With Joomla 1.6 nearing completion the thoughts of many have been turning to "the next step":

  • What features would you like to see in the next version?
  • Where do you see Joomla heading over the next release cycle and beyond?
  • What do you think Joomla should look like over the next several iterations? And so on.

There are two extremes on the scale of viewpoints about how open source projects should be run. At one extreme, we have the "benevolent dictator" approach where a single leader decides, in isolation, what will be incorporated into the codebase and what will not. At the opposite extreme, we have a project where all decisions are taken in the democratic tradition of a majority vote.

Of course, Joomla has never been, nor should it ever be, at either of these extremes. But it's fair to say that the gradual evolution of the project has seen us move further from the dictatorial towards the democratic end of the spectrum. We have always sought to be a community-led project; our leadership teams are drawn from the community and as leaders, we manage the project on behalf of the community. There is no large corporation or individual dictator with an overwhelming influence on us and the commercial prosperity of the Joomla ecosystem is in large part due to the decentralised, non-profit nature of the organisation.

So how should we steer the future development of the software that we create? Over the 5 years or so since the project's inception, we have been systematically lowering barriers to participation and today we are launching a new process for gathering suggestions for future versions of Joomla that will make it even easier for members of our global community to help shape the future development of the software. This new process comes in two parts, the first of which is aimed at collecting ideas for new features and assessing their popularity through a voting system, while the second is a formal procedure for monitoring and tracking feature suggestions.

New ideas come from many places and can come from anyone in the community. We like to use the Google Group mailing lists for the CMS since it's a great place to brainstorm, but the Joomla People site also works well; or indeed anywhere Joomla folks congregate. The Joomla Idea Pool (JIP), which is based on UserVoice, is a way for anyone in the community to make their voice heard and help set priorities. Each user has ten votes to cast on the various ideas, which will help make clear what future features the community really wants.

It is important to understand that not all features will be added to Joomla. This may happen for a number of reasons. For example, there may be a great feature proposed but either nobody volunteers to take it on, or the PLT decides it is better implemented as a separate extension rather than part of the core CMS or Platform. Our hope is that many or all of the most popular features on the JIP will have a strong chance of attracting energetic development talent to complete them. Once a feature has moved to the implementation stage, it starts its journey along the second part of our new process by getting added to the Joomla Feature Tracker.

The Joomla Feature Tracker (JFT) is the team's way of tracking the progress of a feature and encouraging more collaboration during development. Once an idea has reached the point where it has some level of support and is ready for more serious discussion, or even coding, then it can and should be added to the JFT. This allows it to be tracked more easily and acts as a focal point for activity regarding a new feature. There is more detailed explanation of how items will be moved through the JFT process on the Joomla Developer Network site.

To get this new process started the PLT has seeded the JIP with the feature suggestions that we discussed at the San Jose Summit and which together comprise our vision for the next Joomla release. You can read our vision statement in an announcement on the main joomla.org site.

So, for those asking the question "where next for Joomla development?", we say remember what Alan Kay famously said:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

So get on over to the Joomla Idea Pool now and help us invent the future of Joomla.