Professional Grade eCommerce For Joomla

Professional grade eCommerce for Joomla is here.

Joomla store owners finally have a professional grade eCommerce solution.

Professional Grade eCommerce for Joomla is here with paGO Commerce

In this post, I’ll focus on eCommerce extensions for Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. eCommerce is likely the most complex extended application any third part developer could endeavor. Since shortly after the founding of each the “big three CMSs”, the DIY / mass market has been well served with VirtueMart, Übercart and Woocommerce respectively, but the professional grade enterprise market has been vasty underserved, particularly in the Joomla and WordPress arenas. The verdict’s still out for WordPress, but good things are now happening for Joomla, with the recent launch of paGO Commerce.

Full disclosure, my firm, ‘corePHP’, based in Battle Creek, Michigan, develops solutions using all of the free, open source PHP solutions mentioned in this article (Magento, VirtueMart, Drupal Commerce, Woo Commerce, WordPress, Drupal and Joomla!), and we are the creators of paGO Commerce.

A CMS History Mini Course

Joomla first rocketed onto the scene in 2005, alongside Drupal and WordPress—a triumvirate of community-based free, open source projects, beginning what was to become arguably the most disruptive technology of the 2001-2010 decade. Accompanying and powering the CMS were each of the CMSs’ vibrant communities. Those ecosystems have produced over 75,000 individual extensions, modules, apps and add-ons.

Free, open source Web CMSs disrupted ECMs along with several technologies and best practices of the day, turning the slow-to-change into instant dinosaurs. In a matter of months, their innovations, feature set, price, cost of ownership and magical open source powers instantly recast Dreamweaver and Microsoft FrontPage into antiques; but more importantly, their huge, motivated communities (nations, really) helped put the power of collaborative workflow and content management into the hands of anyone with an internet connection.

The “Perfect Storm” For Open Source To Take the Lead

A perfect storm was brewing in the early 2000’s, opening the door for Open Source CMSs. First, the industry itself was stalled, dazed and confused after the internet bubble of 2001-2002. Proprietary technology behemoths like Oracle, ECM Documentum, Vignette, OpenText and others relied on their costly, long established sales channels to reach their customers, and growth was rarely accomplished through innovative new features; it was accomplished through buy-outs and roll-ups. Innovation in the ECM realm was for all intents and purposes, dead.

Second, the open source movement was taking shape, and ready to explode. Third, the price of hosting was plummeting faster than the Chicago Cubs’ chances of winning the World Series.  Rather than $100 or $75 a month for hosting one domain, hosters were offering plans of $25 and $10 a month, for multi-domain shared server space.  Fourth (and very much related to #3), Fantastico. Back when all three solutions began, a vast majority of downloads of  Joomla, Drupal and WordPress installs didn’t come from downloads. There was no “cloud” or “SaaS” pushing distribution either. Nope, those installs came in fast and furious through the “back door,” through cPanel. Specifically, Fantastico. My two cents?  All three CMSs have made little mention Fantastico, in their bright, shiny rise to the top, but that’s truly where the lion’s share of distribution originated.

Joomla, spawned from proprietary corporate ECM roots from an Australian corporation called Miro, was the frontrunner. It quickly surged to the #1 Web CMS on the planet, when it forked from mothership Mambo once it was open sourced.

Joomla was followed by Drupal, a former college bulletin board system, started by Dries Buytaert, while at University in his native Belgium. Drupal hit the developer scene hard with a platform-first mentality, gaining traction when the White House took notice, and implemented Drupal in 2008.

Meanwhile, WordPress, led by Matt Mullenweg, overtook proprietary blog mogul Movable Type (remember them?). After dominating the blog world, driven by customers who wanted more capabilities without switching platforms, WordPress naturally edged its way into the CMS category, which now claims to power over 23% of the web.

But enough history…let’s talk eCommerce

VirtueMart is to Joomla as Übercart is to Drupal as Woocommerce is to WordPress.

Most categories for the big three CMSs’ respective app and add-on marketplaces are well served, if not saturated. However, up until now, Joomla has been in a ten year drought, leaving professional integrators and corporate buyers thirsty for a professional grade eCommerce solution.

Drupal had Übercart as a popular but hippie solution for the DIY crowd, and Joomla had its own psychedelic cart, called VirtueMart. WordPress has its own eCommerce solution for the masses, called WooCommerce (recently purchased by Automattic). All three of these eCommerce solutions serve the wants and needs of the hobbyist, DIY, self-serve sitebuilder / tinkerer, needing a transaction to occur on his or her site. The store owner is willing to sacrifice code quality, advanced features, and even security gaps for the comfort of the herd: it’s tool that hundreds of thousands have used, so it must be OK.

Enter: Professional Grade Open Source eCommerce for Enterprise

In August of 2011, the folks at Commerce Guys (led in part by Übercart’s founder Ryan Szrama) ramped up a professional grade eCommerce solution called Drupal Commerce. Well received by Drupal developers, they have in excess of 54,000 installations today.

The Joomla developer community’s answer came about the same time as Drupal Commerce, from the folks at New York-based Dioscouri Design (developers of sites for Guggenheim Museum, among others). They were trial-ballooning a new eCommerce solution called Tienda. However, the free open source business model didn’t end up meshing well with Dioscouri’s goals. The Tienda project never gained traction (perhaps by design), and fizzled after less than two years. The Joomla developer community was left parched for a professional grade eCommerce solution once again; VirtueMart certainly wasn’t the answer.

Meanwhile, about that time, Roy Rubin was gaining momentum, building his own open source empire with Magento, touting a “built-in CMS” (albeit a very weak one, something they’re not promoting today).  Magento’s small business solution ultimately failed under eBay’s leadership, and Rubin sold Magento’s assets off to eBay, which now commands almost one-third of the enterprise market (no small feat!).

Sorry, I promised no more history…

The need for professional grade eCommerce became a showstopper issue for those considering Joomla, causing many to jump ship to Drupal, Magento, WordPress (Woocommerce) and (say it ain’t so!) proprietary solutions.  At that time, even our own firm (‘corePHP’) ended up adding Drupal, Magento, WordPress and other CMS solutions to our line-up of offerings, in order to offer quality eCommerce services for our demanding client base. The Joomla ecosystem simply didn’t offer what our clients needed. VirtueMart was legacy code, inappropriate for enterprise.

That was then. This is now.

So that’s why we finally decided in 2011 to begin development on a truly professional grade eCommerce solution for Joomla! paGO Commerce is ‘corePHP’s new Joomla eCommerce offering this year, and we could not be more proud of this great new software product for Joomla users worldwide.

What we thought would take eighteen months to two years ultimately required over four years to complete. We trashed the code, and re-booted the project twice, to keep up with fast-changing mobility and global requirements.

We’d be happy to swap stories with you over beers sometime, for the extended version of paGO’s evolution, but suffice it to say, it’s been a long, long road, but well worth the journey, now that we’re building professional grade eCommerce sites for Joomla! There are over 1,000 installations already live, and we’ve already released two updates in six months since its launch. You’re invited to check out a Demo of paGO Commerce for Joomla here, or download paGO Commerce for free, right here.

John Coonen