Need an Alfresco add-on? Well, today’s your lucky day. Open source enterprise CMS provider Alfresco has become the latest company to embrace the wildly successful app store trend for distributing software with the release of its new extensions site, Alfresco Add-ons. 

The Rise of the App Store

The “app store” has changed the way consumers expect to get software. A search, maybe a click or two and voilà -- you have new functionality. App stores aren’t just for phones and tablets anymore. The concept is so appealing that it has transcended the consumer market to the enterprise. Increasingly, vendors are moving away from traditional software distribution approaches and incorporating app stores into their platforms. 

Everything from browsers to operating systems and web content management systems  have begun allowing users to add features via the same app store style interfaces they’ve grown to know and love on their mobile devices. App stores aren’t just handy for users. They are also an avenue for integrators, developers and even hobbyists to showcase their wares and maybe make a few dollars.

Introducing Alfresco Add-ons

Alfresco has replaced Alfresco Forge, the previous home of community developed add-ons, with its new app store, Alfresco Add-ons. Alfresco intends for the new site to become a one-stop shop for users to find extensions and customization for the open-source Enterprise CMS platform. Alfresco Add-Ons doesn't currently offer extensions for purchase, but that functionality is planned for the future according to project lead, Richard Esplin.

Alfresco Add-ons has many of the same features common in other app stores such as comments, ratings and search. Each component entry features a description, license information and details about Alfresco version compatibility.

Currently, the new marketplace has a little over 100 components. In addition to the new app store, the latest release of Alfresco Community 4 includes an optional feed displayed in the Alfresco Share dashboard that features the newest Add-ons available. Alfresco plans to develop tighter integration between the app store and the platform in the future.

Users should keep in mind that most add-ons in Alfreco’s new app store are not developed or endorsed by Alfresco. There does not appear to be any vetting process for developers to submit add-ons beyond a simple registration process. Therefore, it is possible for downloads to intentionally or unintentionally include malware, cause system issues or not function as expected. App store users can report objectionable items to the project lead for Alfresco Add-Ons.

These issues are not unique to Alfresco. The same problems have plagued unregulated app stores such as the Android Marketplace. However, they could have a more significant impact in an enterprise setting. It will be interesting to see whether vendors like Alfresco begin regulating their app stores or offering certified components to assure users that an add-on is safe.