jed unpluggedWhile the Joomla! CMS is quite a comprehensive package, most of its power lies with its high level of customisability. As with all other software platforms, Joomla is designed to allow other programs to run on top of it, exposing a series of API calls for the convenience of such programs. OSes have applications, WordPress has plugins, and Joomla has extensions. So where does one get one’s hands on the various programs that run on top of a given platform (in this case, Joomla)?

There have traditionally been 2 schools of thought on this; the wide-open sandbox (let’s call this the ‘Microsoft’ way), and the walled garden (let’s call this the ‘Apple’ way). Microsoft has always been more than happy to fully document the Windows API, allowing everybody and his brother to write applications that will run on Windows, a trend that continues even into Windows 10. These third-party bodies, called Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), will then sell, rent or freely distribute their applications any way they can. By way of contrast, Apple has always wanted stricter control over who can write applications that run on iOS, restricting all of its devices that run iOS to applications that can be found in its App Store.

As an open-source product, Joomla is generally considered to be free (as in speech) software. As such, there are no such restrictions laid on what kind of extensions you can run, or where you can obtain them from. However, the developers of Joomla did set up what they call the Joomla Extensions Directory, or JED. The JED is a repository of many (if not most of the) Joomla extensions, including some of the most popular ones. It represents a level of assurance that the extensions listed on it have been curated to some degree, and are more likely to be genuine.

Why use the JED? For users, this is a no-brainer. The JED provides comprehensive information on all the extensions listed, from the Joomla versions supported to user reviews (and developer replies). It represents a central location from which a user can download their desired extensions to enhance the functionality of their Joomla installation all at once.

For extension developers, the issue is slightly more nuanced. For instance, only GPL-licensed extensions may be listed in the JED. If you’re using the BSD licence, or the Apache licence, or (gasp!) your own proprietary licence, it’s not welcome there. Additionally, commercial extensions are given more scrutiny (especially in terms of user reviews). On the other hand, there are a variety of tools and checklists that can help you ensure that your extension(s) are JED-friendly – which generally means that they will work on the vast majority of Joomla installations.

In our next few posts, we will take a closer look at the JED. In the meantime, here are a few things you might want to keep in mind when submitting anything to it:

General guidelines for submitting extensions to the JED

GPL and other licencing restrictions

Is your extension free or commercial?

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