State of the union

Posted on October 24, 2011 by richard

Writing this in the fall of 2011, it’s hard to believe that Magento has been with us for only four short years.
Then again, four years is a long very time in the context of Internet technologies, and during that time we have seen a lot of changes.

It used to be that Open Source E-commerce was represented by OSCommerce and Zencart – two systems that were justifiably looked down upon by the legion of .net developers with their proprietary platforms. Magento has certainly changed all that. In fact Magento has finally made Open Source E-commerce acceptable even to the largest and most conservative companies.

This is causing a sea change in the industry and a noticeable retreat from traditional agency developed systems. Rather than developing entire platforms, it makes sense for agencies to add value to the existing Magento code base by producing modules that provide specific enhancements and features. There is even a burgeoning market for these modules that sees agencies trading with each other in what has rapidly become a thriving ecosystem.

Clients too have finally woken up to the problem of agency lock-in – why should they pay a lot of money for a system that is not portable? After many bad experiences clients now demand that they at least have the option of taking their business elsewhere without having to write off their existing investment. In our experience, the more freedom a client is given to leave, the more likely it is that they will stay exactly where they are.

This year has been a particularity momentous one for Magento. The first major surprise was the launch of Magento Go in the early spring – the Software as a Service (SaaS) solution for smaller retailers designed to allow Magento to compete with the likes of Shopify and others. This was followed up by the news that Ebay have now taken 100% ownership of Magento and announced their intention to create a new project called X.Commerce by blending Magento with Paypal and services provided by the Ebay site itself.

Should we be worried by these developments? Personally, I don’t think so. As developers we should celebrate the success of the Magento platform, and we should all be reassured by one of the key advantages of an open development model – the power to fork. If EBay fail to give us the love we all crave and deserve, rest assured that a fork will be quickly forthcoming. If EBay understand the power of the Open Development model that has given Magento an advantage, they will need to tread very carefully with the new project – they certainly won’t want to repeat the furore caused by Oracle around Java and Mysql since they acquired Sun Microsystems.

As we approach the end of the year, I think we can safely say that the state of the Magento union is healthy. As more and more developers adopt Magento and other open technologies we will surely see both competition and opportunity increase, which in turn will help to provide increasing levels of innovation. Increasing innovation will help us to provide both compelling solutions and an increasing Return On Investment (ROI) to our clients. When all said and done, anything that helps us to help our clients grow their businesses has got to be a good thing.

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