Archive for June, 2011

Magento, X.Commerce & the Community

Posted by: Karen Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Okay, so I’m sticking my neck out here, I don’t blog as much as I would like (2 young children & running WebShopApps.com kind of stops a lot of things), and although I rant verbally I try not to write it down too often. But I’m sort of hoping I can get across what I believe people are worried about around Magento, X.Commerce, Go platform and all the current change going on.

It’s easy to rant about Magento. Buggy code, no support, no roadmap, don’t care about developers…But ultimately for quite a number of us in the e-commerce space Magento has given us a new lease of life, we may have formed a whole new company on the back of dipping the toe in the water back in 2008, and now even be a major player in the space. We may be a freelancer hacking away at home earning a very good living from that one magento extension we sell for $20. Or we may be a blogger providing information for ‘free’ and in return earning an income from consultancy. Magento has given many of us opportunities, and before we rant we must acknowledge that and thank them.

The concerns? Well the lastest news about X.Commerce does re-iterate the feeling that our destiny is not controlled by us. Magento is fluid, it’s changing, new owners, regular new releases, Magento Go, Saas, Ebay, XCommerce, X.com. How do we manage to keep up with this?

What will Magento be in 1 year from now?  I’m not sure anyone knows the true answer to that question, not even Yoav, Roy or the guys at XCommerce.  For those of us whose foundation is Magento this obviously brings questions and concern:

  • How should we invest?
  • Do we send our staff to magento university to get trained in Magento 1.x or will those skills be out of date in 6 months?
  • Do we invest in extension development for a platform that may shrink in the future?
  • How do we get our extensions on Magento Go – can we even get our extensions on there when the only interface seems to be Javascript and a REST API?
  • Do we spend $$$s on developing xyz and hope we can integrate?
  • Or do we just roll over and say ‘hey that was a good time but now I’m ready to move onto something more secure?

My feeling is that Magento haven’t really laid down their identity. The ideal which I believe most people want is for Magento to be a framework for e-commerce. Which doesn’t  have major change happening every month.  We want there to be clear guidelines on what Magento will develop in terms of functionality and what they will leave alone. We don’t want them one day to be developing a framework, the next to be developing an extension. We don’t want to see them acting as e-commerce solution providers, that’s what their Enterprise Partners do. We want to know what ‘open source’ really means for Magento.

If Magento don’t set these clear boundaries on what they are I believe it creates an extremely flaky foundation for the community, and as such results in less investment in Magento, people become wary and look at other business opportunities.

Magento’s perspective on this?  I’m guessing that they would say they are just building in ‘core’ functionality that is either needed to make the platform gain traction (e.g. Payment Gateways on Magento Go), or because there is so much demand that missing these out would cause issues. Or, Magento Go just isnt ready for developers yet. My answer to this is, like test-driven development, you should be doing community-driven development, don’t develop code then worry about how the community can feed in after.

I recently posted on inchoo’s blog that we had to embrace, support the changes and move forwards. I still say that, we have no option but to do this if we want to grow and have a prosperous future. No matter how we look at it we are all on the Magento train. You either get off at the next stop, or you hold on and try ensure you are keeping up.

In my little ideal world this is what I would like to see:

  1. Magento become a true framework for ecommerce that supports web designers & developers
  2. Re-assure us by giving us access to technical docs on how the Magento Go platform will support design & development
  3. Stop ’bulking’ magento with new functionality that can/has been developed by 3rd party developers
  4. Spend effort on making the framework support multiple extension installations without risk of conflict (make it more like how iPhone Apps work)
  5. Setup a working group that consists of members of the community and magento staff, so that communications are improved and we have channels of people we can approach as ‘magento’ outsiders

Magento keep saying that they support Open Source, I think what people really want to see is proof of that in the new Magento Go/X.Commerce space. Then maybe we will be re-assured.

And for WebShopapps? Well, we will be staying on the train (we are needed for the parcel post!), hope they don’t push us off after this blog ;)

Interested in people’s views on this, either leave a comment or contact me via webshopapps.com. Please treat me carefully, I mean well, honest.