We used to have to test website changes for Internet Explorer 6 because many businesses continued to use it, believing that it was safer to stay several versions behind the current version of Internet Explorer. However, Internet Explorer 6 used non-standard conventions and had numerous security holes, creating serious risk for its users.
Many businesses express hesitation when it comes to upgrading to the latest version of a software. The decision to use newer versions must be taken on a case-by-case basis, as sometimes refusing to use the newer versions causes problems and other times it's in the best interest of the site owner. For the past year and a half, businesses have had a similar choice with Joomla, specifically choosing between Joomla 2.5 and 3. So which should you choose?
On the surface, choosing between the older and newer versions seems similar to choosing between an older version of Internet Explorer and a newer version, but it's actually very different.
In this case, the older version Joomla 2.5, is a more stable version, known as a long-term support version (LTS), and the newer version, 3.x is only a short-term support version (STS). The way this style of application development works is that several rounds of development go into STS versions of an application and these eventually produce a LTS version. The LTS version won't have new features developed for it, but will continue to have security and bug patches released, ensuring it remains the most stable and secure version of the application.
The main reason to use an STS is if you want to be on the cutting edge of development or your site absolutely requires the newer features. Recently, I chose to install a STS version of my Ubuntu operating system. This allows me to get the latest Ubuntu features, but it also meant that I spent a few weeks ironing out all the little bugs that came with new feature set. This is the cost of using an STS – not everything has been smoothed out.
Due to the continually improving nature of an STS, there are some risks to using Joomla 3. For example, when using a version recently, I discovered a bug affecting users passwords that made it very difficult to use. These types of bugs can creep into a STS version, but almost never in a LTS version like Joomla 2.5.
A final consideration is timing. Besides newer features, there is another benefit to using STS. When the next major version is released as long-term support version, in this case 3.5, the cost to upgrade is usually minor. Joomla 3.5, the LTS version to replace 2.5, is slated to be released in 2014 and upgrading from version 3.3 instead of 2.5 will be less expensive.
It depends upon your appetite for risk. For most of our clients, we recommend they stay on long-term support versions and wait until everything has settled. However, If you have developers on hand to address any bugs and quickly apply security fixes, the new features maybe worth it. Additionally, the deeper in the year we go, the more sense it makes to build on 3.x and limit the work needed to make the small hop to 3.5 when it's released.