from Joomla 1.6 to 1.7.
  • Administrator templates that ship with Joomla (currently Bluestork and Hathor) will also remain constant across a series. If you learn how to use Joomla 1.6, you will find Joomla 1.7 to have the same options in the same locations with the same look and feel in Joomla’s back end. You will see minor changes, generally in the form of additional options, in the interface. For example, the custom HTML module in Joomla 1.7 supports a background image configured in the module configuration screen, where Joomla 1.6 does not.
  • Upgrades are done through a “one-click” interface. There is a very simple way to upgrade your sites from Joomla 1.6 to 1.7, as described in a previous blog post.

Wait, Joomla 1.6, 1.7, and 2.5? What happened to Joomla 2.0?

This past summer, the PLT decided to name the third, long-term stable release in this current series Joomla 2.5. There is no Joomla 2.0.

The intention is that starting with the next series, the releases will include a .0 release (the first of the series), a .1 release (the second short-term release), and the .5 release will always be the long-term stable release.

So no, Joomla can’t count.

What about Joomla 1.8? What happened to it?

“Joomla 1.8” was the working name of the release that would occur in January 2012. It is now called Joomla 2.5.

Why do I see extensions and templates labeled for Joomla 1.7 but not for Joomla 1.6? Or labeled for Joomla 1.6, but not for Joomla 1.7?

Remember that technology marches on!

If a brand-new extension was released today, in September 2011, it would likely be an extension built for Joomla 1.7. It’s likely the developer would not take the time to make it 1.6 compatible, because Joomla 1.6 reached its end of life in August.

Other developers did not move their extensions from Joomla 1.5 to 1.6. There was a significant amount of uncertainty about Joomla’s development direction prior to several clarifications which happened this summer. This uncertainty caused many extensions developers to not move their extensions from Joomla 1.5 to 1.6. However, now that Joomla’s development direction has been clarified, many are moving their extensions to 1.7.

The reverse may also be true. Some extensions developers may have built their extension for Joomla 1.6, but they have not tested it thoroughly for 1.7. Alternatively, they ran into issues, and they are still fixing the extension.

Templates are a bit trickier. If you build custom templates, without using a 3rd party template framework, you will have no issue running a Joomla 1.6 template in Joomla 1.7. However, if you purchase templates from a template provider who uses a framework, the version number is very important. Some providers have had a hard time keeping their framework compatible with the latest versions of Joomla. However, the template providers have moved quickly to make Joomla 1.6 and 1.7 templates available, and many are going back to their Joomla 1.5 templates and making them compatible for Joomla 1.7 as well.

Will extensions providers be able to keep up with upgrades?

It seems scary to ponder this question, now that all of these new Joomla versions are flying around.

However, this problem has ALWAYS been with you as a site developer. You’ve just been really lucky that for 3 years, Joomla didn’t come out with any new versions. It was easy for extensions providers to stay current with the latest version of Joomla.

What this means for you, as a site builder without deep technical skills, is that you need to be very careful in picking extensions for your website.

If you do need an extension, are you picking one that gets strong reviews, has some longevity, and seems to do regular releases? Do they have good support? Do they have a good reputation in the Joomla community?

If not, you’re rolling the dice that you have a sustainable extension for your Joomla site. It’s possible the extension is brand new but will do very well long-term. But it could also be an extension that someone put in the Joomla Extensions Directory once, with no intention of maintaining it.

To increase your odds of getting a great extension with a solid upgrade path, consider commercial extensions. By paying money for the extension, you can ask for better support. And since the developer is paid for their work, you can also expect they’ll be more likely to upgrade their extension to the latest versions of Joomla.

Of course, there are many free extensions with excellent support, like JCE or JEvents.

Should I be learning Drupal?

No. :-)

Actually, Drupal has the same issues with site upgrades. The migration from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 is complicated and involved, same as the migration from Joomla 1.5 to 1.6 (or 1.7). You won’t be getting away from issues moving from one version to another by looking at another CMS.

And my money is still on Joomla making this process as painless as possible. Many of us in the Joomla community realize how critical easy upgrades are. Joomla is to be commended for making upgrades within a series absolutely painless. Will the updates between series be equally painless? I certainly hope so, but unfortunately, we won’t know the answer until Joomla 3.0 is released.