It Begins - January 2011
For the first time in three years, a major update to Joomla was released in the form of Joomla 1.6, released in January 2011. Under the hood, a huge modernization of the platform had occurred in cleaning out older 1.0 style code, optimizing for newer PHP versions, and refining existing systems. Several larger features were introduced into the CMS and some existing conventions broken. Gone were the Section and Category relationship and replacing it was nested categories. Gone was the primitive and limited ACL system with a more granular solution replacing it. Gone were the days of FTP updates, now you could update Joomla within Joomla.
Admittedly, it took a little time to gain acceptance as a stable platform, and there were some refinements needed in the underlying structure, but overall the new release introduced a lot of new opportunities to the CMS.
New Schedule - July 2011
As far as features go, the 1.7 release wasn't all that notable. Truthfully, as I read the release announcement while writing this article, I felt like it was a larger bug fix release instead of the feature release you would expect from a bump in the minor version number. It did do one important thing overall though; demonstrate the project's commitment to a new release strategy and pushing releases every six months. In fact, this schedule was followed quite well for nearly three years. During this time a lot of features and refinements made their way into Joomla.
Long Term Support - January 2012
Once again, the community didn't rest and worked hard on continuing to improve the Joomla code base. In this period, a shift in how we collaborated around the code happened by shifting our code from our hosted SVN solution to GitHub, making it easier to collaborate on code and easier to follow development activity. Leading up to 2.5, and even in the time right after its release, a new round of features came into the CMS, including the update component, update notifications on the control panel, Smart Search, and the database check screen. 2.5 was starting to show true signs of maturity and usefulness thanks in part to the features that made 2.5 a much friendlier experience than 1.5.
Forward Compatibility - September 2012
Joomla was moving quickly now and was faced with another major release. This release gave the project a new way to demonstrate its maturity, namely how we would handle another major version release and the pending migration that would surely happen. In reality, the bridge from 2.5 to 3.x ended up being a rather easy one to cross by making use of the features we had been adding to Joomla and backporting code into the 2.5 branch to make the transition for developers easier too. Personally, I think this has been the most successful migration for Joomla.
Continued Maintenance Support
Another area of improvement with 2.5 was the continued maintenance support for it. Even today, bug fixes continue to be merged to 2.5 as we get close to its final release, a change from how 1.5 support was managed. By not abandoning the branch and giving it full support, we gave users trust and confidence in using 2.5 all the way until its final day of support.
Though 2.5 may have had what felt like a rushed lifetime, in many ways it leaves behind its own legacy. It helped the project to demonstrate its ability to grow quickly and produce a stable product along the way, demonstrated that we have learned from our own history and mistakes and have taken steps to not repeat them, and in many ways has served as an effective bridge between two releases which will have truly lengthy lifetimes with focuses on long term support and stability.