I 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and in the same time with WordPress and some AJAX-development I have come to the following conclusion: Joomla!/Mambo is outdated.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 So here is my list of reasons that it’s outdated, ultimately a set of reasons to either make some major changes in the code or to start look for another CMS.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.