Magento Connect was the original marketplace that allowed Magento’s community members to share their open-source extensions, themes, and language packages with the rest of the community. It was shut down on the 15th of September 2017 and replaced by the Magento Marketplace that offered extensions vetted by Magento.
Magento Connect was the go-to extension directory for Magento stores running versions 1.x. It allowed users to grab a key related to an extension on Magento Connect and use it from within their Magento installation to download and install the extension on their store. They could also upload extension packages directly from within the Magento Connect Manager and even upgrade their Magento installations through the interface.
From a developer’s perspective, Magento Connect was also a means to package an extension for easy installation and make it accessible to Magento’s global community. They could license their extensions using various license options such as Open Software License (OSL), GNU General Public License (GPL), and other commercial licenses.
Magento published guidelines for developers who wished to package and publish their extensions on Magento Connect. Their guidelines contained precise instructions on how extensions were to be created, packaged, and uploaded using Magento Connect. The guidelines helped ensure each extension package included all necessary information such as package, release, author information, dependencies, and information of its contents.
Each extension package consisted of 6 sections related to the extension.
This section contained information related to the name, channel, supported versions, summary, and license information.
This section contained information on the extension release version and its stability, which could be Alpha, Beta, or Stable.
This section contained the names, usernames, and email addresses of all members who contributed to an extension.
This section specified the PHP version dependency of an extension’s code.
The Contents section was one of the most critical sections of the extension package as it determined which files would be included or excluded in an extension.
Load Local Package
After completing all previous fields, this section allowed creating an XML document called the package data file, which would be required to upload the package in the extension profile in Magento Connect.
Magento Connect was convenient to use and an excellent source for both developers and online merchants to use and distribute extensions. It required little technical knowledge and enabled the installation of extensions without any technical support.
A well-known issue with the extensions available on Magento Connect was that they weren’t reviewed or examined before being published. Lack of scrutiny meant poorly coded extensions, and those with viruses and malware were able to make their way to Magento Connect. Such extensions could cause performance issues and even introduce malware and viruses into a store. To add to this, uninstalling an extension wasn’t always straightforward and even required database changes in some cases.
Another major problem with using the Magento Connect Manager was its URL. While you could use obscure URLs for the Magento admin panel, the Connect Manager was always present at “/downloader/” making it vulnerable to brute force attacks. Many store owners worked around this by either deleting the directory from the filesystem, revoking permissions for the Magento Connect Manager, or blocking access to it from the .htaccess file.
After the launch of Magento 2 in November 2015, one of the most significant changes in the platform was removing the Magento Connect Manager. While it initially came as a surprise to many, Magento had bigger plans for their official marketplace. They launched the Magento Marketplace on the 19th of April 2016, seeking to address the issues with Magento Connect by replacing it entirely with a new platform.
Magento Marketplace put a rigorous Extension Quality Program in place to ensure all extensions on the marketplace met Magento’s coding standards and followed best practices. All extensions submitted to the Magento Marketplace undergo automated checks and manual reviews. Magento’s developers thoroughly test the code’s integrity, check for viruses and malware, and review the code for plagiarism before allowing it to be listed on the marketplace.
This scrutiny helps maintain the quality of all extensions on the marketplace and allows store owners to use the marketplace without worrying about compromising their websites.
After Magento Connect was closed down, it took a while for developers to make their way to the new marketplace as they adapted to the new requirements set out by Magento. However, as of December 2020, 3500+ extensions and themes can be purchased on the marketplace, with roughly 989 Magento partners actively contributing to it.