While the majority of CMS beginners favoured WordPress over other systems like Drupal or Joomla!, there has been a constant decline of those in marketshare, especially for Joomla!. Looks like the project was able to stop that process - and is about to go reverse.
Why the downfall in the first place?
Back in 2012 there was a turning point for the Joomla! project when version 2.5 came out. Not only WordPress was constantly gaining marketshare already in 2011, also there was a new update cycle introduced that resembled long term and short term support (LTS/STS) we know from other projects such das Ubuntu Linux.
The idea was that one could predict early enough when it was about time to go for a major version update - things appeared to be more plannable for both developers and site owners.
Unfortunately, Joomla! 2.5 itself wasn't broadly accepted like Joomla! 1.5 has been and that LTS/STS approach turned out to stress some negative reactions on the user-side: Who would want to use a CMS when you know from the start that in 2 years (minus T) you have to go for a major update?
While it has been quickly realized that Joomla! 2.5 wasn't something that people wanted, only a few months later, in September 2012 Joomla! 3.0 got released.
While Joomla! 3 - compared to 2.5 - was not just a polish of the administration but was created to follow the tracks of Joomla! 1.5, and it did pretty well with that!
However, there was still a problem remaining: The previously introduced LTS/STS approach, logically forced the project to offer 2 versions of Joomla! at the same time. Namely the obsolete 2.5 and the new version 3.
You don't need to be a professional market analyst to realize that this would finally lead to the downfall of Joomla! in respect to WordPress, simply because people got confused.
On top of knowing when your Joomla! version got unsupported, you now had to decide between 2 distinct versions of the same project. At the same time 3rd-party extension developers had support the 2 of them and provide split support.
Now WordPress (and others) could even accelerate their growth as the word-by-mouth wasn't really good for Joomla! at that time. Without the LTS/STS and two-version issues, the story might have been a bit different.
But anyway, what a mess.
Ground is lost - interwebs calling Joomla! dead
Due to the incredible accelerating popularity of WordPress that has been gained between 2010 and 2013, it indeed appeared that Joomla! was kind of done. While constantly loosing marketshare (e.g. between 0.1% and 0.5% every month at w3techs) the decline was crystal clear, as there wasn't a single month where Joomla! could gain anything back.
Bloggers all around the world threw 1000s of posts on the web, declaring the final winner of the CMS battle is....their blogging system WordPress.
However, while Joomla! being the only major community-driven CMS out there without a company backing it, it didn't really know it was competing with anyone. So slowly the news about loosing ground populated the scene. Very slow.
Calling "Houston" & Teaming Up
When there was broad awareness of the decline - must have been like somewhere in 2014 - suggestions to solve the problem in the Joomla! community were taken very serious. The major problem - LTS/STS and the 2-version system - was quickly spotted as the main root of the issue. So it has been decided to finally bury Joomla! 2.5 and move over to a more human-friendly version approach which basically does updates as-they-come without any definite predictions about when there is an end-of-life of the current major version.
That was not the only thing that happened. A new community structure has been worked out (takes effect soon) and plenty of working-groups have been founded, each focusing on their tasks independently but quickly able to merge if there is an intersection of decisions to be made or work to be done.
The Joomla! project itself became extremely active, focusing on slowly enhancing the platform and cleaning up unnecessary stuff, making it incredibly stable and reliable.
By the time of writing, Joomla! is one of the most active CMS projects on Github and far from being dead and done.
The Reward & The Future
Since 2012 I am watching the w3techs market share and usage numbers. So I was already surprised that sometimes Joomla! was able to halt the loss of marketshare for a couple of months.
But then something happened that was totally unexpected. Not only Joomla! was able gain back marketshare in July 2016, it appears to continue that trend in August (while WordPress trends to loose the same amount as usual in a summer month).
If that would only the marketshare, ok maybe a glitch, but it also continues this trend at the w3techs cms usage statistics:
While there are many CMS statistics out there, I tend to stick with w3techs as their trends get along with the stats that I see at Crosstec.org. People often try to explain things by using Google Trends or even worse, Alexa and coming to conclusions while they don't have independent data that gets along with predictions made by those.
In the case of w3techs there has always been a clear parallel to data from Crosstec.org, so the numbers you see above are reliable (at least for Joomla!).
It is impossible to predict if that is a turnaround of some sort but it for sure is a reward for all the hard work that has been done by the Joomla! community and I think the community should know about it.
Of course, there might have been external effects, such as the (from my point-of-view) unfortunate provoked insecurity of WordPress calling for Calypso but the major part of this is simply a direct outcome of hard work.
However, if Joomla! keeps on going like it did in the last 2 years, the rewards might become even bigger and then we rather might see blog posts like "Joomla! gaining popularity" in the wild - that's at least something that this project deserves.
As of August 16th, 2016, it keeps raising in both market share and usage: