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Joomla 1.0 v Joomla 1.5
Date: 2008-11-01

Joomla 1.0 vs Joomla 1.5

*** This is an old article originally written in 2008. It is no longer accurate or applicable to new Joomla install decisions, but has some relevance for those with Joomla 1.0 installs who are considering an upgrade. See updates at foot. ***

This section on Joomla 1.0 v 1.5 is included as it is an important issue for prospective Joomla users, and those running Joomla 1.0. It may also be of use to those running Joomla 1.5 who are experiencing issues.

We receive a very large number of enquiries about plugin installation problems on Joomla 1.5. There seem to be some plugins that most people cannot install on Joomla 1.5, even though they are the correct version in theory. We can't help as we don't currently use J1.5 - though we plan to do so in late 2009 (see update on the current state of Joomla 1.5 at foot).

Joomla 1.0 series

Joomla 1.0 is the tried and tested version of the series. Joomla 1.5 is new and is currently under development. Joomla 1.0 is the safe and solid choice for commercial sites; the 1.5 series can be used for other types of sites until it is more stable. Stability infers that security issues have mostly been resolved, and that plugins are easily installed and work in a trouble-free manner.
Joomla 1.0 is safe, stable, has thousands of templates, has thousands of plugins, all solvable issues have been solved, 99.9% of security issues have probably been solved, it has peerless functionality in terms of features, all plugins can be installed and will work seamlessly, and there are no disadvantages to using it whatsoever.

Joomla 1.5 series

None of the above applies to the Joomla 1.5 series, at late 2008. In addition it has one real advantage only (at this time): it's easier to create a tableless layout via the template. That doesn't really compensate for the current disadvantages.

If using the Joomla 1.5 series you MUST sign up to the J security feed and patch the application immediately new security patches come out. You must do the same for all plugins. A Joomla 1.5 webmaster with a commercial site must look at the security updates situation daily - this of course is what you pay your webmaster for. The RSS feed for security bulletins on the core app and all plugins must be checked daily.

Our target date for adoption of Joomla 1.5 is now end-2009, at which time the security and functionality issues should have been resolved. It takes a long, long time to sort out new CMS applications, which are among the most complex webapps available.

Make no mistake - Joomla 1.5 is a great content management system and of course it is better than J1.0 - that goes without saying. A lot of talented people have put a great deal of work into improving the webs's finest brochure publishing CMS / rich media publishing tool. For example there are template overrides that mean you can have a tableless layout; the tiny maximum list length of 50 has been expanded; there is an FTP layer to override faulty server set-ups; and many other minor annoyances have been fixed. J1.5 is better. But it takes two years for a new CMS, ecommerce app or any other complex webapp to become usable, and there are no shortcuts.

Can you tell Joomla 1 from 1.5 ?
Note that you cannot tell from any page view whether a CMS is Joomla 1.0 or 1.5, there is no difference in appearance in any way; if the template is available for both then it is impossible to tell which version is running, on a site with average content types. There are some modules and templates that are only available for one version or the other, though, so if one of these is used then it is clearer. A source code view will also usually reveal which version is in use. However 1.0 templates have been ported to 1.5 and vice-versa.

Disadvantages of Joomla 1.5

These can be itemised as follows:
  • A new CMS (as J1.5 is) takes 2 years to stabilise, and there are no shortcuts
  • There will be many security exploits within this period - the developers cannot find the holes, the web finds them
  • Templates and plugins from the 1.0 series are not compatible, entirely new versions need to be created for the 1.5 version - and since Joomla is the plugins, that's serious
  • Creating a whole new foundation of templates and plugins takes 2 years - you can see that in every other CMS and ecommerce app, and Joomla is no different
  • It is a new CMS and works differently from the previous version, it needs to be learnt
  • It is more complex than the 1.0 series

Advantages of Joomla 1.5

  • It's better
  • It provides a mid-way stage for progress toward the real end result, which is Joomla 2.0 with a modern code layout (aka a tableless layout)
  • There are many improvements that cannot be seen but that are very important - for example if the ItemID issue is proven to have gone, that is a massive improvement

Joomla 2.0

We are hoping that the Joomla 2.0 series has an availability date by the end of 2009. If it  does, we might try and minimise our exposure to J1.5, if not jump it completely, and go straight to J2.0. The Joomla 2.0 series is planned to be the 'final' and complete version, and will at last - at long last - feature a fully-tableless code layout.

We would then miss out J1.5, much as, for example, many savvy PC users  running Windows XP will miss out Vista and go direct to Windows 7. If you create a new version of something complex, it takes many years to stabilise. Experienced PC users and webmasters know this. Joomla 1.5 will not be as much as a disaster as Vista has been, but nevertheless it has not been perhaps as successful as might have been hoped, due to the raft of issues.

After all, there are probably over a million Joomla 1.0 websites that will never be upgraded.

Joomla SEO

If you need commercial success for your website - have a reasonably straightforward publishing job to do (ie with no complex ACL arrangements or intranet / extranet capability) - want the best multimedia support available - might have high traffic - will have less than say one or two thousand pages - need the best security - then use Joomla 1.0, specifically Joomla 1.0.15.

Don't even consider using anything else unless your requirements don't fit this profile - for example if you need comprehensive ACL, or have 20,000 pages.

Joomla 1.0.15 is the most fully-sorted CMS in the world and is also the most powerful SEO tool available, with approaching 5,000 plugins. If you choose any other CMS your SEO task will be harder - and at late 2008 that includes Joomla 1.5. You will find all sorts of arguments and promotion for other CMS of course, including the fact that in one or two ways some other applications have SEO advantages. This is quite true - but that is theory. In practice Joomla 1.0 gets the best results. If you don't care about the provable results then don't worry.

Joomla 1.0 support

Whether or not J1.0 is officially 'supported' is irrelevant - it hardly needs any support now in any case, it's fully sorted. Joomla 1.0.15 is probably the only CMS in existence that this can be said about. In any case the installed number base is so vast, and the number of developers working with it so large, that it will be a viable solution for a very long time to come (it is reported there have been 8 million downloads). And if the Joomla core team won't continue development, since it is an open-source application with no copyright attached, it is a prime target for another group to pick up and run with - which has already started.

The most successful CMS in the world is hardly likely to lie down and die. There simply is no better solution for a website with under 1,000 pages that needs multiple features and top-class multimedia support. If there was, we'd be using it. If you need comprehensive ACL or other enterprise-level features, then look elsewhere - we recommend Drupal and eZpublish for SMEs, eZpublish and Alfresco for larger enterprises, Plone for some specific applications.

Joomla 1.5 looks to be a fine CMS in the making. When it's ready we will take another look. But Joomla 2.0 will be well worth waiting for, and there are NO negatives to using J1.0. It gets Google #1's by the cartload and does any web publishing job without complex ACL.

Update: March 2009

Here's a comment from a webmaster in our group:

"I hate J1.5. Erratic, unpredictable, inconsistent, but very beautiful. Had to reinstall it again...."

He is a Drupal guy and has several Joomla 1.0 sites, so is not a beginner. What he is saying is that basically J1.5 is in public beta. It looks good (when using the best templates, and compared to Drupal defaults of course), but that is not really sufficient compensation for the problems. However, he is using high-level plugins such as Joomfish and sh404, so perhaps he should expect a few glitches with a new CMS version.

It'll be fine in a few months or so.

Update: August 2009

Things are now looking a lot better with J1.5 and our target date for adoption is October 2009, after the Joomla 1.6 version with core ACL comes out.

There have been some very high quality sites built with J1.5, including examples to accessibility level AAA*, which is impossible for many highly expensive commercial CMS. These top-class installs have tended to be by developers who prioritise for quality and who have created their own plugins and templates.

The plugin situation is far from ideal as yet, but another three months should see the progress we need. Equally, the security situation has been worrying, with a number of very public exploits for the 1.5 series, but there are signs this is improving at last.

* Note that, like most, we ignore the UK Government accessibility Level 1-2-3 scheme as there is no way of testing for it.

Update: Q1 2010

Joomla 1.5 is finally fully usable, at version Joomla 1.5.15. Templates and plugins have caught up and as far as we are aware, all the important plugins are finally in 1.5 full versions and no longer beta. Security is better although still needs to be carefully watched.

We no longer install Joomla 1.0. However we have many J1.0 sites that are unlikely to be upgraded because they are simple brochure CMS sites and are fully functional as-is, and of course with the benefit of the full security of the Joomla 1.0 version.

On a separate note it appears that Joomla progress has stalled. The drive seems to have gone from the Joomla project and progress on the Joomla 1.6 version with core ACL has slowed to a crawl. The central website is months out of date. Joomla 2.0, which has to be seen as the real goal, is no longer mentioned and currently seems an unachievable goal.

No doubt the Joomla machine will recover though, it always does.

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