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20 September 2021

Here and back again - the Magento Open Letter

Everyone is writing about the open letter to the Magento community. I guess it is because it requires this much attention: The open letter to the Magento community is important if you care about Magento. Well, I got an opinion too! Here is my vision and my personal thoughts on what to do next. O and a mention of Reaction, which seems like an obligation.

The open letter

A group of Magento folks - dubbed the Mage Open Source Community Alliance (MOSCA) has written an open letter to the Magento community (which includes all of us) to announce a fork of Magento Open Source. One main reason to take this step is the fear that Adobe will slowly drop support for Magento open source parts that the community is actuallly relying upon. This, while the only effort from Adobe is put into the Adobe Commerce Cloud as it is slowly being integrated with the rest of the Adobe enterprise stack (among which Adobe I/O).

To read upon the letter, see the following: mage-os.community/blog/the-future-of-magento

Now, making a fork is easy, maintaining it is not. This is also why the open letter has caused a stir in the community: Some support it and some demonize it. Some even say the initiative is a deliberate intent to destroy the community (which is frankly ridiculous). Hold your horses. The letter also states that in the beginning the fork will simply remain compatible with the upstream. Theoretically, no changes are needed. It is just that suddenly the release in the hands of people in the community, instead of Adobe personnel.

The people behind the letter

The letter is signed by 18 people among which Willem Wigman and Vinai Kopp, who also form the core of the Hyvä Themes project. The rest of the people are including mostly Hyvä partners. This might lead you to think that it is actually really about Hyvä, but it is not.

hyva.io/blog/news/the-future-of-magento-open-source.html

It is not just Hyvä. If you know about the Hyvä initiative (and you should by now, if you care about the Magento 2 fronted performance), then you know that it came at the right time: Many devs were disappointed with the direction Magento (and now Adobe) was and is taking - headless, PWA, gRPC, SOA, cloud - and simply want the monolith (with its backend and frontend being one application) to stay (while being modernized, we don't want things to stay the same, yikes). This difference in direction lead to the creation of the Hyvä project, which simply makes many enthusiastic about Magento again.

Dissatisfaction on multiple levels

However, the dissatisfaction is not just with the Magento frontend: What about outstanding GitHub issues? What about introducing new features, while the current functionality is lacking? What about deprecating MySQL search while it was working fine (well, okayish)? Why introduce gRPC and SOA if most merchants want to run Magento on a single server?

There are simply different expectations of what kind of market Magento should serve: SMB or enterprise. And if it is both, then the roadmap of Adobe Commerce doesn't actually show this. Actually, where is the roadmap?

Forking is hard

And to my opinion a fork is a hard thing to do - it requires much effort to maintain, it requires organization, it depends on huge input from the community, it is hard.

I consider most of the signers of the open letter my personal friends. I might be biased because of that. But I also know that these people are part of the #realmagento community for ages. And if they feel the need to write a letter, it is because there is a reason to. They mean no evil, actually the opposite.

Don't stress out on the word fork: The fork is mentioned, but not being put to action ... yet. The real goal here is not to fork, but for the Magento community to become owner of the Magento open source project. Once that happens, a fork is not required. And that's what I would hope for.

The Magento Association its reaction

At Meet Magento Poland 2021 - actually just hours ago - there was a panel discussion (YouTube recording) where board members of the Magento Association were able to react publicly to the open letter as well. A Magento Association Task Force was started earlier to look into this question of open source and there should be already some progress before the end of the year.

That's great. However, I think this is a slow reaction. I personally think that an open source project should actually be focusing upon the actual open source development - developers working together to solve code that itches. I personally hope that the Task Force will consist only of devs. Sure, there are others that have a stake in the source code as well (agencies, merchants, sales people), but the actual improvement lies in the hands of developers.

Where I would place the Magento Association?

Why would a Task Force be needed, if MOSCA already exists? Is MOSCA not already that Task Force? Why bother on placing this MOSCA under the Magento Association, if MOSCA came from the very community that the Magento Association is trying to represent?

Personally, I would rather see that the Magento Assocation works on trying to get complete ownership of the Magento trademark. Let the Magento Association completely endorse Hyvä, not just from the sideline saying it is ok, but actually making Hyvä part of the strategy of the Magento Association. Less talk about how to do things properly, more actual work to move things forward. And note that there is no need for fork, when Adobe hands over Magento Open Source to the Magento Association.

What I think about this stir in the ecosystem?

You might not know it, but I'm Yireo - trainings, extensions, the blog, it is me, hello world. Yireo has always been rather small and in the recent years, Yireo has been definitely mainly me. Plus some friends/freelancers when it comes to helping out with events (Magento 2 Seminar, MageTestFest, Reacticon) - fistbump to all of you. What to do as Yireo with the open letter is actually a personal question.

Some points of what I think of the MOSCA initiative (and the Magento Association) are already outlined above - maybe not as clear as it should be, so here it goes: I think MOSCA is a really needed initiative that we should be thankful for. It is good.

What I do with the stir in the ecosystem?

But what I actually do with this MOSCA initiative is a different thing. My personal life changed a bit (family) and I don't feel the need to stress too much about things (except diapers). On top of that, I already saw the split-up between Magento and Adobe coming up years ago - not something to be agree about, but simply put: Different people, different needs.

And that's why I started to focus on headless (Vue Storefront, Magento PWA Studio). And now Hyvä, because of developers really need to know about it. And on top of that, I started with Shopware 6 last year as well. My income as a trainer-of-developers is secured. It satisfies me.

I'm not on the barricades. I'm not going to tell anyone what to do with their Magento lifes: Some will go to Magento PWA Studio, some will go to the Adobe Cloud, some will use Hyvä and some will move to Shopware. And some evil people will not use either Magento or Shopware anymore, out of scope. Things are on the move. But don't underestimate the timeline here: We will all still use Magento for a long long time to come, at least I will. An open source project plus community of this size doesn't fade away quickly.

And then ... Reacticon

In less than a month time, Reaction kicks off - the number one :-o (well, the only) developer conference, purely dedicated to Magento frontending (and by now Shopware frontending as well). It is free. It is online (virtual). And you might ask: What is Reacticon going to do with the open letter? The answer is: Nothing.

Well, most likely, the open letter will be mentioned repeatedly. The fork-initiative is on the mind of many people and a lot of these people are popping as a speaker at the Reacticon event. However, the conference will be focused on technology, not politics.

The frontend is already fragmented, you could say it is forked - or maybe spooned. But it doesn't mean that the community is fragmented because of this. Instead, having multiple frontends simply shows the diversity of the Magento community. It causes a healthy competition. One frontend inspires the developers of another frontend to enhance theirs. It brings good things. I trust that Reacticon is there to forget about the politics a bit and focus on the frontend technology instead :) I'll be your host for that.

Diversity makes a community

So perhaps that fragmentation that we see when it comes to Magento frontends is also the same fragmentation we are going to see with the Magento core, the rest of Magento: Partially Adobe Commerce, partially Magento open source driven by the community, partially microservices, partially monolith. Because that diversity is bringing up the best in people. While we still have a common ground: Magneto.

Posted on 20 September 2021

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