From concept to the world’s largest eCommerce platform.
As an open-source content management system (CMS), Magento has now begun its 6th year in row as the leading eCommerce platform in the world. Since its beginnings, the developers of Magento wanted a product that could fit any request and could be built on and adapted to the users’ needs. And they succeeded.
The digital story of Magento starts at Varien Inc., where two of its employees, Yoav Kutner and Roy Rubin first envisioned it as a forking solution for the already existing osCommerce platform whose open source code software applications were not flexible enough, resulting in long development time, security issues and faulty integration. Once they actually saw its true potential, they decided to create an entirely independent CMS eCommerce platform, the one that would become, as we all know it today, Magento.
With the name originating in Kutner’s fancy for the magenta color and a modified version of the Varien logo, Magento was created in March 2007, having its Beta version released on August 31st, the same year. In order to achieve its desired versatility and functionality, Magento’s software was completely rewritten, encompassing new concepts. Magento uses PHP programming language, elements of the Zend Framework and employs the MySQL/Maria DB relational database management system.
Almost one year later, on March 31st 2008, the first stable version was published, Magento Community Edition which was above all, downloadable free of any charge. Magento Community Edition represents a basic open-source eCommerce platform in which developers can implement core files and then add new plug-in modules to expand functionality. Being one of the most popular editions of Magento, the Community Edition, usually recommended for smaller businesses, includes the following features:
- Website Management
- Check-out, Payment and Shipping
- Analytics and Reporting
- Marketing Promotions and Tools
- Order Management
- Customer Service
- Customer Accounts
- Catalog Management
- Product Browsing
- Catalog Browsing
With an increased interest from some of the biggest brands in top Fortune 500, the creators of Magento realized that Magento Community Edition was not quite enough for their demands and saw there was another niche on the market that they could take advantage of by developing a more targeted version of Magento.
Until 2009, Magento has continued to gain popularity and in April, the first stable version of Magento Enterprise Edition was released, this also being the year when Magento became more popular than the osCommerce platform. Magento Enterprise was designed based on the same core files as the Magento Community Edition, but had more features and increased functionality. Requiring technical support with installation, usage, configuration, support, management and troubleshooting, Magento Enterprise implied fees. Nevertheless, being a premium version, it has more unlimited customizability, scalability, vast out-of-the-box functionality and third-party integration, not to mention 24/7 full, professional support by Magento.
The main differences between the Magento Community Edition and Magento Enterprise are related to:
- MCE – free
- MEE – paid, but comes with additional functionality, which is necessary for a larger company
- MCE – faster, but slows down with the addition of extensions
- MEE – if there are more modules necessary, Enterprise is a better choice as it offers superior performance
- MCE – it is not PCI compliant
- MEE – PA-DSS
MEE – has the same core with MCE but presents extra features such as:
- Advanced segmentation
- Return management authorization
- Price and promotion permission
- Content staging and merging
- Advanced ACL
- Loyalty system
- Full page caching
- SOLR search
- Minimum advertised price
- Persistent shopping cart
- Private sales/events/invitations
- Customer attributes
- Automated email marketing reminder
- RMA functionality
- Recurring payments
- Assisted shopping
2010 – 2011
In 2010, 49% of Varien’s shares were purchased by eBay, this also being the year when the name of the company was changed to Magento. As an expected consequence, in February 2011, eBay bought the rest of the shares, becoming the full shareholder of Magento by June that year. A definite milestone, as this is the moment when major changes started to appear, as eBay also owned the Pay Pal online payment service. Pay Pal was one of the numerous integrations offered by Magento to its users, which together with other services like Salesforce, Zendesk and Mailchimp and other extensions implied a unique freedom of usability. Another plus to Magento was its seamless functioning with Google Analytics, an essential tool for eCommerce which allows users to optimize pages, develop and manage content strategies, ensure customer segmentations and other necessary measurement data.
2011 was also the year of the first official Magento Conference, which gathered over 800 people from a well-shaped Magento Community that was increasingly growing.
Magento Go was also released in 2011, being a SaaS eCommerce platform to support small businesses, eliminating the need for software installation and backend work and consequently requiring no web designers or developers. Being the most basic type of Magento, Magento Go was also the least customizable, ideal for a simple online store.
Magento Community Edition 1.7 and Enterprise Edition 1.12 are launched in 2012, each presenting improvements and a more personalized experience for the customers.
- more support for customer interfacing and enhanced administration abilities
- European validation of VAT-ID numbers, facilitating overseas purchases & EU cookie restriction
- release of the CAPTCHA functionality to reduce spamming
- the new REST-APIs Support
- a new, redesigned HTML5 mobile theme
- multiple coupon codes for a single promotion
- improved Backup and Rollback functionality for enhanced data security
Magento Community Edition 1.8 and Magento Enterprise Edition 1.13 bring about 350 functional improvements (shopping cart, web store, admin order creation, payment methods, import & export functionality and so on), Optimized indexing, improved caching and tax calculation algorithms, as well as a faster checkout flow.
Magento Community Edition 1.9 and Magento Enterprise Edition 1.14 are released at the Imagine 2014 global Conference in Las Vegas, in the presence of approximately 1700 participants.
These editions present 70 enhancements, configurable swatches, enhanced responsive web design templates to accelerate mobile commerce, the new Bill Me Later Pay Pal Service, indexing improvements (Solr for MEE), support from Google Universal Analytics and an overall better site performance and security with the PHP 5.5 and code updates access.
Already announced in 2010, Magento 2 was supposed to be launched in 2011, but its development took much longer than that, its beta version coming out in July 2015. With new improved features and developer tools, the architecture of Magento 2 is almost completely different from its previous versions, renewed and rebuilt for an easier, faster and safer experience.
The backend part on Magento 2 is seen as more intuitive and user friendly with a new menu and dashboard design. The frontend presents new features, starting with the default theme Magento Luma, with responsive design and quicker performance. There is also a new 2-step checkout which is easier to use than the default 6-step checkout from Magento 1.
Some of the main features of Magento 2 include an open, flexible architecture >> secure payments with Pay Pal, Braintree and Authroize.net payment gateways >> easier maintenance and upgrades >> enterprise scalability and performance >> enhanced business agility & productivity and engaging shopping experiences.
Magento 2 encompasses a set of new technologies that enhance and facilitate development work:
- PHP Unit
- Modern JS Stack
** On February 1st, Magento Go ceases to operate.
Magento Community Edition and Magento Enterprise Edition 2.1.0 were released in July 2016 with a few main features.
MCE brought improved management interface which enables enhanced and quicker searches in Admin, improved new product and CMS content creation, PayPal developments to facilitate repeat purchases and increase conversions and Braintree hosted fields for secure payment information collection and fully controlled checkout.
MEE features include Elasticsearch which replaces Solr in terms of search solutions regarding traffic, large size catalogues management and language development, this version including 33 languages by default. The Enterprise Edition also include the Community Edition features.
Magento Cloud Edition was also launched in 2016, at the Magento Imagine conference as a cloud hosting solution for optimized functionality during server and traffic spikes. The competitive edge brought by this Cloud Edition is represented by 4 main features:
- Fastly – a real-time network for content delivery, speed issues diagnosis, automated changes and mitigation of DDoS attacks
- New Relic – for continuous application performance monitoring
- Blackfire.io – PHP performance monitoring and helps reduce and eliminate redundancies
- Amazon Web Services – triple redundant cloud cluster and the best option in class SLA benchmarks
What differentiates Magento from other eCommerce platforms out there is a complex features system which allows for full management in the same place, this including analytics, synchronous operation of multiple parallel online shops, not to mention product and user data.
A second aspect that makes Magento stand out among its peers is the unlimited practicality and usability in terms of design and templates, which can be found on Magento Connect, for free or for purchase. Customizability and flexibility are the greatest advantages ensured by Magento for unlimited online shop development of design.
Thirdly, when it comes to product management, Magento clearly leads in the open-source code system competition, as again, the flexibility code feature allows for developers to work with an infinite number of product attributes, while benefitting from filtering, search narrowing and other such product management options.
Inventory management includes stock management tasks, with the possibility of selling an unlimited number of items (especially with virtual products) and although it cannot replace the functionality of an ERP system for simultaneous management of premises, Magento allows for the integration of an external ERP system. Some of the most important ERP systems worth mentioning are: Microsoft Dynamics AX – an ideal choice for multinational corporations; SAP – applicable for small and medium-sized enterprises to large corporations; NetSuite – cloud-based system providing real-time data to its users.
When it comes to Marketing and SEO, Magento basically provides anything the user may need due to integration, especially when targeting customer conversion in various manners. SEO works automatically.
The payment system offers multiple options, from single-click payment, checkout for guests, later billing purchases to more complex solutions, the entire payment process is optimized to achieve the highest conversion there is. Again, the possibility to alter and fine-tune payment options is left to the latitude of developers and requirements from specific customer segments.
Magento was designed to maximize data protection and security, striving to provide users with all the necessary support for a secure online store. Nevertheless, exploitable backdoors or bugs may appear as a result of software updates, in which case there is a patch usually available to fix the problem. These service packs will, however need to be installed from an official source and by experienced developers. Magento’s Security Center is available for any questions and problems related to data protection and security and recommends users to follow the Service Packs release in newsletters, RSS web feed, notification board of the application or on reliable social networking sites.
The Magento Community encompasses a large number of developers who can help with shaping and customization of the system from all over the globe, interact and provide solutions to various issues on the specific websites, forums and other community sites. Besides this enormous Magento developer community, the Magento team also operates a customer service that targets Enterprise users, providing professional support for both smaller and larger enterprises.
In relation to the Magento team and Developer Community, users should also know about the Magento Market Place, the largest global eCommerce website for applications, services, extensions and themes, which currently runs in parallel with Magento Connect. Magento Marketplace is an inexhaustible source of highly diversified and versatile extensions created by thousands of creative developers, satisfying the most exigent merchant demands and always keeping up with the latest trends.