Prologue and Standards
Contao 4 is a success story, even if some of the Contao community did not see it that way in the beginning. The primary reason for this may have been the decision of the Contao Core team to rely 100% on Composer. Until version 4, Contao was a complete application that you could download as a ZIP file, unzip it and run it on the server. Admittedly, this had its advantages, especially the installation of Contao is a bit more complex today than it was in the past. The biggest advantage of Contao 4 compared to its predecessors is the fact that standards are used everywhere. There are dozens of examples of this, we mention only a few:
- Contao now has an extremely powerful caching system that is based on the HTTP standards instead of the custom HTML cache we had before. This brings a lot of new possibilities, from Load Balancing to Cache Reverse Proxy'ing.
- Contao uses ICU libraries almost everywhere to solve language and country specific problems. And so it happens, that blog posts with an
üin the title can be automatically converted to an
uein the German alias and to an
uin the English one, respectively.
- Contao supports two-factor authentication based on TOTP, which is also a standard and that is why so many apps work automatically with Contao.
- Contao relies on responsive images, this has allowed to introduce support for WEBP or lazy loading.
- Contao uses the standard PHP
password_hashinterface. Another standard that ensures that you always get the most secure password hashing algorithm possible.
- and much more.
You see, standards sound unspectacular, but they are an enormous enrichment for Contao. They might even be the ultimate argument for Contao 4.
Composer is a standard too. Composer is the package manager for PHP projects and after the introduction of the Contao Manager and the Composer Resolver Cloud have largely solved the problems of handling the command line and the lack of enough RAM on the server, we are now left with its benefits:
- Thanks to Composer, we are able to query all installed packages and thus list them in trakked so that you can filter by them.
- Thanks to Composer we are not only able to query the installed packages, but also to check them for security vulnerabilities. By the way, we use a standardized interface there as well.
- Thanks to Composer we can provide complete updates of installations via trakked.
The complete switch to Composer brings the following consequence:
Contao has long ceased to be a complete ZIP package that you can download from somewhere. Each installation is potentially a unique combination of packages. Just because they have the same Contao version installed, and possibly even the same extensions, does not mean that they are identical. On the contrary, they are most likely different. This is due to the fact that Composer always tries to find the best possible package combination at a given time. Normally this means the latest versions of all allowed packages, if they match. Platform information such as the installed PHP version or the installed PHP extensions are also taken into account. It is therefore quite likely that if installation A runs with PHP 7.4 and installation B with PHP 8.0, they will receive a different package combination.
Likewise, an update to the latest Contao 4 version this morning may give a different result than this afternoon. The reason for this is that new versions of dependencies may have been released in the meantime. This case is even extremely likely because a complete Contao Managed Edition (i.e. a Contao installation that can be managed by the Contao Manager) consists of ~200 packages.
The ~200 packages are not a disadvantage, but on the contrary: These are 200 libraries that the Contao core team could reuse and the logic of which did not have to be re-implemented.
The fact that not all packages originate from Contao also means that Contao cannot control all releases of the dependencies and thus releases of third party packages may potentially cause a problem with Contao at any time of the day or night. To be able to react to this, Composer offers the possibility to record so-called
conflicts in its own
composer.json. This prevents certain packages from being installed in certain versions. However, this is a manual process and must be repeated for each installation.
To solve this problem, the Contao Core team came up with the
contao/conflicts package. As you can see on GitHub, this package consists exclusively of a
composer.json which is full of
conflict definitions. Every Contao installation that is managed with the Contao Manager automatically gets this package in the version
@dev (always the latest commit in the repository). This allows the core team to intervene in the dependency resolution process for all Contao users in one central location, so that ideally the vast majority of users will not even notice it.
contao/conflicts prevents that a package which is not compatible with your installation or can lead to known errors from being installed. It also saves you the work of having to manually write a known conflict into your