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Getting extensions ready for Joomla 4 - Yannick Gaultier

July-Weeblr

Joomla 4 is just around the corner. With the RC4 version released, the stable version is approaching, and the JCM is still asking extension developers what's going to happen with their extension(s). This time, we talk to Yannick Gaultier, the developer behind Weeblr SEO extensions, who tells us how, at some point, he decided Joomla was the way forward.

Thanks for joining us in this series, Yannick. Could you tell us a little about your extensions?

I have been developing Joomla extensions for more than 14 years, first as a purely community project and then professionally for over ten years.

Almost since day 1, my entire focus has been on SEO and content. We have a small number of extensions (3 plus a handful of tiny utility extensions), but they are relatively large, covering entire topics:

  • 4SEO is the latest all-in-one SEO extension for Joomla. It does or helps you do all the SEO work required on modern sites
  • sh404SEF is primarily focused on SEF URLs management, trying to get rid of duplicate content and also incorporate many SEO features
  • wbAMP was the first Joomla solution to generate Accelerated Mobile Pages

All 3 are GPL-licensed commercial extensions. We also have a handful of smaller, free of charge utility extensions such as 4LOGS to manage your Joomla logs files or wbReactiv to resend activation emails to users who missed it to spam, for instance.

What will happen with the extensions when J4 is released? Will they be compatible, or will the developers have to provide complete new versions?

4SEO, 4LOGS and wbAMP are already running the same on Joomla 3 and 4. sh404SEF will run only on Joomla 3 and will be replaced by another extension, 4SEF, when sites upgrade to Joomla 4.

What should users do with their extensions when they migrate to J4? What should they expect from their extension providers in general? And what can they expect from you?

We're also Joomla users, running our own YMYL sites (Your Money Your Life, it's a Google thing!), so I can tell you how I approach the move: identify "foundational" extensions and the others.

Foundational extensions are those that form the basis of your activity. For some sites, there are none and Joomla content is enough. For us, it's our Support Ticket extension and our Subscription sales extension.

These extensions are the basis of our sites, so any move to Joomla 4 will be subject to full compatibility and of course, extensive testing.

I'm not worried about regular Joomla content; this should be transparent.

The next big thing is the template. Most Joomla sites run off-the-shelf templates made by templates companies. Sometimes modified, with custom CSS or even template overrides.

As a developer, would you say it is important to start preparing extensions as soon as possible?

Certainly, a major platform version, breaking compatibility, requires jumping in early on and a deep analysis of how much work will be involved to run under the new platform. This has to be done on a per extension basis.

Joomla 4 requires some backend code changes, but I would say it's not going to be that complicated, and even a large extension such as wbAMP was reasonably easy to make work.

I believe most of the work will happen at the user interface level. Extensions with a totally standard Joomla user interface will have only minor changes to make. Better wait a bit so that the admin CSS is finalized. Extensions that are not using Joomla UI elements will have no work to do at all. Extensions in between that use Joomla UI elements but with heavy customizations, are more in trouble and will need more work to redo their interface. It could require months for large extensions, so they should already be well underway.

In our case, we have a small number of extensions, but they are huge. And even there, sh404SEF and wbAMP are very different cases. So yes, prepare early, but that does not mean act right away. For some things, it's essential to wait for a stable release, and that's what we do for 4SEF because we need stability to develop something reliable.

How the different types of versions impact the update of extensions (alpha, beta, RC)

As we say a lot in the SEO world, "it depends". Due to the time it took to develop Joomla 4, its "base" internal programming API has been relatively stable for a while now, and we had no trouble starting developing for it from the beta stages. Moving from beta to beta and then to RC required minor changes, if any. Before that was too early for us, I only looked at alpha versions but did not engage the process.

And so, for users, I reckon that beta versions were the earliest you can really start working on upgrading your site. But again, that depends on how complex the site is, how many extensions are involved, etc. Joomla Beta or RC is only one part of the equation here. Templates and extensions are often the key points.

How do you expect the launch of J4 to impact your business?

The most significant impact was probably not so much the launch of J4, but its very existence from the start. It was to be non-backward compatible, it caused a full review of our product lines and some drastic changes.

Non-backward compatibility is a big thing for 3rd-party extensions and template developers. For our own extensions, backward compatibility is (almost) never broken; you can always upgrade from an older version to the current one, even from your Joomla 1.5 site.

I simply had to decide whether it would be possible for us to stick to Joomla and supply professionally supported software for it. Or go and do something else. At some point, I decided Joomla was the way forward and started the development of 4SEO, a 100% new SEO extension, only running on Joomla 3&4. It is a major commitment to Joomla, and I hope and trust Joomla will be around for a long time, with a community made stronger by all the goodies in Joomla 4!

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