Yet Another View On The Future Of Magento

So there has been the Open Letter that probably everyone involved with Magento has read and many signed. There have been lots of discussions around this letter already and many have voiced their opinions in blog posts and on social media.
Maybe a bit late to the party, I still want to add my take on this matter and express my view on this letter and the current situation as well as hopes for the future of Magento.
Upfront: The day the letter was published, after reading both, I was at first wondering why each of the two letters:
- Open Letter by MOSCA (Magento Open Source Community Alliance)
- The Future of Magento Open Source by Hyvä
seemed to set a quite different tone. However, wordings aside, with the core message and intentions behind the letters,
I can fully agree and signed the very first day.

The Future of Magenot - Magento is not Dead

MOSCA has published a status update, detailing their idea, goals and value proposition as well as next steps.
Things are moving towards a Mage-OS distribution under the hood of Magento Association and talks are going on with Adobe.
The term "fork" is avoided, as it is in this blog post :-) - Stay tuned!

The Current Situation Of Magento

Magento is owned by and part of Adobe. I strongly believe this can be a great setup or partnership for everyone involved. Even if there are different goals and targets in play.
Adobe targeting the Enterprise market, seeing the Magento core product only as part of their “Experience Cloud” range of services.
The Magento Open-Source community being more focused on Small and Mid-Sizes businesses.
The borders between these goals here are fluent anyway, the requirements and demands shared and overlapping in big parts. If done right, everyone involved in the Magento ecosystem can benefit greatly from each other, no matter what the main goal is followed.
Magento Open Source can benefit from the big name, brand reputation, marketing, and also financial power that Adobe can provide.
Adobe and its customers can benefit from innovation, knowledge sharing, additional services, and extensions provided by an army of developers and agencies.
Going separate ways would hurt Adobe as well as the Magento Community.
I dearly hope this is not gonna happen.
Together we are stronger!

What Has Gone Wrong?

Guess everyone who has been around with Magento knows, there has been some dissatisfaction within the community at least since back when Magento 2 was released and failed to meet the expectations. In the past years, this dissatisfaction grew into the frustration that led to the letters we are all debating now. How did that happen?

Focus On Enterprise Solutions

There are many reasons for this situation. Many community members voiced their concerns, before and after the letter, so no need to repeat them all. But a lot of these concerns come down to Adobe's increasing focus on their Magento Enterprise product and services, while at the same time ignoring or at least giving not enough attention to Magento Open source and the needs of SMBs (Small and medium-sized businesses).
The move to more microservices while at the same time lack of innovation, countless open bugs, ignored PRs made many members in the community feel ignored and left behind.

And Even More More Focus On Enterprise Solutions And Less On Smaller Businesses

Too many decisions were made with clearly only having the enterprise market in mind. Adding Elasticsearch, a great piece of tech is for sure a good thing, but why deprecate and fully remove the existing MySQL search for this, that would still be fine for many merchants using Magento. Why add even more complexity and costs? Who benefits from making Magento harder to use and pricier? Enterprise users might not care about this, for us as an agency it is nice to work with new technology, but for huge parts of the community, such decisions are just a – sorry – kick in the ass…

A Marketplace Doing Things...

Btw, what is the idea behind removing the option to download purchased extensions from Magento Marketplace?
No question, installation via composer is technically the preferable way for installing extensions, but why deny customers to install extensions manually if they prefer it this way???
What’s the mission of Magento Marketplace here?
Educating their paying customers like small kids “Uhoh, nono, don’t eat too many sweets, that’s bad!” or is it about making money and serving the community by providing an infrastructure for the distribution of extensions for everyone?
How about giving everyone the freedom of choice on how to run their sites?
Thanks to this decision by the multi-billion-dollar company Adobe to not allow direct downloads anymore, we as a small agency are now getting tons of requests to provide our extensions + updates as .zip packages. As an extension vendor, we pay 30%(!) of our revenue to Adobe for providing us with the e-commerce platform for selling our extensions. On top of that, we are now busy sending out .zip packages manually.
Correct me if I am wrong, but this is not e-commerce as it should be…

[Here was another paragraph with a small rant about Magento Marketplace, but decided not to publish it. It's not all bad and there are good folks trying their best to improve things.
But honestly, our main business is building and operating online marketplaces for our clients. Seeing how things are run at Magento Marketplace sometimes breaks my heart. We would be already out of business if we would provide the same service to our clients...]

The Luma Disaster

Maybe the most obvious example is the Luma Frontend. Criticized from day 1 of its release, did it never really satisfy the expectations of neither developers nor merchants. Even more so since the bar for performance has been raised by Google via Lighthouse score updates and the introduction of Core Web Vitals KPIs. Guess nobody will seriously argue that Luma is a competitive frontend that can meet today’s expectations of users, developers, customers, and merchants.
Luma is another example of things gone wrong in the last years, with concerns from the community being ignored. With Adobe's only answer being the development of PWA Studio, yet another solution that is only targeted and suitable for enterprise-scale clients, while essentially abandoning and deprecating the Luma frontend.

The Magento Community Is Bleeding From Loss Of Trust

As a result of these recent developments, the Magento Community is bleeding.
The loss of trust in Adobe being a good home for Magento and being able to provide a viable future for Magento as an open-source product and the people working with Magento is driving more and more community members away.
The number of developers contributing to Magento and the number of PRs by the community has reached a record low. More and more developers and agencies move on and start working with alternative solutions to stay alive, merchants decide to use other cart systems with lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and a more modern tech stack.
It's about time to stop that bleeding, something needs to be done!
There is no question, seeing the overwhelming feedback, both in quantity as well as in quality, the Open Letter came just about at the right time and hit a nerve!

How To Re-Build The Lost Trust?

To be honest, I have no idea how the lost trust can be fully rebuilt, at least not short-term. Building trust is not an easy task and takes time. But re-building trust, once it has been lost, is even harder. Deeds count more than words.

The response from Adobe to the letter so far, to be honest, are not much more than lip service from my point of view. A small post in a community forum, not even directly mentioning the letter, the (so far toothless tiger) Magento Association (it seems I signed up for this MA a long time ago, at least I get the spam emails…) promising the setup of a task force until the end of the year, some Adobe employees joining the MeetMagento Poland panel discussion (silently for understandable reasons).
It's not enough. What the community needs now are actions, changes, for the better, fast.

Personally, I think the current setup with Magento being fully owned and governed by Adobe with the community only following with what they get is and will never be a setup that allows Magento (incl. Adobe Commerce) to prosper and reach its full potential.
Managing an open-source product as big as Magento is a huge responsibility. Its hundreds of thousands of people depending on Magento, making their living from it. Merchants, agencies, developers, you name it.
I don’t think Adobe ever will or can stand up for this responsibility. Adobe is too big and not a company that has its roots in open-source. For Adobe, Magento is just one small part of their Experience Cloud services, which altogether accounts for only ~25% of their revenue.
Any decision Adobe takes, will always try to be in the best interest of their stakeholders and paying customers (can’t blame them for this, it’s how companies work). With Magento being just a tiny puzzle piece within their service offering, it will never play a key role in their decision-making. After all, even the name "Magento" does not exist anymore as part of the Adobe services but has been eliminated and replaced by "Adobe Commerce" now. Not a too big deal for me or anyone who can connect the dots, but for sure not helpful for strengthening the Magento brand or a sign of commitment to Magento by Adobe.
At the very best, Adobe could see the Magento Open-Source and the Community as a strategic asset. But let me explain with a small side story why I don’t think that can or will work:

Big Companies and Open Source

Maybe you remember Nokia, the once giant mobile phone manufacturer with almost a monopoly.
At some point, they lost market share in rapid speed to new competitors (namely Apple and Google) who had the better product. Nokia simply could not compete anymore with their outdated mobile OS “Symbian”. At this time Nokia already had a great alternative at hand, based on the open-source mobile OS Maemo/MeeGo developed together with Intel and a vibrant and passionate community and some proprietary parts on top. Probably everyone who owned the only phone running this OS, the legendary Nokia N9, still gets sentimental thinking about it today, it was outstanding and way ahead of its time.
However, in order to stop the downtrend, Nokia appointed a former Microsoft manager as the new CEO. Instead of taking the chance and build competitive products based on this already available open-source platform, the new CEO decided to jump in bed with another dying mobile OS: Windows Mobile. The internal Maemo/MeeGo development team was fired.
The result: Nokia, as it was known, is dead, Windows Mobile is gone
(MeeGo took a serious hit but lives on as open-source under the name SailfishOS).

Of course, the situation around Nokia and MeeGo back then was different from Adobe and Magento now. But still, this example shows how decisions in big companies are made.
Decisions in companies are not always made rationally, not always following the technically best route, but what seems to be the lowest risk, easy to explain/sell to stakeholders. Decisions are politically motivated or (even personally) biased. Decisions are made based on financial sheets and to satisfy shareholders.
And this is the point here: Magento and especially the Magento community does not exist in Adobes books. The Adobe shareholders don’t know Magento, they only know something called “Adobe Experience Cloud”.

How is it about Adobe Management outside the Magento/Commerce division? Do they know about the Magento community, about what it means, and what tremendous value it provides to Adobe?
Even if not accounted for in their financial statements, do they have a view outside their books and recognize the strategic value Magento and especially its community brings to the table?
I am afraid, looking at how things are going recently, looking at the decisions made as well as the communication we see, the answer is:
No, they don’t.

Magento Is Not Dead & Hope Dies Last!

The Open Letters main message to me: Magento Is Not Dead!

Far from it, thanks to the amazing Magento Community, I am confident we have a bright and long future ahead. The energy and passion that is shown by the letters, the people behind as well as countless responses to these letters clearly show the community can and will take care of this.
However, hope dies last, I still hope Adobe stays on board with a strong commitment and willingness to help and support developing the full potential of Magento and catering to all needs within the community.

The Luma example shows how much Adobe can benefit from a clear commitment to Magento Open-Source:
It took 1 (amazing) person from the community, Willem Wigman, to come up with Hyva Theme.
The alternative frontend that Magento so desperately needed. A frontend that finally makes Magento a serious option again for merchants that cannot afford or simply do not want to go down the PWA path. A highly modern frontend that can also be a valuable improvement for Adobe Commerce clients.

So, Adobe, here it is, your center of innovation, your shadow workforce of developers and agencies improving and advertising your product for you and your customers:
Take the Magento Community by your hand, let’s have a bright future together.

If I had a wish: Magento would be owned by a body that is governed by both, Adobe and the community, as equal partners. And this body is responsible to manage the activities and development around Magento, balancing the needs of both partners, but at a faster pace as we have seen in the last years.
I believe something like this would be the setup that would allow both sides, Adobe, and the community, to benefit the most. Without any side having to worry about losing the grounds of their business at some point.

Oli Jaufmann
Founder & CEO, JaJuMa GmbH