Magento — What the Past Says About Our Future
As the Magento ecosystem gathers in Las Vegas for Magento Imagine 2019, there’s much to talk about. Every year brings new Magento features, new product announcements and personnel changes, but the past 12 months have brought more change than usual to Magento.
Weeks after Imagine 2018 ended, Adobe announced their $1.68 billion acquisition of Magento. Since that time, Adobe has completed the acquisition and merged Magento into their Experience business unit. And just weeks ago, Mark Lavelle, CEO of Magento for the past three and a half years, announced his departure from Magento. While Mark was CEO for just a few years, he served as Magento’s leader under eBay Enterprise for several years, as well.
Mark’s departure was bittersweet —I’ve seen people all across the Magento community blogging, tweeting and discussing the positive impact Mark had on both Magento and many of us in the Magento ecosystem. It’s a time to celebrate Mark’s accomplishments and to look forward to what he does next, but I know we’re all going to miss working with him at Magento.
Many people are asking — what will Adobe do to Magento? What will happen now that Mark is gone? I’ve seen some pretty extreme fears posted online, some going so far as to claim this is end of Magento, the end of Magento’s community or somehow the end of Magento’s commitment to the community and to open source. As CEO of a Magento partner — specifically one of the last large Magento-only partners in North America — it’s my responsibility to our team to constantly question, investigate and analyze Magento’s future to ensure I am leading our company down the right path. As I’ve been thinking through the news of the past 12 months, I’m reminded of a quote that comes, from of all places, the TV series Battlestar Galactica — ”All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”
I’ve been around the Magento space for over 10 years now. And in that time, the ownership structure of Magento has changed at least five times. Hopefully it’s been lost to time, but one of the very first blog articles I wrote about Magento that got any real attention came just before the very first Magento Imagine conference in 2011. That article discussed reaction to the then-recent news that eBay, via their PayPal business unit, had just purchased a 49% stake in Magento. Much like now, reaction then was very mixed, with quite a few questions and bold statements about how this was the ‘end of Magento’. But here we are, eight years later, and Magento is still thriving.
Change is hard, but change is good. Are we going to see familiar faces depart Magento with the change in ownership? Yes — we have, and we will. Will we all have to get used to saying and hearing “Magento, an Adobe company”? Yes, and I admit, it’s a mouthful and I’m already tired of saying it. Are there other changes coming that we’ll hear about at and after Imagine? Most definitely. Will these changes deter, slow or damage the Magento community and the momentum that Magento has built over the past decade? Most definitely not.
Change is good — and each of us in the Magento ecosystem has the opportunity to help make sure any changes that Adobe makes are for the best for us all. Instead of helping competitors spread their unfounded fear, uncertainty and doubt about all this, spend your time and energy finding ways to influence and interact with Adobe. They are listening, they are watching, they are sending their team members to events like Magento Imagine to get a better understanding of what this thing called the Magento ecosystem is. Use this as an opportunity to make Magento better and stronger — as new leaders and new owners are introduced to Magento and the Magento ecosystem, they will be open and interested in making changes and the feedback we give them can and will influence those changes.
I know this because again, this has happened before. And there’s a story about a previous significant ownership change at Magento that I’ve never shared publicly before that proves it. It was 2014, and eBay had just formed their “eBay Enterprise” business unit, merged Magento into it and named Mark Lavelle an SVP of eBay Enterprise and the general manager of Magento. At the same time, Roy Rubin, one of Magento’s founders, announced he was leaving Magento now that the acquisition had completed. Sound familiar? Change a few names and before you know it, you’re flashing back to Imagine 2104, aren’t you?
Now, while everyone was speculating about what might happen with Magento and the new leadership, I was at Magento Imagine 2014, trying to piece together whatever I could about where Magento would be going under this new leadership. I will never forget being in a fairly cramped, dark bar at the Hard Rock Hotel at Imagine after the Partner Summit, and this new guy, Mark Lavelle, was introducing himself to everyone. Back in 2014, I was incredibly jaded and frustrated with the way the partner program worked at Magento. I wasn’t announcing my concerns to the public, but those running the partner program knew very, very well how I felt about problems with the program.
If you’ve met me in person, you’ve probably noticed that when I first meet someone, I’m fairly quiet and reserved. Well, that day at the Hard Rock Hotel, I wasn’t. Mark came to shake my hand and introduce himself, and I almost immediately launched into a detailed breakdown of what I felt was wrong with the partner program. I was completely oblivious to the fact that Mark had a room full of other people he needed to meet, and he proceeded to listen, take notes and promise specific follow-up with me as I must’ve spent 20 solid minutes of his time providing my feedback. To this day, I don’t know what made me speak up like that, but I’m glad I did — in less than a year, Magento announced a complete overhaul of the partner program, and I saw pieces of my feedback in the revised program.
I’ve always appreciated the fact that Mark listened to my feedback and acted on it. And to his credit — he didn’t avoid me at future events, and encouraged me to continue to give him and his team my detailed, often negative, feedback over the years, and I continued to see how that feedback was one of many things that Mark considered while guiding Magento’s path forward.
So, as you’re thinking about Mark’s departure, the Adobe acquisition and where we might all be going next — don’t let the fear, uncertainty or doubt get hold of you. The power of Magento is in the ecosystem, the community — we contribute a majority of the code to the platform, we organize a majority of the global events, and we have the “in the trenches” perspective alongside the merchants we work with that Adobe needs to understand how to best serve their customers and grow their business. We’re in an even better position than we were back in 2014 when eBay Enterprise was formed — thanks to the efforts of Mark and so many others at Magento, we now have the Magento Association, where we can focus our feedback and speak with one, consistent, louder voice to Adobe about Magento’s future.
Remember that power we all hold, and use it well — use any opportunity to provide feedback to the leaders at Adobe or to myself and others at the Magento Association, and I’m confident that five years from now, I’ll be sitting in the airport waiting for a flight to another Magento event, writing about how much we’ve accomplished as an ecosystem in the past 5 years.