Extension Notes: Xmap is Dead, Meet Its Successors

The Joomla ecosystem's old favorite sitemap extension, Xmap is no more. Meet its successors, mapX and OSMap.

There's very little comedy in this comparative review of OSMap, and mapX (Xmap Reloaded). So here's a picture of an unarmed kid being attacked by a lightsaber-wielding President Obama.Wherein I give a comparative review, if not an outright rubber stamp, to mapX, and OSMap, two forks of the now-defunct Xmap. I owe Xmap 3 Continued -- now apparently rebranding as mapX (Xmap Reloaded) -- a little bit of fair dues. If it was a race, mapX won. For brand recognition, mapX won. And most critically, for ease of transition, mapX takes the win again. Despite not yet being in the Joomla Extensions Directory (JED) yet, mapX (Xmap Reloaded) does use the auto-update system. Folks, we have a contender (competitor)!

Here it comes, the climax of Map-Off 2015! Who Will Wipe the Map with the Competition? Etc!

With mapX now forging a separate identity, vibrant with updates, and competing for features, it seems likely the JED will list mapX soon. It also seems I won't need to take my Xmap support services page down, so soon... but rather, update it.

Having used, and tentatively approved-of both options, I cannot find much drama for use as entertainment, in this article. Get ready for the most dreadful imaginable result of Xmap's closure... a boring side-by-side comparison, of the two dominant, competing successors!

Everyone seems to be acting in either competition with each other, or in version-lockstep with Joomla, or perhaps in solidarity with Aimy Extensions, after I scolded them for their version number -- because everybody is leaping to "version 3" status, at once. I can't promise the features comparisons will still be valid when I hit publish, although I'm doing my best. The point, anyway, is that both publishers seem determined to prove they will keep this sitemap extension, in your mind share, by keeping it fresh -- at least, that is, while the news iron's hot.

Would you like me to replace Xmap on your website? Contact me! Work usually takes only 1 to 2 hours!

To take some emphasis off the question of which extension I've chosen, I'll disclose two things. It always feels good to scratch my integrity itch: I've secured a review copy of OSMap Pro. I'll be posting a review of it, in the coming months.* It really didn't affect my decision. I went with OSMap, because I expect Alledia will put more resources into improving their Joomla sitemap solution, than almost any competition, could.

(Edit: The preceding previously said I had already received this software -- but it's not out yet, all I've received is the agreement to allow me a review copy. Yeah, I was confused at first, too.)

Still, my decision is not based on your priorities, dear reader. Let me break down the facts for you.

mapX: A Bridge Back to Xmap Proper?

First, a quick update about the direction of mapX (formerly Xmap 3) -- the page for mapX, on z-index's website, now states z-index development would be willing to pass control of the project back to its original author, Guillermo Vargas, should he want to resume the project. As I previously reported, Vargas stated a desire to revitalize Xmap, but that he would not be able to commit to such a project until next year.

While I see no reason to hold our breaths, this is an excellent use of open source tradition -- and as we'll see below, z-index's activities in improving mapX, will almost definitely have an impact on OSMap, by simple virtue of competition.

Finally, on to the comparative review.

Probably to avoid dealing with broken post-install scripting functionality, mapX requires Joomla 3.4.
Probably to avoid dealing with broken post-install scripting functionality, mapX requires Joomla 3.4.

Installing

mapX (Xmap Reloaded) requires Joomla 3.4, and installs cleanly on it; earlier versions at least successfully notified you about this, although the version re-checked more recently, simply produced a 500 Server Error on J33. OSMap supports earlier versions of Joomla, all the way back to Joomla 2.5.

Other than the upgrade requirement for using mapX (Xmap Reloaded), both extensions installed without a hitch. There were, however, a couple steps required, switching to OSMap. One of these was unavoidable; the others, were either minor programming errors, or manifestations of lawyerly concern.

Switching from old Xmap, to OSMap, required a single find-replace command be done on my CSS file, to change all instances of "#xmap" into "#osmap" -- note, the hash (#) sign, is part of the find-replace. This was the unavoidable one. It's a side effect of rebranding -- since the brand is in use as style code, and it wouldn't be very stylish for OSMap to wear Xmap's old nametag.

OSMap also made (in my opinion) the mistake of creating a default sitemap, and then importing my Xmap data into a second sitemap, despite the first one being empty. The empty sitemap with the lower ID, was set as default, and my menu items were switched to use it; I had to set the higher-ID sitemap, holding my imported Xmap data, to default, and update things in Menu Manager.

Another inevitable step -- most websites have a custom redirect, probably pointing sitemap.xml at a non-SEF com_xmap URL. This will need to be updated, if you switch to OSMap.

By comparison, I simply installed mapX (Xmap Reloaded), and was done.

Options

In terms of options, old Xmap didn't offer much. It had style suggestions. You weren't offered means to hide the link to the author's website.

mapX (Xmap Reloaded), automatically omits the link to its own website -- any such act on behalf of an extension author, deserves kudos. mapX (Xmap Reloaded) removes the option in the menu item for enabling/disabling default styles, and omits publication of the CSS file itself. This gave no problem to those of us with custom style -- it's a sudden visual change, for those relying on that default stylesheet, but not necessarily a downgrade. Old Xmap was never too pretty, out-of-the-box.

OSMap has an option to hide the link to the author, in the options of the individual sitemap. Its menu item maintains compatibility with the default styles option.

Those with custom styles have a surprise with regard to OSMap; those using default styles, have a surprise with mapX. Everyone gets a pleasant surprise, with regard to the author's backlink.

A few more notes and the conclusion, below.

No space on mapX's menu item tabbar for default stylesheets which never honestly looked good anyway.
No space on mapX's menu item tabbar for default stylesheets which never honestly looked good anyway.

 

OSMap maintains the options, if for no other reason than, continuity for users, was the goal.
OSMap maintains the options, if for no other reason than, continuity for users, was the goal.

 

The mapX admin now has a thing to ping Bing.
The mapX admin now has a thing to ping Bing.

Other

One of the reasons users cling so desperately to our sitemaps is because, so long as it auto-updates along with our site content, so long as it covers everything we care about on our site, and so long as Google doesn't bat us over the head with crawl errors, the sitemap is one of the only aspects of our website, we can generally ignore with success. For that reason, there's not a great deal to talk about, but there is room for competition.

The features of the competitors' respective XML files, for example. OSMap features fuller XML hinting; they are otherwise identical. The extra hints are not strictly necessary, and are in fact redundant. So much for competition.

mapX recently added a Ping button, which notifies Bing of your sitemaps. 

Ladies, gentlemen, and others, these are the jokes. What we have here is a completely unfunny pair of legitimate, significantly-unique, perfectly-usable forks, each of which represents an appreciable upgrade from the last Xmap. I repeat: this is not funny.

But it's nice that the dust settled so quickly, and it's always nice being right. There may be unofficial epilogues to this series, but we can call this one, concluded. Provided Alledia and I can work out a small snag, I will also be back to the topic of sitemaps via the review of OSMap Pro, someday -- even if they rename their extension to be spelled backwards (and feature modular parentheticals).

Would you like me to replace Xmap on your website? Contact me! Work usually takes only 1 to 2 hours!