Liferay 6.0: Liferay’s lost potential – is it true?

Micheal wrote on eweek.com labs review about Liferay 6. He named it “Liferay’s lost potential”. Is it a proper title for that review – I leave this answer for you to decide. In my opinion true is somewhere in the middle.

There are many negative sides of using this platform because Liferay is buggy. I’m not telling that because I saw so many tickets in JIRA (I know that many of them are out-of-date) but because I use Liferay every day for different things. I know that there are no flawless applications (but WordPress is so close to that) but usability bugs in 2011? My favorite is that one where you must login to webdav using your userID instead of normal login. In that moment of Liferay administration training all my clients have this special look on their faces (it looks similar to WTF).  Also (because I’m from country where English is not primary language) all the localization bugs (but those will be solved in upcoming Liferay 6.1).

It’s nice to have 60+ portlet out-of-the-box but most of them look like simple “proof of concept” (Words and Hello Velocity portlets should be moved from Liferay bundle to Community Plugins repository!!!) , others are old and now almost useless (Translator portlet say hello to Google Translate) and others will never be used on any big portal (yeah, I’m talking about you Password Generator portlet and Loan Calculator portlet).

User documentation is still poor. My favorite part is the explanation of Review date field in Web Content edition page – see for yourself and look for “review date” in official Administrator Guide. Developer documentation is just a little bit better thanks to Liferay developers who started updating JavaDoc. Functionality documentation? I saw many tickets in JIRA but never any doc with good specification how should that part of Liferay work (maybe that is why there are so many usability flaws).

And themes? Yep, WordPress has them. I never show my clients Liferay themes available in Community Repository. Never. NEVER. Why? Take one (at random) and try building nice looking site without any CSS coding. Impossible. But there is a little change coming up in that matter.

So why do we like Liferay? We like it because it’s the only option if you want to build news portal without writing all the code from scratch. If you stabilize your own branch of Liferay CE or buy Liferay EE it will serve you well for many projects. You will have working API, some standardized integration code and very powerful feature of “web content structures and templates”.  You will also be able to configure you portal using one portlet – Asset Publisher – the only portlet that can do everything you will need. And don’t forget building verticals (based on community or instance feature of Liferay) in couple of clicks. You won’t see that in other CMS systems.

And speed? Well, WordPress is faster than Liferay but remember that TIE fighter is always faster than Imperial Star Destroyer. You don’t need that second one to set up one blog but you won’t be able to build heavy-traffic horizontal portal with the first one.

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43 Responses to Liferay 6.0: Liferay’s lost potential – is it true?

  1. Bradley Wood says:

    These are interesting observations. What type of themes/layouts would you like to see in liferay 6.1?

  2. Paul Hinz says:

    Hienamx, do you know who “Michael” is? I worry it is a competitor writing an anonymous review given they’ve only done 1 review and they use qualifying words like “used it for 6 months” and then use expressive words like “rampant, etc.”.

    As an open source and open community project – Liferay is dependent on people working together for the greater good and providing quantified and actionable feedback. The new Community Manager, James Falkner (http://bit.ly/eYHttb) would love the input.

    BTW – I like your example at the end about WordPress being a Tie Fighter and Liferay being an Imperial Star Destroyer. Given Liferay’s so much lighter than most enterprise apps – what does that make SAP, Oracle WebCenter, Websphere Portal??? 😉

    • hienamx says:

      Paul,
      Competitor or not – you must admit he’s got a point at couple of things. I think that interesting is that “I’ve been running this product for several months” part. I remember from our company my first 6 months of adapting Liferay technology – it was a real horror for developers and webdevelopers. They all asked me several times per day “Can we switch to WordPress now?”. IMHO this review is made by very frustrated user who can’t force his tool to do what he wants. I know that feelling very well so I can say this tone is not unjustified. It’s just an offspring of poor documentation and strange java code (that’s what my Architect said – I don’t know java at all). You see (beacuse you liked my example so much I will use it again) you don’t need to read the fancy manual to steer TIE fighter but 407 pages of Administrator Guide for steering Star Destroyer can be only called “Getting started”.

      The only part I won’t agree at all is the “They leak way more information that i am comfortable with xss issues are rampant in the codebase”. I know there are security holes in Liferay (LPS-7087 or http://www.steblar.com/index.php/archivio-news/125) but I never ran into problems with leaking any private information.

      • Paul Hinz says:

        Good points. A way to look at Liferay is it should strive to provide the best of both Websphere Portal and WordPress.

        One being highly adaptable, enterprise scalable/reliable, and customizable, and the other being low cost, light weight and easy to develop on. Java is the right basis for this – and like Java EE 6’s response to the flood of developers to scripting, Liferay can make development easier while giving the enterprise-ness of Websphere but at the ease of use and low cost of WordPress.

      • Jelmer says:

        Hey hienamx, personally i am with the review author on the “json services leak more information then i am comfortable with part”

        I don’t think information like this should be available

        http://www.liferay.com/c/portal/json_service?serviceClassName=com.liferay.portal.service.ThemeServiceUtil&serviceMethodName=getWARThemes

        While it does not pose an immediate security risk. If definitely crosses my “comforable threshold”

        By default every remote service is exposed as a json service. And if someone forgets to add proper permission checking to a method. It is easily taken advantage of. Take for example :

        http://issues.liferay.com/browse/LPS-11916

      • Massimo says:

        There is another vulnerability in Liferay 5.x .
        Guest user can view private information about registered users.

        http://www.steblar.com/index.php/archivio-news/128

      • Paul Hinz says:

        @Massimo – The vulnerability was fixed in Liferay 6.0 and in 5.2 SP5.

        Thanks.

      • Paul Hinz says:

        @Massimo – It is still a bug in 5.2.3 though.

      • jelmer says:

        Paul, many commercial companies and opensource projects publicly announce security vulnerabilities so that the people running the software are aware of the problems and know that they have to patch their systems.

        Does liferay have any plans in that direction ?

      • hienamx says:

        That’s a really good question jelmer especially if you have in mind that there is no roadmap visible to users so they don’t know anything about “when & what”.

      • Paul Hinz says:

        @Jelmer – we developed a “security notification and patching” process this last summer to alert Liferay customers of security issues immediately and with a process to get them patched quickly. These patches are then made available to the community. James Falkner will be the source to notify the community if you find security issues, it is best to notify him so they can get patched quickly.

    • hienamx says:

      Oh, and one thing more.
      We are preparing for stress & speed tests of Liferay so you better hurry your developers – nice written “how to speed up Liferay” blog post can make a change 🙂

    • Phil Templeton says:

      “What does that make SAP, Oracle, WebCenter, Websphere????” ~ The Death Star(s)

  3. Good article. I agree almost everything what you say. Three and half years I have made my money with Liferay 🙂 So I have seen some Liferay’s hickups too, but still love to work with it.

  4. Jelmer says:

    Its funny that you mention web content structures, templates and the asset publisher as Liferay’s strong points. These have actually given me the most hardship.

    Suppose you create a press release structure. You would want users to be able to find these via the built in search. Your press releases will show up in the search results page clustered under webcontent (WTF) , just below the footer text and your welcome message. What more, clicking on the result will not link to the release’s page, but will show the content inline.

    While I understand why things work the way they work it’s almost never what you want.

    In asset publisher you have the same problem. There is no straightforward way to have a list of most recent press releases on your frontpage that link through to your press releases page (I know open in context exists but by design it cannot work for webcontent) Instead it will open the web content inline. Furthermore the “friendly url” it generates will contain the 4 letter portlet instanceid, which is not just ugly but also dangerous. When someone removes the asset publisher from the page and readds it, it will most likely get another instance id. So the friendly url’s google indexed, that people linked to are now incorrect. ouch!

    Finally I don’t believe you can have a different workflow associated with different structure types.

    All in all i found liferay’s webcontent unusable even for the most basic scenarios and we ended up defining our own asset types (which is a lot of work)

    What are other people’s experiences? Am I alone in this ?

  5. Alvaro says:

    Hi, i read your article and i agree with almost everything you put into it. I worked with Liferay during two years (on the CE) and as the development lead i have struggled a lot with the bugs that come with the boundle editions since 5.2.3 version but this doesn´t mean that Liferay is a bad product, not at all. It’s buggy when you develop on it but when you tune it you get a cheap great quality enterprise portal. Those that had deployed Liferay CE in production environments have had a lot, i mean a lot of errors to solve in production phase and the cost of maintenance has been one of the major complains of our customer.
    Sorry for the english, i’m not from a spanish language country.

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  8. Ching says:

    This 2 years old post is still worth reading.
    Eight years ago, Liferay is not buggy, but now …. sigh ….

    Now I am evangelizing portal developers not to follow any vendor lock-in methods. Building “Portal 2.0” standard generic portlet is more secure to switch another platform.

    I am writing my memoir about portals.war episode by episode http://blog.icecreaming.com

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