“Will Joomla 1.6 be ready for production sites when RC1 is released?”
Joomla 1.6 RC 1 is expected to be released on December 13, one week from today, barring any major problems or issues.
While it’s great that the RC is out, there are many other pieces that need to fall into place before using Joomla 1.6 on a production website.
What is a RC? A RC means a release candidate, meaning it’s possibly the final version of Joomla 1.6, barring any major problems. It’s likely that bugs — including security issues — will be fixed before the final release. It’s best to wait until the stable version is out before building sites in Joomla 1.6.
Can I migrate my site from 1.5 to 1.6? A migration tool is being developed as of this writing. It will take some time to complete the tool and adequately test it. As always, backups before doing anything are strongly recommended!
What extensions and templates are available? Extensions have changed significantly since Joomla 1.5. Templates have changed less, but they’re still different than the 1.5 templates. Furthermore, there is no “legacy mode” as there is in Joomla 1.5, so extensions must be 1.6 compatible. The only extension I know that works in Joomla 1.6 as of this writing is Akeeba Backup. We’ll need to wait for third party developers to catch up with Joomla 1.6 and make their extensions compatible before Joomla 1.6 will be really useful to us.
Many people who migrated sites from 1.0 to 1.5 discovered how many extensions were not updated, and that they had to rebuild some functionality with new extensions in Joomla 1.5. The possibility of this happening is reduced if you purchase extensions, rather than downloading free extensions. In general, those who offer paid extensions are financially motivated to upgrade their product to the next version of Joomla, while free extensions don’t necessarily have this motivation.
In summary: Even if you can move your site to 1.6 with the migration tool, it’s unlikely that you’ll find all of the extensions to power your site in Joomla 1.6 before March or April (assuming the December RC release).
I strongly advise waiting. Continue to build your sites in Joomla 1.5, with an eye towards a 1.6 migration. That means if you’re starting a new site now, find out what the policy is for the developer or template club for migrating your template or extension to Joomla 1.6. If they haven’t developed a plan yet, find another template or extension that does have a plan.
As an open source project, Joomla is powered by crowdsourcing. One of the ways this happens is by people submitting bug reports and volunteers tracking them down and making patches. One pretty reasonble rule of thumb is that there will be a much much smaller percentage of people that can/will submit a bug report than use the CMS generally.
Before it’s relased as stable, only more technically orientated people are using the beta version right now. These are those perhaps volunteering to work on bugs, or developers checking out the new version. Joomla 1.6 hasn’t really been exposed to the masses, as it hasn’t been released as stable.
This means that the pool of people that will find bugs is much smaller right now. It’s a resonable assumption to say that when Joomla 1.6 stable is released, there will actually be an initial increase in the number of bugs found, due to the simple math of many more people using it in many more ways.
With it’s robust bug tracking system in place, these bugs will be quickly squashed, but I think that the initial couple of releases won’t be as stable as those coming out a couple of months later. We saw this with the release of Joomla 1.5.
However, I think that asking “Should I use Joomla 1.6 when released?” isn’t quite the right question. Really, a better question is “Do I need to use Joomla 1.6 stable?”
To help answer this question, run yourself through this handy flow chart.