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Is it wise to upgrade or build a new site using Joomla 1.6?

After 5 years of joomla 1.5, joomla 1.6 was released. It’s now a couple of months since the release date, and there has been much debate about the usefulness of the 1.6 update and the length of support that will be provided for the new system. So should you spend the time migrating your existing site to 1.6? and should you base your new build on 1.6, stick to 1.5 or wait for 1.7?

The official news from the joomla website (joomla.org) is that 1.6 is a short release and will have a support time frame of a matter of months.

Version 1.6.2 on 7 April 2011 (short-cycle version)
Version 1.7.0 to July 10, 2011 version (short cycle)
Version 1.8 in January 2012 – (which will release in the long-term = 15 months)

There have been a few major changes in the release of 1.6 which stop many third party modules and components from working. Perhaps the largest being the usage of mootools 1.2. Mootools 1.12 is now very dated and limiting compared to other javascript frameworks which resulted in many add-addonsons using jquery in no-conflict mode rather than using the pre-loaded mootools library. Whilst it’s clear that mootools 1.12 will never be supported in future releases, is it worth upgrading to a new system where your most used add-ons won’t work?

The main advertised benefits of joomla 1.6 are new ACL (access control list) and nested categories, as well as ‘power’, ‘speed’ etc. The problems related to these issues and 1.5 have been addressed  many times in the past and led to the development of components such as K2 (a content construction kit) which offers more options and flexibility with joomla 1.5 than using 1.6 alone. Fotis of Joomlaworks.gr even put out a vote as to whether K2 should be upgraded to work with 1.6 given the short release span and limited benefits. He also suggested building a new plugin to extend the ACL capabilities of joomla 1.5.

Zoo, a similar component to K2 (and also ‘warp’, the yootheme template framework) has abandoned mootools altogether and opted to use jquery due to the difficulty in supporting 2 different versions (and the impending release of mootools 1.3). Read the blog post here.

Only last week an update was released for the ‘stable’ 1.6 which now required all third party components to declare the loading of mootools in the backend, something that was never required before as every single ‘new’, ‘apply’ and ‘save’ button requires this to work. This resulted in every site updated to to the newest version not being able to use the majority of their components and let to a roll back of the update 3 days later.

There are many other issues to discuss, not least the debate within the joomla community itself. One of the most entertaining people to follow is the creator of Akeeba backup (formerly joomlapack) @nikosdion, part of the joomla development team.

There is no doubt that 1.8 will have more in common with 1.6 than 1.5, but personally I will be sticking to joomla 1.5 until things start to settle down and a long term release is with us.

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