When Magento first arrived it was a platform that excited developers, here was an eCommerce platform that was sexy, like a young teenager arriving on the scene of an OAP party. It was extensible, malleable, new, interesting, and it contributed to making geek work cool.
In 2008 Magento combined an open source product with a solid business model that lead to monetization. They were able to marry open source with making real money. So the ecosystem was formed. The developers made modules, sites, the merchants purchased, the hosting providers provided servers and Magento sold to eBay. Money changed hands, people got drunk together and the ecoSystem was created.
The 4 Pillars of Magento
The 4 pillars that I believe are fundamental to Magento are:
- Technology Partners (incl hosting)
- Extension providers
I would argue without any one of these pillars Magento has issues.
On top of these 4 pillars sits Magento inc.
Magento built Magento 2 not on their own but with the assistance of hundreds/thousands of members of this community. Not just in the code, the github commits, corrections, the designs, but by listening to the merchants, the marketing folks, the tech partners. We all had a part to play.
Together we have a community, a living breathing ecosystem. We rely on each other. Having such a community is extremely rare, this community is the strongest I have ever seen, and I doubt many of us will see such a sight again. It is to be cherished.
And let’s be honest Magento struggled for a while. When it was sold to eBay in many respects us out here in this community were left to fend for ourselves, there were a lot of management changes, Magento 2 which was spoken about in 2010 (and should never have been even mentioned) failed to materialise, leaving many of us wondering whether we should continue to innovate on 1.x or wait for the new. We invested heavily in 1.x, we built toolsets, trained staff, created base implementations we can re-use. But mostly we invested together in the community, because together we are stronger, and we know that.
The Transition to Magento 2
When Magento 2 came out in November it was released in a way that said hey here is Magento 2, stop using 1.x, its all about 2. Which is fine if that product is ready for us. But it is not. There is no Connect Marketplace for extension providers to sell, there are few customers for us to sell to and quite frankly the product needs time to bed down.
I would equate what is happening to being in a sprint relay race thats been going on 8 years, to find that the magento 2 guy comes out and slows the race back to a crawl. This is change. Massive massive change. And yes it absolutely needs to happen. I love change, I get very bored when things are not changing fast. But you have to marry that change with business needs. The problem I saw with the Magento 2 rollout was that they forgot that EVERYONE else needed time & support to re-align & start building. Plus we all have to maintain our finances to support our employees during this transition.
In my mind Magento 2 will fly, but it needs time to settle. I believe personally more of a gradual push to Magento 2 would have been far better for this community. Because the high costs of training our staff, of racing from the start line are reduced. Ideally this is what 2015 should have been, we were told to play with Magento 2. The problem was that we were playing with a rapidly moving target.
The big problem I see is that the richest survive and excel in the Magento 2 business model. Because you can put more resources, more effort, cope with longer delays in real money coming in. That is extremely dangerous for this ecosystem, because it means that its no longer about the product, the company, the quality, its about how much money you can throw at it and how quickly.
The Extension Provider
What I believe we are seeing now is potentially bad for an extension provider. Magento had 5 years to build Magento 2, yet they asked extension providers to build new extensions in a matter of 2/3 months. The extension providers are struggling to keep up, and there is little or no support for them, and in my mind a real lack of understanding of what extension providers do for this ecosystem, or the value they provide.
On top of this now we have falling revenue on Magento 1.x because no-one is investing here, extns are going into support and maintenance, I strongly suspect some agencies/devs are just re-using extns rather than purchasing, and its going quiet. But Magento 2 is also quiet at present, there are not so many projects going on. The race stopped whilst we all regrouped. But we have to keep earning money. This is a dangerous time.
And let me be clear here, my self-interest as an extension provider is reduced because my path is via ShipperHQ. I saw this coming, I pivoted my company 3 years ago to remove the dependency on Magento, to protect myself. Yes a fall in 1.x sales hurts of course, but I’ll survive it. Other extn providers may not able to do this.
My concern with extension providers is that the high-end agencies are internalizing Magento 2 code and just producing themselves. Because the extn providers are not ready. So you could argue the extn providers failed to protect themselves, or they should be happy with the ‘rest’ of the ecosystem, or you could argue that 1 of the 4 crucial pillars of this wonderful community which really held up magento when it struggled on features, well its now being forgotten.
There is a lot of focus on the agencies, mainly at the top-tier. A lot of focus on the high-end merchants. But Magento is more than this. Do not forget. I remember the merchant/developers that embraced this platform, that cultivated and nurtured this community. The innovators, the hackers, those that chose to stay when eBay arrived and turned everything upside down.
Something is happening that is truly brilliant for the extension community though. Kristof Ringleff(fooman) has almost single-handedly setup ExtnDN. This is essentially a working group for Magento extension providers to have a voice together. All members agree to a code of conduct, we vet everyone that joins and we hope to improve the Magento extension space for all by self-enforcing, by taking responsibility ourselves where we can. For those of you that aren’t aware of Kristof this is one of the greatest innovators in this ecosystem, and a great example of a person/company we should celebrate, cherish and protect.
Magento needs to invest in this Community
I believe Magento needs to invest in this community over and above having community outreach people like Ben and Sherrie (both of whom add tons of value and I have the deepest regard for). No disrespect to either but this is much more than having fun at a conference, chatting on twitter, or being able to evangelize across stack overflow (and I know they do much much more than this so please don’t shout at me on this one!). Most of this community doesn’t reside on twitter (shock horror) or attend conferences. We need to reach those people in other ways.
This ecosystem depends on Magento for its livelihood, and in many cases decisions made by Magento may impact the independent developers in such a way that their 8 year investment in Magento can be lost in a matter of months.
Here is my Proposal/Request
I believe we can do better, I believe Magento can do better, and I would like Magento to truly acknowledge this ecosystem in more than just tweets and a weekly blog post.
I dont sit here and say that all aspects of below must be implemented. I am throwing this out because I believe we now need to strive for better if we want Magento the ecosystem to truly thrive in the next 3-4 years. I’m fed up of waiting for Magento to catch up in terms of marketing, content, roadmap, etc. I’ve sat and I’ve waited. Now I would like action.
- A round-table working group that brings together different parts of the ecosystem quarterly with Magento to discuss roadmap, issues, concerns, new ideas, etc. This should be run by the community, with rotating members, and be made up from agencies, merchants, tech partners, extn providers, from all tiers and include a representative from the contract developer side of this community (Kristof is already pursuing this working group with Magento)
- An area on Magento Connect that is within the Magento 2 admin panel (like the Platinum Partner section) that focuses on innovative extensions from developers/agencies that are not necessarily in any partner program. Again I think this should be rotating
- A commitment from Magento in ensuring that standalone Magento Enterprise extensions will be evaluated alongside tech partner solutions and offered as options to merchants if such a point arises where Magento are bundling Enterprise with 3rd party integrations
- An increased marketing focus on the community, whether this is via a new blog, or in the current Magento blog, that focuses more on the value of what this community provides via case studies, interviews, reviews, etc. This should be outside of a forum post, it should be a blog that Magento uses to reach out to its community of merchants. It needs to be run by Magento because Magento has the reach
- An integration fund for extension providers that are struggling with the Magento 2 transition but have powerful extensions that are much in demand. Maybe this fund is part powered by the community/agencies?
- A loan capability for extension providers that have demonstrated clear demand for their product in 1.x so these developers can get their extensions out faster, paid back by their Magento Marketplace sales in the future, or crowdfunded (e.g. take an additional 10% of revenue)
- Transparency to this community about the Magento roadmap for the next 12 months (rolling) so that we can take appropriate business decisions to be ready for change and ensure we don’t suddenly lose income because Magento has just decided to build out/acquire a feature we are selling into
- An awards ceremony at Magento Imagine that recognizes the innovators, those that push the boundaries, those that contribute above and beyond the financial. In short an ceremony that appreciates the people like Alan Storm who is essentially now making Magento 2 useable for the rest of us. This awards ceremony in my opinion should include a token payment to the winners (because actually 2K to some of these people really does mean a lot)
- More transparency/information online from the Magento 2 management team throughout the year rather than being limited to Imagine or the need to attend conferences around the world to get any information
- A playing field that is level. Where we are all respected and where the greed of money does not outweigh the desire for the product to succeed
- Definite marketing around Magento 2 (or Magento 1 I don’t care) in order to bring in more merchants at all levels to this ecosystem and a proper infrastructure to get these merchants up and running quickly
- Magento outlines their plan for Magento Marketplace include details on how 6000+ extensions will be sensibly reduced to the hundreds, and gives details on the policy they are following in selecting extension providers (including the monetary drivers)
- Clear understanding of the Magento team/organisation, including information on who are Points of Contact, where we go for what information, what we need to be reading regularly, how we can communicate effectively with the right people within Magento
- A commitment from Solution Partners to adhere to copyrights around extensions, including paying for a long-term license when they are internalising, transferring from 1.x or in any way infringing on the original license
- A solid and definite commitment from Magento to back up extension Providers and not support any companies that are actively profiting from the illegal use of extension codebase including agencies & tech partners
- All members of the community, including Magento to full acknowledge where code has been either included in their work or used as a reference for their work. This should involve giving credit where appropriate (e.g. for patches released), and with regard to OSL extensions I am proposing that all people embedding other extn code within their codebase must give credit in the Magento admin under the extension heading
My message to Magento is invest not just in Gold Technology Partners, Gold Solution Agencies, VC-backed Silicon Valley companies that spin in 1 day and spin out another, but take some of the revenue you earn from that and invest in the rest of the ecosystem in a positive way. Because we are the innovators, we are the ones with businesses built on trust, content and quality, we understand Magento and can take it far beyond what you can ever do alone, we have proved this time and time again. Without us there are definite issues. It is time to step up. Do not create tiers of power, create inclusion.
Because then you will be so much greater than you are today.
We all need to change, to adapt, we all have our part to play. I acknowledge that 100%. But I see how other platforms are working and I believe Magento can and should step up here. Thats my view. I don’t expect you to agree with me.
Let me just say I am an innovator, a disruptor, a small company owner, and ultimately just an engineer finding my way thro this craziness. I hope I am someone who questions in order to make us think and be better. I’m not afraid of being wrong, because it is better to be wrong in my mind and ask the question than to sit at the back of the room and accept what is being said. Mostly tho I actually give a shit about this ecosystem, I really care about it and I see so many faces of people/companies/families that are affected by what we do and what Magento does. I believe Magento inc. can be business focused whilst maintaining a very firm commitment to a community. That is where we will succeed.