Introduction to Magento

What Is Magento?
Magento is a full-fledged, open source eCommerce platform aimed at web site designers, developers, and business owners who are looking for a complete eCommerce web site solution. Magento’s open source architecture enables the user to maintain complete control over the structure and functionality of a web site. Varien, the company responsible for building Magento, has set a new standard for open source applications. One of the most impressive aspects of Magento is the use of the Zend Framework. This allows for separation of the Model-View-Controller (MVC) which separates its core operations from functionality and appearance. Magento offers a stable eCommerce environment and gives you the flexibility to completely customize the web site to suit your business needs.

What Is Open Source Software?
Open Source Software (OSS) is a unique approach to the development and distribution of software. Open Source Software must not only offer access to the source code, but also be distributed as open source software. This allows users the rights to use, modify, and redistribute the software in either a modified or unmodified format.

In 1983, Richard Matthew Stallman launched the GNU Project to create a free UNIX-type operating system. The GNU Project led to the creation of free software such as gcc, the GNU C Compiler, and other free software instrumental in the birth of Linux. The GNU Project is also responsible for the GPL, or GNU General Public License, setting the stage for the creation of other free software licenses.

As more people started to realize that there was money to be made with free software, the free software approach took a more commercial turn in 1998 with the founding of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) by Eric S. Raymond and Bruce Perens. OSI is responsible for creating the Open Source Definition (OSD), and it reviews licenses to determine if they fit the OSD. The OSD-compliant list currently includes over 60 licenses, including GPLv2 and GPLv3. Linux is probably the most famous software developed under the free software/open source ideology. Originally written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, Linux is now one of widely distributed software, powering five out of ten of the world’s webhosting and server type enviroments. Much of Linux success can be attributed to its open source approach. For more information about open source visit:

Magento Versions and License
There are currently two versions of Magento: the Magento Community Edition and the Magento Enterprise Edition. The Magento Community Edition is licensed under the Open Software License (OSL) v3.0. The Magento Enterprise Edition is available under a commercial license and requires an annual fee. Both editions share the same underlying framework. The Enterprise Edition includes several additional features that are not included with the Community Edition, including gift certificates, customer store credits, and strong data encryption. Full details about Magento licensing can be found at:

The History Behind Magento
Varien began developing Magento in January of 2007. It was their vision to establish an eCommerce platform unlike anything else on the market. Varien originally planned on building an eCommerce platform based on a fork of osCommerce, but decided to write their own system using the Zend Framework instead. During Varien’s six month beta period, they had over 225,000 downloads of Magento. The first public release of Magento, version 1.0, was released on March 31, 2008. Shortly after, Magento 1.1 was released. Magento 1.1 fixed many bugs found in version 1.0, but also included a faster and more informative administrative user interface. Magento 1.2 was released on December 29, 2008. This version included several upgraded Zend Framework libraries and a new feature: downloadable products.

The current version of Magento 1.3 was released on March 30, 2009. This version increased Magento’s speed in both public and administrative views. The Magento Enterprise Edition version 1.3 Enterprise was released on April 15, 2009. This version requires a service agreement with Varien and costs $8,900 USD per year and it includes technical support which is not available with the Community Edition.

Zend: Magento’s Workhorse
The Zend Framework, the platform Magento is built upon, is an open source, object-oriented application framework that uses PHP 5. Zend was released in 2005 under the Open Source Initiative (OSI)-approved New BSD License. The Zend Framework, often referred to as ZF, is built to be a lightweight yet flexible platform. ZF tries to follow the best programming practices and has been adopted for use by several major corporations including IBM, Adobe, and Oracle. The Zend Framework provides Magento with an open source architecture and framework. ZF is really the engine that makes an application like Magento possible. Using the Zend Framework made it possible for Varien to develop Magento in a relatively short amount of time.

Who Should Use Magento?
Magento has two primary audiences: web site developers and businesses looking to expand in the online eCommerce marketplace. Regardless of your level of expertise, Magento has been designed in a way that is easily approachable. Magento is built to work straight out of the box with very little customization. It is easy to update your web site by adding new products and managing orders. While Magento has the flexibility to be applied to advance eCommerce situations, basic operations of the site can be handled with little training. Magento can be customized with a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, and XML. While it’s recommended to have a beginning understanding of PHP and MySQL, it is not required for basic store operations and use. PHP for Absolute Beginners is a great starting point for anyone just getting started with learning php. Developers who are looking to apply Magento to more custom eCommerce web sites should have an advanced knowledge of PHP and a working knowledge of the Zend Framework.

Source of Information : Addison Wesley - Cocoa Programming Developers Handbook (December 2009)


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