Is Joomla Dead?

It’s been frequently debated — is Joomla, the once-popular content management system, dying out? Read on for the history, stats, and facts.

It’s been frequently debated — is Joomla, the once-popular content management system, dying out?

The question has been widely discussed among the web development industry for several years now, with growing concerns gaining traction since around 2016.

It’s a notion that troubles many professionals who work regularly with the CMS, and has been a cause for concern for Joomla developers, site administrators, and others who have built their career around the popular CMS.

And in fairness, it’s a good question to be asking. After all, what’s the point investing time, money and resources in a software which is so damned?

If you’re concerned with the prospect that Joomla may be headed toward a bitter end, keep reading.

Because in this blog post, I’m going to take you through the history, the facts, and the prognosis. I’ll also be giving you my personal opinions on the state of Joomla, and whether or not these concerns are justified.

If you want to know more about the current state of Joomla and where it’s headed, read on.

A brief history of Joomla

Joomla’s initial debut was in August 2005, some 13 years ago. The CMS has seen over a decade of continuous development, adoption, and success.

There’s more to Joomla’s beginnings, though. Prior to 2005, there was Mambo, the god-father of what we now know as Joomla.

Joomla was the result of a fork of the Mambo content management system, and the changes and development that Joomla saw was soon to push Mambo aside.

Today, Joomla exists, and Mambo no longer does.

Joomla’s Decline

Generally, Joomla has always boasted a powerful set of features, and has been very good at what it does.

As a CMS, Joomla manages content very well, and empowers site administrators, developers and content authors with a broad range of tools to streamline and simplify the process.

But it’s important to note — Joomla has also seen several major setbacks in its use and adoption.

Perhaps most notably, the CMS has historically endured periods of uncertainty after the discovery of critically vulnerable security holes.

The developers of the CMS have been proactive in rectifying such vulnerabilities, but the community has been hit hard on several occasions.

One such case occurred in 2015, when millions of Joomla sites became vulnerable overnight due to a dangerous SQL injection vulnerability, after the announcements made by Joomla’s security team, as covered by Digital Journal.

In fact, I was discussing the state of Joomla about a year ago with a colleague of mine.

He’s a WordPress developer, for what it’s worth.

Though WordPress sites have also faced their fair share of security vulnerabilities over the years, he had a theory for the perceived decline in Joomla adoption. And yes, it’s related to the perceived security issues of the CMS.

He was strongly of the opinion that falling Joomla stats were largely due to the swarms of negative publicity that the CMS received— subsequent to a string of potentially catastrophic security holes in the past.

And that makes sense. After all, his clients at the time were amongst the victims of Joomla’s issues with security.

The negative attention that Joomla has encountered after its troubled history with security vulnerabilities have, admittedly, been much to the CMS’ disadvantage.

But there is hope.

The CMS is today more secure than ever before, and it’s now been quite a number of years since vulnerabilities of such a critical nature have been reported.

Most importantly, Joomla websites haven’t been exploited at such a broad scale as in earlier versions of the CMS, such as Joomla 1.5.

It seems that with the previous release of Joomla 3, and subsequently 3.5 and beyond, the developers of the CMS have seriously upped their game.

And with the release of Joomla 4 on the horizon, we only expect things to improve.

It seems to me that the situation regarding the widespread queries around Joomla’s security have mostly been a matter of bad press.

As a matter of fact, WordPress accounted for 90% of all hacked CMS-powered websites in 2019, according to ZDNet.

With respect, Joomla websites only accounted for a total of 4.3% of hacked sites in 2018, as data from digital security firm Sucuri reports.

And Drupal, widely recognized as the world’s most secure CMS, didn’t trail far behind Joomla itself, accounting for 3.7% of compromised websites running a CMS.

When comparing the stats, it would seem that Joomla isn’t far off from the watertight security standards that Drupal upholds, and in fact poses a much minor threat level than WordPress.

That’s quite important to note. Most notably because WordPress isn’t seen so much as ‘insecure’.

These statistics lead me to believe that rather than insecure coding practices, the fear looming over Joomla’s security is more to do with an unfortunate case of PR.

Admittedly, Joomla is the only open-source CMS in the world that is maintained 100% by volunteers.

Competing content management systems are supported, even the likes of WordPress and Drupal, receive sponsored development from many large organizations, in spite of the fact that they are open-source and free to use.

Even though these products don’t require commercial licensing, they receive financial input in a variety of forms—whereas Joomla’s ongoing maintenance and development is managed completely by a long list of global volunteers.

This is certainly something that Joomla should be proud of, but unfortunately positions it in a place that its alternatives don’t quite have to battle.

So, is Joomla Really Dying? - The Statistics

I think the notion that Joomla is "dying out" as a CMS is, quite honestly, far fetched. I just don't think it's an accurate way of describing the current state of the CMS.

After the rising popularity of WordPress, and now with the explosive growth of do-it-yourself website builders (such as Squarespace and Wix), many new sites are emerging by use of these tools.

That doesn't actually say anything about Joomla, though.

There are indeed many more options today for website development than ever before, but it's ridiculous to say that a rise in WordPress adoption leads to a direct decrease in legitimate Joomla use cases.

Many self-proclaimed "experts" on the web have used Google Trends as a way of demonstrating dwindling Joomla needs.

And while Google Trends is an amazing source of information — if used wrong, a single result can lead many to draw a misinformed conclusion.

Let's take a look at some raw statistics from Google Trends, laid bare.

I'm going to carefully analyze them to help you understand what I mean.

Here's a screenshot from Google Trends, showing the popularity of the term "Joomla" when entered into Google search, since 2017:

So easily, we can see that relatively, the search numbers for the phrase "Joomla" in Google search have steadily declined since 2017.

They seem to have evened out since around mid-late 2018, after a small peak of interest, and don't seem to have dropped much since then.

Based on this information, we might be lead to conclude that since interest in Joomla has decreased relatively since 2017, the CMS is becoming less popular. And as such, there's less adoption, fewer job opportunities, and potentially no good reason to choose the CMS for ambitious new projects.

Well, you'd actually be wrong to assume this.

I appreciate that might sound strange, but take a look at this:

I then ran a search in Google Trends for "Joomla Developer", and look what I got:

As we can clearly see, popularity of the term "Joomla Developer" hasn't dwindled. With a few peaks and troughs, it's remained pretty stable along the last few years.

What does this mean? Quite simply, just as many people are looking for competent Joomla developers as they were in recent years.

If demand for Joomla development was declining, we'd see a decreasing rate of interest in much the same pattern as the first screenshot.

In other words, Joomla development obviously remains as good a career opportunity as ever! There are multiple explanations as to why the sole search term "Joomla" may appear to be declining in interest.

There are so many factors that are at play here, but as we can see, a more focused search is still producing healthy interest, and subsequently, lots of opportunities.

The fact that the term "Joomla" shows a decline since 2017 may simply mean that more online users are aware of what it is, or that an increasing number of people visit the official Joomla website directly, rather than via Google search. It could mean that Joomla is experiencing less bugs and security issues, which means that users aren't scouring Google for the latest news on possible issues with their Joomla installation. It could also mean that Joomla's audience has matured and solidified, meaning that there has in fact been an increase in adoption among sites worldwide, which therefore leads to a reduction in research of the term "Joomla", since they're already aware of, or are using the CMS.

See? It takes quite a keen eye to analyze these results correctly, and in an informed way.

I tested this theory out again, using the phrase "Joomla agency". This way, we could also see what demand has been like for Joomla agencies in the last few years.

And the result is quite interesting — here's what I got:

From the results for this search, it would appear that worldwide interest in Joomla agencies is also rather steady. As expected, there are periods of highs and lows, but overall the results are quite stable.

In fact, Google actually predicts an increase in popularity for the search term shortly, as you can see at the end of the graph (on the very right side).

Interesting, huh?

I'll leave you to analyze these results for yourself, and perhaps you should also check out data from Google Trends, so you can see this for yourself first-hand.

The problems with Joomla

Joomla itself doesn’t have a problem as a CMS. At least, as a CMS expert, I don’t believe so.

I’ve been using the software for the best part of ten years, and as a CMS, I can wholeheartedly say, Joomla is a great piece of software.

It’s been heavily built upon over the last five years in particular, especially since version 2.5.

And today, Joomla packs a bigger punch than ever before. Not only is it highly customizable as a CMS, but Joomla is now easier and more efficient to work with than ever before.

Extending the CMS using custom code, overrides, and third-party extensions is a much more functional, uniform process than the bulky methods employed by alternative content management systems.

Having said that, there is evidently a problem somewhere, since adoption rates of the CMS have seen a decline. Having observed the response to Joomla over the last ten years, I can say with confidence that Joomla’s biggest problem is one of marketing and public perception.

Taking the views of my colleague as I recounted above, for example, it’s clear that the public’s perception of Joomla doesn’t quite match up to the realities, especially today.

Joomla has long been viewed as a “middle ground” between the ease of WordPress, and the complexity and power of Drupal; the two most popular alternative content management systems.

This is, unfortunately, a troubled position.

At first thought, it may sound like a strength—to position a product as mid-range, compromising between two vastly different extremes. But the fact is that over time, it’s caused Joomla a very big problem.

Back in the day, this marketing strategy may have worked better. In fact, it did work better.

But as WordPress has developed a slightly wider set of core functionality, and Drupal has catered to medium to larger websites, users today probably overlook Joomla, favoring WordPress for ease, and Drupal for power.

What they are missing though, is Joomla’s flexibility. Today, the CMS is not only innovative and feature-rich, but also much more secure than it was in years gone by.

However, as of late, an interesting shift has been introduced. And it’s not just to do with Joomla; but it’s second-biggest competitor, Drupal.

The recent release of Drupal 8, which has seen a significant overhaul in function and capabilities, seems to be marketed toward a more enterprise market.

In fact, most developers within the Drupal ecosystem recognize that the latest version of Drupal is suited far more to enterprise-level clients.

Potentially, this could eliminate Drupal as a direct competitor to Joomla; since their target markets are now so different. Joomla is marketed as a multi-purpose CMS, that is suitable for websites of all size and scale, but quite conversely, Drupal now appears to be repositioning itself.

This is good news for Joomla.

In this new move by Drupal, Joomla has an increased opportunity to acquire new adopters from Drupal’s market share; those who now view Drupal as “too advanced” for their projects.

Or in other words, for smaller websites, Drupal can now be described as overqualified.

If this trend continues, Joomla also has the opportunity to convert WordPress users who are seeking increased functionality and development capability, instead of losing them to Drupal.

And with the impending release of Joomla 4, now is a better time than ever.


What do you think about the current state of Joomla, and what the future holds for the CMS?

Let us know in the comments.

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