Spree vs Solidus: The Complete Guide to Choosing Between Platforms
Open source ecommerce platform Spree Commerce is a solution that we frequently recommend to our clients. Spree has been great for both our development team and clients as it allows maximum customization and extreme flexibility in our projects.
When something is open source, it means the code is 100% free and available to use. It also implies that there is an existing community who continually contributes to this code to make it usable. The developers in this community are constantly updating the files in a public repository, like GitHub, so that the newest fixes and improvements are readily available for other members of the community to use.
Open source is now becoming the “norm” in software development, and we are seeing more and more companies choosing open source solutions for their needs.
But companies that have chosen Spree as their ecommerce platform are already aware of the changes happening in the open source ecommerce world. After recently being acquired by First Data Corporation, Spree Commerce has stated that their support for the Spree open source project will now be much less. And now there’s a new platform on the scene that is rumored to be equally, if not more, powerful and as efficient as Spree.
That new platform is Solidus.
We’re getting lots of questions from businesses currently using Spree, as well as those looking to replatform, who wonder if Spree Commerce is still a good option.
In this article, we’ll answer that question and discuss Spree’s rumored replacement, Solidus. We’ll look at the similarities, pros, and cons of each so you can make a more educated decision about which open source solution best serves your ecommerce needs.
First, let’s review what exactly Spree Commerce is:
What is Spree Commerce?
Spree Commerce is an open source storefront solution built on Ruby on Rails. It’s known for being “lightweight” because it has much less code than Magento, for example, and also has a minimal, modular approach from the first setup.
With Spree, developers can heavily customize the platform and integrations, unlike other storefront solutions that have pre-built functionality and integrations that a business may not need or use. For this reason, developers working on the Spree open source project boasted quicker site load times and overall better storefront performance.
However, the open source project has taken a turn: Spree Commerce was purchased by First Data Corporation. The Spree company blog announcement makes it clear that this is a great opportunity for the Spree Commerce team to take their technology to a worldwide audience, but instills a bit of doubt in the future of the open source project.
It’s clear that Spree is distancing itself and will phase out their contribution to the open source project as they will no longer invest in it. They have bigger fish to fry.
But, all is not lost!
Though the momentum in the Spree open source project may begin to dwindle, there is already a new solution on the rise: Solidus.
What is Solidus?
Solidus is a new open source platform that was born out of the Spree Commerce development, and there’s already a lot of steam behind this open source community. The contributors are previous Spree contributors (from the team at Bonobos and Stembolt), and are committed to creating high quality code and uploading it to the Solidus GitHub repository.
But, don’t be fooled: Solidus is NOT a completely new solution. It is a fork of Spree.
Just like when driving, when you come to a fork in the road, you head in a different direction. The same is true in open source software development.
Many times development teams choose to take different directions in the product their building and they decide to “fork” or go their separate ways with development.
The Spree Commerce development project has been “forked” into a new project – Solidus. Essentially, the road forked at Spree 2.4, giving Solidus a foundation of Spree, and allowing a “new road ahead” to build the platform in a different direction.
Why Solidus is a Good Ecommerce Platform Solution
Solidus is a forked version of Spree 2.4 but is very much the same. The high-level differences between the two are that Solidus strives to do three things better:
- Produce stable, high-quality code that it is production-ready
- Make upgrades easier, allowing your company to always operate on the latest version available
- Better achieve API compatibility, making integrations with third-party applications easier
If you’d like a more technical explanation of differences, this blog post outlines a list of improvements that have already been shipped, tested, and validated on the current version of Solidus. Among those are store credit, multiple codes per promotion, adjustment and return reasons, and, of course, improved security.
Who’s using Solidus?
Because the developers at Bonobos were heavy contributors to the Spree Commerce project, they experienced first-hand the missing functionality their store needed and became committed to building a solution. Solidus became the platform where Bonobos developers saw their store’s future because it is able to better serve their needs. Now both Bonobos and their women’s brand, AYR, use Solidus as their platform.
Bonobos is actually quite a customer for Solidus to have. Not only are they the darlings of the men’s online retail industry, but the brand has been in the spotlight of the market after the company began to quickly scale and hone-in on their “vertically integrated, multi-channel retail”. (source)
And – so far – Bonobos continues to lead the men’s apparel industry in creating a seamless shopping experience, whether the customer is purchasing from a guide shop or from their iPhone. This could not be possible without a solid platform powering both these experiences.
It’s still a bit too early to tell what other brands have and will move over to Solidus from Spree, but having Bonobos, the biggest brand ever built online in the US, and AYR to boast as customers, is a pretty big win for Solidus.
If I’m replatforming or starting from scratch, which platform do I choose?
If you’re starting from zero or migrating an existing website, catalog, and customer database to a new platform, you may be wondering what Solidus means for you.
Should you use Solidus or Spree Commerce?
First, consider the pros and cons of choosing Spree:
- Pro: highly customizable storefront
- Pro: a solution built on simplicity, with room to add-on
- Con: Spree itself is no longer supporting the open source project
- Con: there are vulnerabilities in Spree that may not be solved if the project loses support
- Con: Many important contributors to the Spree project have moved on to other projects
Second, weigh those against the pros and cons of choosing Solidus:
- Pro: it is Spree 2.4, but better – Solidus has improved the product immensely
- Pro: the development team is dedicated and active
- Pro: Solidus has created a Slack channel for developers to always have access to support, meaning your dev team has a support line. (We’re a part of this channel and it’s very active!)
- Con: there aren’t many companies using it… yet
- Con: many feel the project is “too new” to bet on
Let’s touch on that last “con” for a second: Many companies that have contacted our team express a concern that the solution is “too new” to be trusted.
Not at all.
Think about it: Solidus is essentially a continuation of Spree 2.4. So, choosing Solidus means you’re selecting a solution that already has a validated existence on the market and isn’t “new” at all (other than the previously-mentioned improvements)!
What to do if I’m currently using Spree?
If you’re currently using Spree as your ecommerce platform, you have a few options:
Stay with Spree.
Even though Spree has stopped their contribution to the open source project, the code remains and will always be free. Additionally, the community has potential to still remain active – it’s a bit too early to tell if the project will continue to be regularly contributed to.
As long as you have a development team or are working with an ecommerce development agency that is familiar with Ruby on Rails, staying with Spree could be OK. However, if the open source project loses the majority of contributors, fixing bugs and improving your storefront could become problematic.
Spark Solutions, a development agency, has recently announced that they will now spearhead the Spree Commerce open source project. That means their team will dedicate time and resources to keeping the project alive.
It’s still a bit too early to tell how the project will fare in terms of regular contribution, but the fact that Spark has committed to the 2016 development of Spree is a good sign and if you do want to stay with Spree, you can know that the project is receiving regular updates.
(If you’re a developer, you can check out the Spree Slack channel here.)
Migrate to Solidus.
Migrating to Solidus could be your best option. Why? Since Solidus is basically Spree 2.4 with some improvements, the migration could be pretty easy, depending what version of Spree you’re currently running.
If you’re running a version of Spree that’s earlier than 2.4, we’d recommend that you upgrade (at least) to version 2.4 before migrating. If you’re running the latest version of Spree (3.0), Solidus recommends upgrading to the current Solidus 1.1, which includes updated migrations to support data from Spree 3.0. (One major difference is that Solidus doesn’t include Spree 3.0’s change to a bootstrap frontend and backend.) For a developer’s guide to upgrading, you can see this FAQ section of the Solidus GitHub Wiki.
As it’s not a huge development leap to migrate from Spree to Solidus, this seems like the most logical step if your company is already using Spree to operate. The Solidus project boasts a couple of high-profile stores and the community seems to be catching more support and steam.
Explore alternative platforms.
If the uncertainty of the Solidus/Spree products makes you wary, there’s always the option to look at alternative ecommerce platform solutions. Depending on your store’s requirements, you may want to look into a full service platform like Shopify Plus, or Magento Enterprise. Or if you want to explore other open source options, you can consider WooCommerce or Magento Community Edition.
We know choosing another platform isn’t easy. Prepare a list of functionalities and features that are necessary for your operations. Compare this list with the platforms you are considering to see if a completely new solution might better fit your requirements.
If your store currently operates on Spree, there’s no need to panic. Spree’s acquisition happened and now there’s a transition. The good thing is that this transition has spawned a continuation of Spree, but with improvements!
We are excited to see where Solidus goes, and think the development will continue to grow. Because there are devoted contributors from leading brands such as Bonobos and AYR, coupled with contributors from Stembolt, the future looks promising.
If your company is currently trying to make the decision to stay, migrate, or switch feel free to reach out – we are here to answer any questions you may have about Solidus and what it means for your business!