Joomla’s releases will now occur in sets of three. Each set of three releases is very similar. You will not see major changes between these three versions, meaning there will be no new administrator templates (meaning a changed interface for editing sites), and third party extensions should be 99% compatible between versions. Upgrading from one version to Joomla to another will mean a simple “one click” update.
The start of the three releases will be called a X.0 release. This short-term release will be good for 7 months, followed by a X.1 short-term release good for 7 months, and culminating in an X.5 release, which is the long-term release, good for 18 months. The development cycle starts over again at that point.
Here’s a chart explaining how the release cycle will work, using current releases and future releases.
|Joomla version||Release date||End of Life||Type of Release|
|1.6||Jan 2011||Aug 2011||STR|
|1.7||July 2011||Feb 2012||STR|
|2.5*||January 2012||Aug 2013||LTR|
|3.0||July 2012||Feb 2013||STR|
|3.1||Jan 2013||Aug 2013||STR|
|3.5||July 2013||Feb 2015||LTR|
* New version number announced on August 9.
So what does this mean for you?
The admin interface changes slowly. The great news is that administrator interfaces will be mostly stable over a period of 32 months, if you ran a site from the beginning to the end of a major release cycle in Joomla. This is terrific news for book and video publishers, as well as other documentation writers. When Joomla first announced its new 6 month release cycle, it was not clear if the administrator template could change every 6 months, or at random points in time. That made it very difficult for publishers to plan new books. We can expect the administrator template to undergo minor changes: bug squashing mostly, but we’ll also see some minor new feature enhancements added. However, the expectation is that the administrator interface will be 85-90% the same, from a site builder perspective, in a major release cycle.
Starting in Joomla 1.6, you can now assign administrator templates to individual users. So if you find yourself prefering AdminPraise or Mission Control as an admin template, but you want your clients to stick with BlueStork for documentation and support purposes, that’s easy to do. This means that you, as a developer, are not stuck with the same admin template that you might not like in the long-term. You can always replace it with something else.
Upgrades between versions in a major release cycle are “one click”. When you start building with Joomla 3.0, you know you can upgrade to 3.1 with “one click”. All extensions and templates should be compatible (or mostly compatible) between versions as well.
When the long-term release occurs, it’s well-tested. Because each version of Joomla within a major development cycle builds on each other, by the time the long-term release happens, the majority of the code base has been tested on production sites for a year already.
I have heard several people state that they would wait a year before adopting the next version of Joomla. If you look carefully at the dates above, you’ll see that waiting a year to adopt the next version isn’t a sound strategy. While Microsoft taught us to wait for the first service pack of a new operating system before adopting it, Joomla 2.5 will indeed be ready to use from the beginning. With 4 months to transition your Joomla 1.5 sites to Joomla 2.5, you don’t have time to waste!