A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

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sozzled
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A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by sozzled » Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:25 pm

It's unsurprising, really, that this forum received a lot of urgent cries for help from people who have old websites built with outdated versions of Joomla, Joomla extensions and webserver software. It's just human nature to build something and then "hope for the best" that the structure will last, more or less indefinitely, without having to maintain it.

The world of technology isn't like that.

The technological landscape we knew (when Joomla 1.0 was created in 2005) is vastly changed. The iPhone hadn't been invented. People were still using Internet Explorer 4 or Netscape Navigator 2 (remember them?) and they went to bookshops to buy reference manuals! So, is it really surprising that websites that were built a few years ago are, today, showing their age?

Why is it, then, that the majority of Joomla websites are still running on outdated, obsolete and unsupported platforms? I suspect that the reasons are five-fold:

1) People are lazy. Not everyone is lazy, of course, but, unless something is really urgent, we usually put off until tomorrow what we probably should be doing today; things like eating a healthy diet; doing some exercise; doing the housework ... and so on. If they're not lazy then some people expect someone else to do their chores for them when they get into a fix.

2) Some people think that nothing ever changes—"if it ain't broke don't fix it"—but how do they know that nothing ever changes?. That's not to say that they're ignorant but some people cannot come to terms with reality. Everything changes! There are three kinds of people in this world: those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; and, those who wonder what happened.

3) People are miserly. They don't want to spend time or money fixing something. Yet these same people will willingly spend a few dollars dining out, going to the movies or driving to the supermarket every day to buy one or two items, or they'll spend their time idly sitting in an armchair and not lift a finger or spend a dollar to help themselves productively.

4) People think that Joomla is "three-mouse-clicks-and-hey-presto-instant-website". It isn't. Joomla is serious webcraft. Unfortunately, many webhosting providers and some template developers often dumb things down by offering "quick installation" packages that achieve a kind of instant website "solution" and that's one of the reasons we have as many websites using outdated software that we have.

5) The misguided "loyalty" factor: one of the symptoms of this is "I can't update my website because my webhosting provider doesn't support the such-and-such version of something-or-other." That's not a reason; that's just one of many excuses!

There are other reasons, too numerous to mention, but I think the ones I've listed above cover most of it.

Let's look at who's using what versions of Joomla (source: https://developer.joomla.org/about/stats.html):
j3_usageStats0119.png
This is not the complete picture, of course, but the breakdown by version is: J! 3.5 (17.3%), J! 3.6 (32.3%), J! 3.7 (11.5%), J! 3.8 (26.5%) and J! 3.9 (11.8%). Other versions of J! are not included and this information is taken only from those websites where the owners have allowed the statistics to be collected (see also Share your Joomla usage information with the community).

A bigger problem begins to emerge when we look at PHP usage and the reliance that people place on using end-of-life, dead and buried, versions. The vast majority of J! website owners (that is over 90% of all Joomla users, if we are to believe the usage stats) are using end-of-life, unsupported versions of PHP (see table below):
j3_phpUsage.png
With many webhosting companies cutting off the oxygen in regards to PHP 5 (or simply changing their hosting platforms to use PHP 7) there are going to be a lot of people waking up one day to find that their Joomla website(s) don't work. Inevitably, the forum will receive the usual run of cries for help that will start with "I haven't updated my website in a while but, today, I could update from J! something-ancient to J! the-current-version. Please help!"

As sympathetic as we will try to be, what would you like us to do about the situation?

For the one-in-ten people reading this who have kept pace with technology and they're using the latest version of J! and using an actively supported version of PHP, congratulations! You're in that first category of people who make things happen. For the rest of you (that's the other 90%) it's time to wake up, smell the roses and get active ... or go back to sleep in the comfort of your nothing-has-changed world (... but how do you know?).
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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by publisher1978 » Sun Apr 07, 2019 8:56 pm

Good post. An additional thing to consider is that outdated content management systems can drive away top talent that you recruit to maintain them.

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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by Ellsinore » Sun Apr 21, 2019 12:19 am

I agree, great post. But I think you left out a reason that is probably more prevalent than you might think. I've been trying to update my Joomla! site(s) for over a year and have been failing miserably. I'm (again) this weekend working on one that won't work above Joomla! v.3.8.13 and/or PHP 7.0. I've devoted countless hours and weekends trying to get it up-to-date with no success -- and that's why I'm slogging through forum posts yet again and happened on this one.

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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by toivo » Sun Apr 21, 2019 5:51 am

@Ellsinore, if you refer to your topic "500 Error on Upgrade to 3.9" at viewtopic.php?f=708&t=966912, you have not posted the results from the Forum Post Assistant (FPA), which usually helps to identify obsolete extensions. Changing the level of error reporting to 'Maximum' and enabling the Debug option are also useful.
Toivo Talikka, Global Moderator

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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by Ellsinore » Sun Apr 21, 2019 5:48 pm

toivo wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 5:51 am
@Ellsinore, if you refer to your topic "500 Error on Upgrade to 3.9" at viewtopic.php?f=708&t=966912, you have not posted the results from the Forum Post Assistant (FPA), which usually helps to identify obsolete extensions. Changing the level of error reporting to 'Maximum' and enabling the Debug option are also useful.
Doh -- I wrote a long reply and then realized this is the wrong thread for that. But -- the 500 error isn't an issue anymore. :-) I have whole new messes! LOL!

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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by paulala » Sun Apr 28, 2019 6:07 pm

Great post OP
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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by HappyHeretic » Fri Aug 02, 2019 4:34 pm

With many webhosting companies cutting off the oxygen in regards to PHP 5 (or simply changing their hosting platforms to use PHP 7) there are going to be a lot of people waking up one day to find that their Joomla website(s) don't work.
I find myself in exactly this position, complicated ever so slightly by the fact that this public-facing, business-supporting website was created by a shadow IT organization at one of our 2nd world sites. Now that the hosting provider has "cut off the oxygen," I woke up to learn that this heretofore unknown site is now My Problem. >:(
3.3.3 and PHP5, FWIW. Now PHP7.2.

I'm diving into this problem now, looking for forum posts before posting "hep me!" questions.

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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by ninegal » Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:07 am

Although I appreciate the slap on the wrist for those like myself who didn't 'get around to updating the website', do you recommend a fix? :-[

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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by pe7er » Fri Aug 30, 2019 4:21 am

ninegal wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:07 am
Although I appreciate the slap on the wrist for those like myself who didn't 'get around to updating the website', do you recommend a fix? :-[
The best fix is to migrate/update to the most recent version, currently Joomla 3.9.11 :-)
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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by xman-logan » Wed Dec 16, 2020 9:19 pm

Always keep a backup of the entire site before attempting any updates.

Your update will fail if you have any old component, including templates. Change your PHP version as you go along the updates.

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Re: A wake-up call for people using old versions of Joomla

Post by sozzled » Sun Jan 03, 2021 9:23 pm

Here we are, nearly two years after I began this discussion, and what have we learned? To outline the situation, please see the following two images (and compare them against those that appeared in the opening post):
j3_UsageStats0121.png
j3_phpUsage210104.png
The updated information doesn't tell us much, except that J! 3.9 is probably the most-used version of J! today, but the expected decline in the usage of outdated/obsolete versions of J! has not happened. A breakdown of the usage of J! versions is J! 3.5 (13.7%), J! 3.6 (25.6%), J! 3.7 (9.0%), J! 3.8 (19.9%) and J! 3.9 (30.9%). J! 4.0—still not available in any stable form 3+ years after the first alpha version was made available for testing—still struggles with less than 1% of all websites whose statistics are collected with the Joomla - System Statistics plugin.

It's possible that the Joomla - System Statistics plugin is not updating the usage statistics. I can't comment on that.

I can, however, make a few observations.

1. Are people lax in updating their websites or are they living in blissful ignorance of not knowing there are updates available?

We can say, with some evidence, that this forum receives questions from the community that start with "you already have the latest version of Joomla version [something very old]" and people claim they are not receiving notification of software updates. Yes, we know about that and we also know that this is a "bug" in the system: it's possible that J! websites automatically "de-activate" the notification under certain conditions. It's explained here: viewtopic.php?f=708&t=962228. We have a solution for that.

It may not be a case of people being "lazy" (as I wrote in the opening post) but more a case of people not using this forum to update their knowledge about how to properly maintain their J! websites.

2. Why are people still using PHP 5?

According to the usage statistics, PHP 5 accounts for over half of all J! 3.x websites—since statistics were first obtained—(actually it's 53.9%) which is surprising because PHP 5 has been dead, end of life, unsupported, for more than two years and, as I wrote in the opening,
sozzled wrote:
Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:25 pm
With many webhosting companies cutting off the oxygen in regards to PHP 5 (or simply changing their hosting platforms to use PHP 7) there are going to be a lot of people waking up one day to find that their Joomla website(s) don't work. Inevitably, the forum will receive the usual run of cries for help that will start with "I haven't updated my website in a while but, today, I could update from J! something-ancient to J! the-current-version. Please help!"
I'm not really surprised that people will write to the forum when their webhosting provider withdraws PHP 5 support and I don't know what we can do about that. As far as webhosting providers are concerned, their responsibility is to maintain their reputation as reliable companies for people to do business with and they can't be blamed for pulling support for outdated, obsolete software when they're unable to fulfill their customers' expectations.

3. Are people not sharing their usage information with the Joomla - System Statistics plugin?

I found it interesting that the usage statistics does not show any indication of people using PHP 8. I don't know if it's a defect with the Joomla - System Statistics plugin or whether people disable the plugin when they create a J! website under PHP 8. We know for a fact that PHP 8 is a release blocker for J! 4 development and we can't say with any confidence that PHP 8 is supported for J! 3.x because the Technical Requirements documentation hasn't been updated since PHP 8 was released. Further, there is no Technical Requirements documentation available for J! 4 and the documentation will not be made available until J! 4.0.0 stable is released.

And so I don't know the situation as far as PHP 8 is concerned, whether it's recognised as something that is supported or whether it's still a work-in-progress.

4. Have people been paying attention?

For what I write on the forum, I am well aware that there are people who choose to ignore what I write (unless I overstep the forum rules and land myself in trouble). I will mention three points I made in the opening post:
  • Some people think that nothing ever changes—"if it ain't broke don't fix it"—but how do they know that nothing ever changes?
  • People don't want to spend time or money fixing something.
  • People love making excuses; it's never their problem: it must be Joomla's problem.
Well, in summary, it's not my problem (or Joomla's problem) that people don't update their websites, that people expect their problems will be solved by aiming a guided missile at this forum (or at GitHub) and expect their problems to be resolved as quickly as "three-mouse-clicks-and-hey-presto-instant-website". I still wish the best of luck to people who continue to have problems and I hope that in our own small ways our community remains relevant and useful.

I would like to close with a thank you. Even though I am often accused for my criticisms about the J! project, I appreciate the tolerance of the people who moderate the forum for allowing me the opportunity to have my say.
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