Every once in a while, efforts are initiated to push Magento off its throne. Not often are they acknowledged or find serious following other than an initial burst. With an out of the blue funding of $5M, Sellvana might be different.
What is Sellvana?
Ecommerce enthousiasts found quite a surprise when abruptly news outlets started reporting on the brand new Sellvana ecommerce platform. Due to $5M in funding by unknown investors, Sellvana immediately jumps to attention as a platform intended to compete with eBay’s Magento.
Sellvana promises to bring enjoyment back to ecommerce by thinking about both developers and merchants. The platform is built with PHP and features the in-house developed Fulleron framework (formerly known as Buckyball). The project will be released under the OSL 3 later this year, but for now, those interested will have to apply for a developer preview.
Surprisingly refreshing (and fast)
Powered by Bootstrap 3, Sellvana has a clean and responsive front- and back-end by default. Whereas the Magento default interface feels like nothing more than a demo which you should replace with something proper as soon as possible, the Sellvana default theme looks perfectly appropriate on its own.
Often with new ecommerce platforms which aim to battle Magento its market share (i.e Sylius or fwdCommerce), a lot is done right, but either development is getting up to speed or basic functionality found in Magento, is still missing. Not with Sellvana. Obviously, feature-wise it isn’t close to a 1:1 ratio, but right now, you could perfectly fine start a wesbshop with it.
For developers, Sellvana its keywords are true modularity, enhanced performance, ease of development and a fast learning curve. We will get back to the technical details a bit later. Performance-wise, we are already impressed. On the same machine, Sellvana pages load a lot faster than Magento theirs and functionality-wise the average Joe won’t notice a difference.
Merchants get a bit of the same, but also “superior SEO features” and other powerful new features. On top of that, they get a innuitive back-office even their minors can operate without thorough training or features hidden deep in sub-menus.
With Boris as a co-founder, it’s no surprise that a lot of the architecture of Sellvana seems to be inspired by Magento. Is this some copy-paste job gone wrong? Quite the contrary: Sellvana feels like a fresh take on Magento its architecture.
Twig on the front-end
To the frustration of a lot of front-end developers, Magento does not offer a templating engine. Sadly, Magento 2 will not either. Sellvana ships with Twig as a proven templating engine. No more hard-coded PHP nested within HTML files. Instead, you get expressive syntax specifically intended to output data and manage views, even view inheritance and section-hooks – without the verbosity of XML!
With Fulleron instead of Zend, Sellvana arguably has a lot cleaner and less abstract foundation. It is a separate entity and can already be used stand-alone from Sellvana: Fulleron on Github. Major difference: wheras Magento rolls its own ORM (Varien backed by the Zend database component), Fulleron is a lot leaner by simply using Paris, an Active Record implementation of Idiorm.
A highly modular event-driven approach is the road Sellvana rides. Magento does too, but Sellvana steps it up a notch: basically everthing but the very absolute core is decoupled into modules and can be turned off – we tried! Note that instead of heavy XML files, expresiveness is key again with YAML as Sellvana its description-model. Looking at the inner workings of some default modules, we immediately believe there is ease of development and a fast learning curve: all of the code is very expressive.
An entity-attribute-value approach is extremely effective in online ecommerce due to the nature of the differences in goods being sold. However, it adds a massive abstraction-layer between the chair with its custom properties in the shopping cart, and the representation of it in the database. In Magento’s case, the translation is slow and the code used can get immensly complex; astract-abstract-abstract class anyone?
Sellvana does away with all this complexity. We didn’t extensively research the EAV-implementation used, but by the looks of it, products have sane defaults (description and SKU straight in the products table) but can be extended by a variety of fields belonging to a fieldset. Instead of a dozen of relational tables, products self-host serialized EAV-data for quick access.
Any points for Magento?
Theoretically, Magento is simply better because it is longer in the wild than that Sellvana is in development. The developer preview really impresses us, but we can’t deny it isn’t a proven platform yet. There will probably be hiccups in true production not encounterd before, just like there will be clearly things it will immediately beat Magento at.
Though Sellvana really throws some good punches at Magento, we think that, in its complete form, Magento 2 would have been able to subvert most of them. However, Magento 2 is not complete. To be fair, neither is Sellvana but looking at the code right now, we see no sign of namespaces, PSR-compatibility or Composer dependency-loading whilst Magento 2 already got those or is working hard to provide them.
Inevitably something which is being used for years has a lot broader and more diverse adoption than something which only exists as a developer preview. Sellvana probably hasn’t reached its final form yet, but even in today’s form it easily outperforms Magento on some aspects.
A lot of Sellvana its success will depend on whether it is able to build on the current spike of approval and attention before Magento will properly transition to the long awaited version two. Years ago, nobody foresaw that MySpace would lose to Facebook in the time span it did. A few years ahead, it might feel like over tomorrow Sellvana replaced Magento. Or, Sellvana becomes a novelty platform in the shadow of Magento 2
We can’t look ahead in time, but no matter what will happen, Sellvana is really a platform to keep an eye on. Not because it got $5M in funding for reasons yet unknown, but because it effectively battles very specific pain-points developers and merchants have with Magento.
Disclaimer: This is a write-up on the closed developer preview of Sellvana its alpha version. It is not ready for demonstration. Technical details might change over time.