Ten reasons Joomla!/Mambo is an outdated CMS

mambojoomla.pngI have since early version 4 of Mambo Open Source been a user, and sporadic contributer. I have been running or administrating half a dozen of Mambo based sites during this time, and to be honest, I started using the CMS just because it seemed so new and fresh, with a great administrative interface and so simple to use. Nowadays, I’m of a clearly different opinion…

I might as well give a short introduction to Mambo. It is an open source PHP based content management system (CMS). However, quite recently a dispute erupted within the Mambo development team, concerning several issues around the ownership of the code base, etc. To make a long story short, a large part of the development team left and started their own fork, called Joomla!, an equally meaningless name, while remaining Mambo insisted all was good and Joomla! was nothing to care about.. Mambo was before the fork a very popular CMS, if not the most popular, but the user base got a bit divided after the fork, although seemingly most famous names in the community went on to Joomla!. So did I, without any special reason at all. But at the moment, that’s not much of a decision, Joomla! and Mambo are almost identical in their current versions.

Having recently been working intensely with Joomla!, and in the same time with WordPress and some AJAX-development I have come to the following conclusion: Joomla!/Mambo is outdated. It has moved from being cool and hot to being mainstream, boring and just old,. The developers are doing a good job, but I don’t like their priorities. So here is my list of reasons that it’s outdated, ultimately a set of reasons to either make some major changes in the code or to start look for another CMS.

  1. The layout is based on tables. It is also very cluttered and when making a template, you have very little control on how system outputted data should be displayed. The templates and style sheets tend to be large and cluttered, with heaps of different, class names, often confusingly named.
  2. The administrative interface is slow and not very user friendly. You can still not sort tables after columns, even though they look sortable. You often get stuck by pressing back and getting the message “Do you want to resend the POSTDATA?”. Some simple AJAX and usability thinking would make the interface much better.
  3. Even though having a very international user base Mambo/Joomla! still hasn’t got a good support for UTF and the way of handling translations is far from optimal.
  4. There is a plethora of templates and plugins, but it’s very hard to find good ones. Many plugins are badly developed, very specialized or cost money. When searching for templates you get hundreds of sites selling templates but not looking very trustworthy. Of course, the fork has caused greats problem. Plugins are being shifted from Mambo to Joomla, some deprecated, and the confusion is considerable. This is very different from the WordPress community, where most plugins are of high quality, and where you quite easily can find the plugins thanks to the blogging community.
  5. The code base is huge and the API is complicated and often inconsequent. Just getting the right information as a developer is a challenge. To add to this, the balance between backwards compability and refactoring is a constant issue, and it seems Mambo is always somewhere in between, in the bad sense.
  6. The whole CMS package is big and bulky, and so is the system itself. It’s often slow, either in loading or in finishing administrative tasks, due to many page loads until completion of a task.
  7. The category system is inconseqent, having sections, with categories, but no more sub levels. Add to this components with their own separate systems. This needs a real cleanup. The same problems occur in the user management system, with a rigid hiearchy of ACL that is buggy and not used everywhere.
  8. Development is very slow. It takes months and months to make just a slight update, which mostly consists of bug fixes. The whole mess around the forking of the code into Joomla! also made a halt in the progress. My guess is that the code base is cluttered and makes it hard for developers to quickly add features, especially when having to consider backwards compability.
  9. Bad support for user content creation, one of the pillars in the Web 2.0 philosophy. To say the least, even though the possibility exist to add content from the frontend, the interface is bad and it is very hard for users to know what to do and how to do it.
  10. To condlude, Mambo/Joomla! is missing the whole thing that elsewhere is called Web 2.0 or the social web. Where is the social collaboration in Mambo, the web services integration, the responsive AJAX UI and the sleek and readable CSS layout? Nowhere, and implementing them in the current code base seems like rebuilding a 486 desktop into a WiFi-smartphone – better to build it from scratch.

I admit, I have compared with WordPress in many of these issues. And WordPress is a clear role model, but it is a blog system, not a full-fledged CMS. Even though WordPress can be a CMS, with some plugins, it’s not optimal. Where are all the modern and original CMS:es? There must be a huge user base that’s craving something new, light-weight, easily integrated and extendable? Please tip me if there already exists such a CMS, and if not, it’s time we start developing one!

Update: You may want to read the extended discussion at Mamboserver.com. If you like me are looking for alternatives to Joomla!/Mambo, here are a few (untested) tips:

Read the comments for further ideas.

14 thoughts on “Ten reasons Joomla!/Mambo is an outdated CMS”

  1. I do agree with your post. Having worked for a major CMS vendor for over 3 years, I’m dedicated at finding and new “2.0” alternatives.

    One thing I will point out, if you believe Mambo/Joomla are bad, try EMC, Stellent or IBM. It’s time for a fresh approach. We simply need to form the community. :)

  2. Welcome to my blog! I’m glad to see that more people see this apparent lack of a modern CMS. I would be glad to join a community to form such a CMS, but it is of course a considerable undertaking to develop a new, good CMS from scratch :)

  3. Hallelujah! I agree 100% with what you write about Joomla!/Mambo. The sad thing about it is that all of the free software I’ve encountered and done some projects with have had almost identical issues as you point out. Is it something that comes if you do a GNU software in PHP with mysql-support or is it something inherent in our human nature that we like to torture ourselves?

    Take a look at all the different cart-systems out there. Same issues with them, I’ve done projects with osCommerce and Zen Cart and they both contain over 1600 files each. If I want to edit the output of one element or make some fundamental code changes, I have to edit at least three pages most of the time. Three pages just to make one thing change. Not to mention they’ve mixed content with presentation and use HTML 4.0 makes me wanna cry everytime I load up some of their files in my developer program.

    I’ve taken the step to actually use WordPress as a CMS instead of the ones out there, since I have way more control over Wp than over Joomla. Not to mention it’s not as slow and frustrating to work with. With a couple of plugins I got the same functionality out of my Wp as I did from a vanilla installation of Joomla!.

    Too bad I’m not to funky with AJAX, but I’m for one would LOVE to see a good CMS with new features, new underlying engine and with separation of content and style.

  4. Have you tried the Typo3 CMS? It’s possible to customize the templates to produce decent html, which was one of the reasons I once selected it prior to Mambo. However, I personally think that the user interface of Typo3 could be a lot better, to say the least. For blogging purposes I really like Movable Type, but it’s a blog system and not really suited for CMS handling.

  5. I haven’t tried it. As I’ve been searching through the net for CMSs lately, I have found there are a load of them. OpenCms is one that looks really good “on the paper”, but I have yet to test it. It’s not that easy to test different CMS :) (although one can look at the CMS Matrix). Anyway, in my mind I now have a long list of features to implement in the “ultimate” CMS. Let’s just see what happens :) Or ,contact me if you are seriously interested in co-developing one, and we can at least discuss it.

  6. I have started to create a new joomla admin panel which makes use of ajax. I have already succeeded in ajaxifying the frontpage com(all content items load in without refreshes) as well as the who’s online module. As soon as I’m done with admin panel I will release a beta version. If anyone is interesting in helping me to develop it, please email me at “(bookworm.productions)(at)gmail(dot)com”. I had hacked the ACl(more like rewrote from the ground up) in joomla a few months back for a client, I will dig up the source code for that project and include that in the release as well. I’m not sure in what direction I will take the project. I plan to either

    1. Just keep it as hack for joomla
    2. Create a entirely new cms.
    3. Get the dev team to make some of my hacks part of the core.

  7. I’m rolling out a new website and although not a blog I thought about using WordPress for it (basically a flash and javascript games site with daily/weekly/monthly leadboard). As I don’t know AJAX but am very comfortable around WP I figured I would need too much userbase smarts. Plus I love the plugin engine.

    However I’d end up writing a lot of custom plugins because I’d be forcing WP to do something it wasn’t designed to do.

    But once I spoke to some guys running big sites the arguement came back to a CMS, So version 1 of Ziggy’s Online is Joomla. Maybe version 2 will grow out of WP.

  8. ok so i read this and i agree with you 200% however you didnt recommend a cms for those of us needing one.

    i wont share my experiences in the cms world until i hear your recomendation first.

    i am not exactly a happy joomla customer at the moment.
    you can find my dissatisfied posts on the joomla.org forums with my name on them (cylent).

  9. What about Drupal? Seems to be the main viable alternative to Joomla. Very Web 2.0 and apparently well-coded. Advanced, node-based content model. drupal.org. There’s also the CivicSpace distribution of Drupal, but I found it a little slow and admin interface ugly.

  10. Hi from New York! I came across your blog posting after searching for oscommerce templates and your post on Ten reasons Joomla!/Mambo is an outdated CMS makes an interesting read. Thanks for sharing. I will research more next Sunday when I have the day off.

  11. Hi Riperdoc
    You have a very complete blog, but it is obviously that this article is very very outdated.
    Have you try or compare lately Joomla and Mambo?
    Joomla is by far superior, even than Drupal, some CMS review sites, have been call Joomla, the number 1 CMS of the world.
    And don’t take my or their word for it.
    In the 1.5 series, Joomla left behind all the competitors, doing a complete development of the template system, and in 1.6 series, we will expect more work on that side, separating design and code issues, at last.
    The GUI of the backend is simple and very straight forward, even my 12 y/o son, can manage (and I mean it, because I test it on him, doing some basic component installation and updating some editorial content.
    If you like to know more, visit: http://www.joomla.org, and see for yourself what “is cooking” for the near future.
    Thanks again

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