The following is adapted from a post by Travis Robertson about a breakout session at the 2011 PayPal Innovate conference. The session Robertson summarized was led by Yoav Kutner, the co-founder and CTO (chief technology officer) of Magento.
Magento developed out of a company called Varien. It started in 2001 as a custom web design company creating applications such as point-of-sale (POS) systems, content management systems (CMSes), and custom intranets. Focus on ecommerce started slowly at the time. The company started using open source systems because of their benefits, such as being free and easy to customize. In particular, Varien chose to work with OS Commerce.
As the company ventured more into ecommerce, its clients grew and became more successful. The need and demand for more customized and advanced implementations (along with the fact that OS Commerce was not designed for the large-scale uses Varien had been applying it to) led the company to look for other alternatives.
After an extensive search, the team determined that there were no suitable platforms available and set out to create its own system. Because the company knew open source very well, it decided to release the first product under an open source license with the hope that other companies might want to work with the platform and help in further development.
In 2007, the Magento community developed around the idea of Magento; surprisingly, there were already tens of thousands of members on the community website even before there was a single line of code written for the product. This was the big proof Varien needed to confirm its belief that developers and merchants were clamoring for a new platform to be created. After a lot of hard work, the team released Magento 1.0 in 2008. The adoption rate was amazing; the company watched store after store pop up running Magento.
With this success came bigger merchants (including Fortune 500 companies) asking for more. Rather than the free Community Edition, these companies required commercial-level products and support. They began asking for a relationship with the vendor behind the application, support, warranties, and a lot more. To accommodate these demands, Varien released the Magento Enterprise Edition in 2009.
The idea behind the Enterprise Edition was to provide exactly what was required to meet the commercial demands. Enterprise Edition contains more features, is a more optimized solution, and comes bundled with support and warranties. The Magento team also provides transparency into the implementation road map, equipping commercial clients to make better business decisions based on platform developments.
In 2010, the company name was changed from Varien to Magento.
In 2011, Magento held its first international conference in Los Angeles, California, where the Magento headquarters is located. Over 800 attendees—consisting of merchants, developers, and partners—participated in the first year. One of the highlights of the event was the introduction of the first Software as a Service (SaaS) offering from Magento, named Magento Go.
In 2011, the company also conducted a survey of the top 1 million sites listed on Alexa. It found that over 20% of the ecommerce sites on the list were running on Magento. As of today, Magento is the leading ecommerce platform, open source or otherwise.
Magento was created with open source in mind. It was developed using open source technologies and built to be open source itself. Magento uses PHP5, the most widely used programming language on the Web. It was built on top of the Zend Framework, a highly successful open source project and one of the leading PHP frameworks available, with a very large number of community members; the Magento team also liked the fact that the framework was backed by a professional company: Zend. Finally, the default database offered with Magento is MySQL, the most popular open source database in the world.
In terms of the architecture, it wa, important for the users and developers to be able to extend Magento and use it as they see fit. So Magento built into the application and architecture a way to separate where the core code lives from where the community, applications, modules, and extensions should be developed. This provides a clear separation for developers to identify the core of Magento versus the extensions. This gave Magento a very important distinction from other platforms, where no clear boundaries existed between the core code and their extensions.
The Magento team made heavy use of object-oriented programming (OOP) in a highly advanced way. In fact, it was actually one of the first companies to use PHP in an object-oriented fashion. On top of that, it implemented programming patterns that allow Magento to be more extensible. Modularity was built in to allow the community to create more features. The team also used event-driven architecture to allow easier integration with the system.
A lot of flexibility has also been integrated into Magento’s design look and feel. The ability for merchants to customize their stores is apparent in the wide range of designs that run on Magento.
When creating the Magento products, the team took into consideration all the merchants, partners, and developers. There are advanced marketing tools built for merchants to allow them to implement sophisticated promotions.
Additionally, Magento features the most flexible product catalogs in the market for any ecommerce application. The team members have learned through their experience as developers that no merchant wants to create the same schema for its catalogs. Therefore, Magento was designed to empower the merchants to choose how they would name fields and data elements within the system very easily.
To view the illustrations Robertson refers to, check out the original post.
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