Joomla: The sting in the tail.


“I want Joomla because it is free. “

We hear this so often, yet it is not true.

Joomla is free yet Joomla websites have a habit of costing more than many others. There are many reasons for this, and an earlier article on the hidden costs of Joomla explains many of these.

But this article focuses on the real string in the tail of Joomla – the ‘free extensions’.

For the non technical reader these have nothing to do with hair styling.

Jooma Extensions are additions needed to the basic Joomla code to include galleries or blogs or even to be search engine friendly. The good ones are also not usually free.

The following comments are from Joomla developers and demonstrate the real issues of Joomla extensions.

Some extensions are free to use and you have to pay to get additional functions or layouts or you can contribute / make a donation which I think if very fair because the developers spend a lot of time developing them.

But there are some extensions that are labelled GPLv2 License and non-commercial" and it says nothing about paying in the description. When you install them and fiddle around you will find out that you have to pay a lot of money to use them without having a big advertisement / copyright banner on every page.

I understand that the developers deserve their credit and I am happy to pay for this but I want to know beforehand how much. An extension that places a banner on your homepage is useless for any professional website. So how can I find out what extensions are free to use and what extensions require purchase to use ?

Source: Joomla Forum (, July 28th 2011


One would expect a professional to use a professional extension. There are several reasons for that, one of which is that professional extension developers are more likely to provide support and update.

My extensions are provided free because I do not offer a professional service to professional sites. I have no problems with commercial sites making money out of my hard work. But I would not expect a professional site to use free extensions because I offer no support with them. If you want extensions to use on a professional site then perhaps you should consider using commercial extensions so that you have professional support ?

So the Joomla Forum itself is open and honest about the real cost of Joomla. Once you have your website on your 'free' Joomla CMS you then feel obliged to pay for required extensions having invested so much time and cost in the Joomla CMS.

Jason Mosely (quoted below) makes a valid point about the user community being large; but this also means there are masses of low quality extensions or modules around, many of which are incompatible with each other. For example one of the commonly used forms modules is incompatible with a commonly used SEO module and sorting this out requires a competent (and expensive) programmer.

The only way to get the functionality you would ever really need beyond basic content management is to pay large sums of money for commercial modules. The community is huge in the worst possible way. There are a million modules for one problem and it is near impossible to find the right one.

The interface is deplorable. None of the methods of content management make any sense, and it is obviously not meant to be user friendly considering the top dollar training offered for the system. If there were ever a CMS to avoid, this would be it.

Jason Mosley , Jan 2001 (

So the lesson is to be very careful about so called 'free' systems. You need to find out what is free and how much you may end up paying later.  in our experience the Joomla websites we see are usually some of the most expensive to develop, clunky to maintain and expensive to upgrade. Yet they are still considered 'free'.

So what do you recommend instead?

Wordpress (another 'free' CMS) is usually cheaper than Joomla. But best value and lowest long term costs is usually a good comercial CMS with support and a good client base.

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