What Is Magento Open Source (and Is It Truly Open Source?)

TLDR: Yes. Let's dive into some Magento history and the platform's evolution as an Adobe product.

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If you're looking for an all-inclusive platform to build and manage your online store, Magento Open Source is an excellent solution. Magento Open Source is a powerful eCommerce platform with versatile features and customization capabilities, and it allows businesses of all sizes to create seamless and successful online shopping experiences.

But is it truly an open source software solution? The short answer is yes, but let's take a deeper look. 

Magento History

The Magento brand is a trademark owned by the Adobe Corporation. Magento Open Source is licensed under the Open Software Licence 3.0, which is an open source license allowing for modification, sublicense, distribution, and commercial use. Use of the Magento trademark is prohibited unless via separate license from Adobe.

How It Started

Magento was originally developed by Varien Inc. in 2007 with the support of open source software contributors. The first version — generally available to the public — was released in 2008. In 2011, eBay took ownership of the software.

The Next Chapter

In 2015, Magento 2.0 was released, bringing a suite of upgrades with it. Later that year, Permira investment group purchased Magento from eBay for $1.8B. In 2016, Magento Commerce was added to the Magento family as a paid platform and service alternative. Then, in 2018, Adobe purchased Magento and Magento Commerce from Permira — the platform's third ownership change. As far as technology updates, the OpenMage fork of Magento 1 was released in 2019 to support businesses that do not want to upgrade to Magento 2.

Magento Open Source Today

Throughout Magento’s life, the driving force behind updates, innovation, bug fixes, and security patches has been the Magento community. Today, Magento Open Source remains an open source platform that has its codebase managed by Adobe with ongoing contributions from the community. Much of the same community that built Magento into what it is today remains dedicated to the open source ideas that launched the platform.

While Magento Open Source remains driven by the community, Adobe reprioritized their internal resources to support a new platform as a service (PaaS) based on the Magento codebase and renamed Adobe Commerce. From an outsider’s point of view, Adobe’s motivation for doing this was threefold:

  1. Providing a more integrated cloud offering for their customers
  2. Building a new source of recurring revenue not available from Magento Open Source
  3. Maintaining greater centralized control over product innovation and market direction

Coincident with this reprioritization, the speed of reviewing and releasing community code for Magento Open Source has declined. This reprioritization has caused frustration within the Magento Open Source community and brought about a recent fork called Mage-OS. Currently, this fork is a complete mirror of the Magento Open Source codebase. Eventually, if Adobe moves further from the community’s goals and priorities, it could become the defacto open source version of the platform going forward.

Dig deeper: Comparing Adobe Magento Open Source vs. Magento Commerce

What Makes Magento Open Source "Open Source"?

Magento Open Source is a PHP-based eCommerce software currently distributed by Adobe under the Open Software License 3.0 that developers and businesses can use to build and manage online store fronts. It was originally called the Magento Community Edition and only became Magento Open Source in June 2017 when it was owned by Permira.

Read more: Magento Open Source vs. Adobe Commerce


Magento Open Source Features and Benefits

Magento Open Source continues to evolve and enhance its features, making it a powerful and reliable choice for eCommerce businesses of all sizes. Its vast and ever-growing community of developers and users ensures a wealth of resources and support for anyone using the platform.

Extension Creation and Marketplace

With Magento Open Source, you have the tools and resources to create your own extensions and share them with the wider community via the Extension Marketplace. This massive library of tools allows users to freely customize their experience.

Mobile Design Capabilities

Magento Open Source also provides mobile-responsive themes and templates, ensuring that your online store looks and functions flawlessly on handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. This mobile optimization is crucial for reaching and engaging with the ever-growing number of mobile shoppers.

Strong Security Features

Though the platform is customizable and flexible, Magento Open Source incorporates valuable security measures, including data encryption, secure payment gateways, and user authentication. Regular updates and patches are released to address potential vulnerabilities, ensuring a safe shopping experience for customers and peace of mind for users.

How to Use Magento Open Source

If you're unfamiliar with Magento Open Source, you may be wondering how it works. While no explanation will replace working with an expert or discovering it for yourself, here is a super high-level view of how to get started using the platform. We've broken it down into three steps:

Installation and Setup

  • Download the latest version of Magento Open Source from the official website.
  • Choose a hosting provider that meets Magento's system requirements and install the platform on your server.
  • Follow the setup wizard, configure database connections, and set up essential store details like currency, language, and tax settings.

Customization and Design

  • Browse the Magento Marketplace (now called the Adobe Commerce Marketplace) for themes and extensions or choose from the default themes available.
  • Customize the design to match your brand's identity, adjust layouts, fonts, colors, and add your logo.
  • Install and configure necessary extensions to enhance your store's functionality, such as payment gateways, shipping methods, and marketing tools.

Product Management and Launch

  • Add your products to the catalog, including images, descriptions, and pricing.
  • Organize products into categories and set up attributes and filters for easy navigation.
  • Test your store thoroughly, including the checkout process, to ensure everything functions correctly. Once satisfied, launch your Magento Open Source-powered online store to start selling!

Tip: Remember to regularly update Magento Open Source to ensure optimal performance, security, and access to the latest features. Additionally, leverage the robust community support and documentation to troubleshoot issues and make the most of the platform's capabilities.

IronPlane's Magento Approach

If you are a developer or online merchant looking into open source eCommerce solutions for your online business, IronPlane can help. Our team of Magento experts offers a suite of services, including consultations, site audits, eCommerce storefront migrations, and more. We have a team of developers with decades of experience combined in Magento Open Source and Adobe Commerce Cloud who will help you find the best solution for your business needs.

Need immediate help implementing Magento? Check out these resources: 

FAQs: Magento Open Source

What is Magento Open Source, and how is it different from Adobe Commerce?

Magento Open Source is a free, open-source eCommerce platform for building online stores. It offers foundational features such as product management, catalog browsing, and checkout. Adobe Commerce is a paid version with additional, advanced features like advanced marketing tools, customer segmentation, and B2B functionalities. There is some debate regarding the true differences between the two platforms given the rich library of extensions that are available to bring the Magento Open Source platform to parity with the Adobe Commerce platform. In general we have found that regardless of potential parity, enterprise businesses are more attracted to the Adobe-backed Adobe Commerce Cloud over the Magento Open Source alternative.

What technical expertise do I need to manage a Magento Open Source site?

In our experience, many businesses view Magento Open Source as an excellent "free" eCommerce platform. In theory, you could follow the download and installation instructions above and get started with your new eCommerce site very soon. The reality is that these platforms are robust systems that require a lot of care in maintenance. It is essential for example, to have at least one highly skilled and experienced Magneto developer supporting your site. As the site grows, and you add extensions and customizations, the complexity multiplies and management becomes more labor intensive. For these reasons, we highly encourage businesses to work with a Magento development agency like IronPlane with the depth and breadth of both skills and experience to provide comprehensive platform support.

Is Magento Open Source secure and scalable for growing businesses?

Yes, Magento Open Source prioritizes security and is built to protect your online store from potential threats — regular security updates and patches are released by Adobe to address vulnerabilities. As for scalability, Magento Open Source is known for handling massive and complex product catalogs, high traffic, and multiple storefronts effectively. With the right hosting environment and platform optimization, it can support your growing business needs while providing excellent performance and user experience.

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