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Alfresco Community Edition naming

Question asked by resplin on Feb 19, 2016
A friend emailed me this question, and I thought I should answer it publicly where other can benefit.

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I am a bit confused with Community Edition releases. Normally only GA versions have been available for direct download: 5.0a, 5.0b, etc. Now we have a 201602GA available. Did things changed? We wont gonna have 5.1.a? Is General Release 201602 the equivalent to 5.1.a?
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Community Edition 201602GA contains Alfresco Platform 5.1.e and Alfresco Share 5.1.e, along with Google Docs 3.0.3.

We had a few goals in changing the naming of the installation package:

* With the release of Alfresco 5.1, the Alfresco Platform and Alfresco Share are more separated than they were in the past and we want to start releasing Share independent of the platform. We also have components like Records Management and Google Docs with their own version scheme. We think it is clearer to look at Alfresco Community Edition as a point-in-time compilation of these various components, each with their own version number.

* In many software projects, people look at a version number as a marker of software maturity. Alfresco Community Edition doesn't always work that way, causing people to upgrade to the latest version of Alfresco Community Edition even when the goal of the release was experimental. For this reason, we are labeling each release as either Early Access (EA) or Generally Available (GA).

* We want to release Community Edition more regularly. Previously, release planning would start by saying "when will all the components have their X release?". Now we say "what versions of the components will be ready when we push out the release for month Y?". Waiting to finalize the version numbers of the various components until late in the release process lets us move faster.

* Sticking with a date as the name of the release avoids the discussions about whether a release of Community Edition of version X will cause our Enterprise Edition customers to expect a similar, which reduces the level of coordination necessary between our various teams.

This change was the result of conversations in the Alfresco ecosystem through blogs and on the Alfresco IRC channel (http://chat.alfresco.com). If you are interested in the background, here are two of the key posts:

* http://ecmarchitect.com/archives/2015/01/13/3987
* http://richard.esplins.org/siwi/2015/06/26/2015-plans-alfresco-community-edition/

Every change has trade-offs. A few of the downsides to this approach are:

* The documentation, training, and help in the forums are still organized around the versions of the various components of Alfresco (Platform, Share, Records Management). This change makes it harder to figure out what version of each component is included in a release.

* We don't have a good way of communicating changes like this to all interested parties in a consistent way.

I have tried to explain things clearly in the release notes for Community Edition. If you have any suggestions for how we can further clarify things, please post in this thread.

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