Joomla’s decline illustrated in one chart.

Clickbait rules, because it’s actually two charts.

When is the last time you heard someone mention Joomla? On Twitter, I recently mentioned that all people talking about the CMS on the platform were tied to the CMS directly, either because they are developing extensions for the CMS or because they’re working for the project.

Before I upset anyone, let me set something straight: there is nothing wrong with making money by building stuff for Joomla. Or WordPress. Or any other open source platform. After all, that’s what Open Source is all about. Extensibility.

However, it is a reason for concern all the same that the once popular CMS has only become an afterthought except for those for whom Joomla is their bread and butter.

To the rest of the world, the Joomla project seems to be a forgotten relic of the past. It is hard to argue that Joomla is a technological pioneer, when the latest “major” version was released back in 2012. Good news, however, Joomla fans. A new version offering nothing significantly improved over Joomla 3 will be launched in 2019… 2020… 2021… Or perhaps they’ll wait for 2022, because “waiting ten years to release a new major version” makes more sense than all of the release strategies that Joomla has adopted in the past.

Remember that after Joomla 1.5 came… 2.5, because “otherwise end users would be confused?” JandMore remembers.

You might be wondering where this blog post is heading. Am I going to write a slam piece on the CMS I once named my blog after? Far from it. That would require an emotional investment I am no longer willing to make.

So what chart am I talking about?

Joomla peaked in 2015 and finances show it.

Joomla insiders claim that Joomla peaked around 2015 and while there is no written history of Joomla to back that up, I can confirm that this was the period when the Joomla world was pretty damn active – myself included. Hoewever, immediately after the peak followed a decline in popularity and relevance. This has been confirmed to me be quite a few people and who am I to argue with people that have invested more time and money than me?

I thought it would be interesting to see if I could somehow find statistical proof for this, and my inner accountant nudged me into the direction of the OSM treasury.

Why? Well, because the funds of the open source organisation are directly tied to the popularity of the CMS, since their income depended on ads, selling tickets to events and sponsorships. This was before you could pay for a certificate of which I will keep doubting the value as long as I live.

So what do the numbers tell us, then? As OSM is a registered non-profit I was able to take a look at their tax returns and compile a table in Excel – the worlds’ leading data anytics platform, billions of companies putting their data at risk can’t be wrong.

These numbers are coming from the tax returns of OSM, the organization behind Joomla. Although the screenshot should be pretty straight forward, let me try and explain what you are seeing.

  • Revenue: The income of Joomla which comes from a variety of sources – none of which are detailed in the tax return.
  • Expenses: The money that OSM has spend during a year.
  • Assets: The total assets of Joomla. Which is mostly cash savings as Joomla doesn’t really have an office or equipment.

As you can see the revenue has been increasing exponentially from 2008 to 2015. Because of the initial hype and the grass roots nature of Joomla we can see that OSM didn’t have to spend a lot of money during those seven years. That is where the organization built up their warchest they are currently sitting on,.

In 2015, the decline in revenue started, and we can see that Joomla has a hard time adjusting in 2015 as they spend more than they made, but fortunately they had a reserve to fall back on. Unfortunately, this was the start of a trend. Over the next years you’ll see an average decrease of revenue of about 20% per year – if we ignore the fiscal year 2017 where some accounting fuckery happened that distorts the statistics. It’s all the way down from there, with a steady decrease in revenue.

Joomla has been able to drastically cut their expenses as well. Which isn’t a big surprise, since they’ve always refused to spend money on development or any other type of expertise that could have helped them revert the trend that you’re seeing in the trend. There is a certain charm in trying to do everything yourself, but maybe a marketing research report here or there would have been a wise investment to turn the trend around.

Not that there’s anything wrong with believing that your core target audience are developers who want to use Joomla as a competitor for Laravel, Symfony or the zillion other PHP frameworks. I’m sure there’s a niche for that. A very, very small niche limited to the few people who came up with and championed the idea.

But this is not a post about how Joomla’s lack of marketing savyness and not knowing their target audience has lead to technical decay. No, this is a post about finances. So let’s take a look into the past, shall we?

Well, how are we going to do that? By applying common sense and math, friends. Assuming that the revenue decrease will continue to take place and Joomla manages to manage their expenses – and why wouldn’t they be able to do that as they’re obviously unwilling to invest to turn things around – and they manage to keep their expenses in the range of 90% of their revenue, this is what the future descent into obscurity could look like.

Your expert analyst expects Joomla’s revenue to shrink even further in the future, unless Joomla gives the web market as a whole a reason to reconsider them over WordPress which is an inferior product in every aspect that matters to most site builders who are smart enough to know that page builders are hot garbage.

We didn’t add the “Assets” bar for the next few years, but you can do the math. The assets of Joomla would increase slowly over the next few years to around $450,000 that can be used to… Well, your guess is as good as mine.

If I were Joomla’s accountant – which I’m obviously not – I would recommend OSM to spend a little money to answer some questions which they should have started asking a few years ago:

  • Who really is our target audience?
  • What can we do better to reach that target audience?
  • What can we do to attract more developers, the true life blood of an open source DEVELOPMENT project?
  • How many shares of Autommatic can we buy with this money?

I know this post isn’t going to be popular because it’s tongue in cheeck, but it’s coming from a good place: caring about a CMS that is still a potentially great CMS which fills an unique position. The CMS just doesn’t know it yet and needs a make-over, but all het friends keep telling her that there’s nothing wrong with her personality, her outfits that are ten years old or her beliefs that every PHP developer should want to date her.

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