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Getting services ready for Joomla 4 - Victor Drover

December-Watchful Getting services ready

The Joomla ecosystem is vast. A large community among which, in addition to extension and template developers, there are also service providers. In our interviews about the preparation for the release of Joomla 4, we also needed to know how this part of the community is working. That's why, on this occasion, we approached Victor Drover from Watchful.net, a website management tool.

We are very grateful to Victor for taking the time to answer our questions.

What will happen with your services when Joomla 4 is released? Will they be compatible or will you have to provide complete new versions?

Watchful.net is a free remote website management tool. As such, we have tight integration with Joomla sites in our platform once they install the Watchful Client component.

We began preparing for Joomla 4 in the Spring of 2020 by rewriting the Watchful Client. In May we started beta-testing this version within our platform. In September we began releasing this update to Watchful users in small batches. The rollout to all Watchful users completed very recently and we released the new version — which supports both Joomla 3 and Joomla 4 — on the Joomla Extensions Directory this week.

In other words, everyone who has updated to the most recent version of the Watchful client is ready for Joomla 4 should they decide to upgrade their sites.

Of course, we don’t expect a lot of migrations. Currently, the migration from Joomla 3 to Joomla 4 will require a lot of care. We expect to see more new sites built on Joomla 4 than migrations of Joomla 3 to Joomla 4.

What should users do when they migrate to Joomla 4 with your services? What they should expect from you as a service provider?

Watchful users should expect a feature-matched experience as they start to migrate to or build new sites on Joomla 4. That means that backups, updates, uptime monitoring, and all our existing tools should continue to work in Joomla 4 as they currently work for Joomla 3.

As far as practical things to keep in mind, there are a few things to consider if you are managing your Joomla 3 site with Watchful and are migrating to Joomla 4. Firstly, we recommend that folks disable their Watchful monitoring. In other words, keep your site connected to Watchful but disable notifications. We recommend this any time a large maintenance task is performed since we expect a lot of uptime, update and/or error notifications when maintenance is heavy.

Of course, fresh backups are critical before migrating and updating to the most recent versions of all your Joomla extensions including the Watchful Client.

As a developer, is it important to start working on the update as soon as possible?

I think it’s been a bit difficult for developers to time out their Joomla 4 development. This is due to the lack of firm release deadlines over the past few years. We made the decision once the first Joomla 4 beta seemed to be in sight, and I think we got the time OK. I would rather be ahead of the curve than trying to catch up, that’s for sure.

Many of the major players in the Joomla extension community appear to be working towards Joomla 4 compatibility and I’m confident that this will ramp up when actual release dates become clear for a stable version of Joomla 4.

How the different types of versions impact on the update of your services (alpha, beta, RC)

Most Watchful users who build sites with Joomla are not yet experimenting with pre-stable versions. So for us, we have not really seen many issues.

Watchful respects the update channel selected on the remote site, however. That means that anyone using Watchful with the release-candidate update channel is able to update when new versions are released. But as I said, this is not a significant segment of our user base currently.

How do you expect the launch of Joomla 4 to impact your business?

During the first few years of business, a big Joomla release brought a flood of new users. That’s mostly tapered over the last few years as folks seem to be pretty confident that Joomla 3 updates will not break their sites. Based on that observation, we’re not expecting a big change in business either way.

One thing to note about Joomla 4 is that it has a new license manager built-in. We discussed this on our blog last year. It’s an exciting development for Joomla and it’s an area we have a lot of experience with.

Watchful has had a centralized license manager for about 6 years and from experience, we can tell you that there are a lot of different systems used for license management in Joomla. This lack of a single standard means that it takes a lot of work to support updates for a large catalogue of commercial extensions. So anything that encourages developers to adopt a common license management system is welcome news for us and good news for our Watchful users as well.

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