Magento – Revolutionary eCommerce for Small Biz

“Open Source eCommerce Has Officially Evolved” was boldly declared on a blog post announcing the release of Magento version 1.0.

Since 1997 I have worked on a variety of eCommerce systems and for the last several months have been working with Magento. While Magento is very new and lacks the maturity of some of the more established eCommerce solutions, I do agree that Magento has taken open source eCommerce to the next level.

Here are the top 4 reasons why I feel Magento has changed the game:

  1. Solid Business Model for Free Software
  2. Gifted Designer in Development Team
  3. Incredible Community Outreach
  4. Brilliant Framework Under The Hood

Solid Business Model

Many open source projects start off with a bang and fizzle out. If the backbone of the project depends on a few passionate developers donating their time with no financial incentive, their commitment to the project is often unsustainable.

The company behind the Magento project, Varien, has setup several ways to monetize their open source project.

  • Professional Services (installs, customizations, etc.)
  • Commercial Support
  • Commercially licensed extensions that offer new functionality.
  • Certified Partners Program (other companies pay annual fees to be listed as an offical partner)

Varien CEO Roy Rubin says “Magento is at the core of Varien’s business model”. This statement suggests longevity and stability for the Magento project, critical factors that potential users look for before investing time in an open source project.

By having a for-profit company back the open source project, developers are guaranteed paychecks and have access to resources that other commercial development teams have. This allows them to release commercial quality software without charging for licenses.

Gifted Designer

Drop-dead gorgeous graphic desgin.

The most obvious way Magento has set itself apart from other open source eCommerce projects is the drop-dead gorgeous graphic design.

Most open-source projects looks like the interface was designed by an engineer for other engineers. Magento made the right move by making talented designer Minu an integral part of the development team.

Check out the beautiful screenshots at

Community Outreach

Less than a month after the first production release of their software, the Magento online community boasts 14,905 registered users with 351 members currently logged in as I write this post.

Magento has done a fantastic job of integrating their community tools into their website. A single sign-on gives access to Wiki, Forums, Bug Tracking, & Sub-project development groups.

Members of the Magento development team can be found answering questions on the forum, updating entries in knowledge base, and occasionally providing free training via live webcasts.

The Framework Under The Hood

Not only does Magento look sexy, but it was built on a solid object-oriented framework.

As an eCommerce consultant I felt that if I wanted solid code I needed to use a Java-based enterprise solution like OFBiz or Opentaps. But sometimes that was overkill for simple little cart projects and I’d end up using crappy free php carts with spaghetti-like code.

Magento now offers a solution to fill that middle-ground vacuum. Based on the Zend Framework, the code is all PHP so doesn’t require a special application server like the java solutions do and should run on almost any simple hosting solution.

The code can be easily customized using rewrites of existing code to a local repository of customized codes. This keeps custom code separate from base code and simplifies upgrades.

Magento code is object-oriented, so classes inherit all of the methods from the parent class they are extending and you only need to define the methods you’re adding or modifying. No more cloning vast amounts of code.

Other PHP developers have told me that learning the Magento framework was a big paradigm shift
for them, but any developer with a java web application background should be able to dive right in.

If you have any questions of comments on Magento, please let me know below:

Comments (9)

  1. @Barbara – Actually, Magento isn’t my client. But I’ve used this software for one of my clients and plan on using it for a lot of future projects.

    Thanks for the compliments on the new blog look. Adii & Mark Forrester (see credits in footer) did the hard work of the creating the theme. I just licensed it and integrated my own design into it.

  2. In your opinion, where does Magento end and OFBiz begins?
    Magento looks a great shopping cart with some nice basic back-end functionalities.

    However, when it comes to a grown-up business in need of managing several suppliers, warehouses, drop-shippers etc… OFBiz might be the solution.

    But how well OFBiz’s ecommerce component compares with Magento?

    Considering that simplicity of use, intuitive user interface, on-line specific functionalities are very important for on-line players, as well solid back-end capabilities; is there scope for an integrated solution between Magento & OFBiz?



  3. Hi Osvaldo.

    The advantage of using Magento is really in the way the frontend is handled. The different themes and display elements can be inherited so just changes need to be defined without a lot of cloning (an object-oriented framework for presentation). And the design looks amazing.

    Integrating the two applications should be possible, especially with OFBiz’s robust service engine, but it might be easier to build a new display framework for OFBiz.

    OFBiz has a fairly open architecture. It can use a variety of presentation systems including jpublish, jsp, jasper, xml screen-widgets, etc. I haven’t been keeping up with the latest in OFBiz and Opentaps, but there is probably work already underway on a fresher presentation system with ajax support.

  4. It’s been a year and magento has become even better during this time. More features, improved performance, etc. Those who haven’t tried magento yet but have the intention to do so now can do it easily. Web service Cart2Cart allows to switch to magento automatically, avoiding data loss.

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