Work In Progress

This book is currently work in progress. Some sections are not yet written. Thank you for your understanding!

Dependency Injection Container / Service Locator

Joomla had historically been quite a mess, architecturally speaking. Its saving grace was that it was a far smaller mess than WordPress and much more approachable to non-expert coders than Drupal. This let it carve a niche for itself: people who wanted a very powerful site without having to first acquire a PhD in Computer Science and/or have a team of dozens of developers under them. In short, Joomla's bad-but-not-too-bad architecture let it be used by small web design firms, freelance site integrators and small but serious software development firms.

That said, Joomla 1.x to 3.x inclusive had a God Object called the Joomla Factory (JFactory or \Joomla\CMS\Factory) with a very opinionated approach on instantiating all sorts of globally used services, from the application itself, to the database, to the user objects, to the mailer object.

While this is a better approach to using global variables (like WordPress' infamous $wpdb for accessing the database), this architecture caused a lot of pain when you wanted to write Unit Tests for your code. Your code gets user instances? You need to create a mock for the entire Factory object returning mock user objects. Your code uses the database? You need to create a mock database object and inject it to an uninitialised Factory instance using static class variables. Your code sends email? Not only you need a mock mailer object, you need to mock the Factory too. Want to write tests which mock different things in different tests? You can either forget about running your tests as a suite OR you need to create an extremely over-reaching and hard to configure mock Factory. Your tests must run in a different order? Good luck figuring out the bugs in your Factory mock object and why running tests in one order works but fails when run in a different order, or on their lonesome. Been there, done that, still paying for therapy…

In Joomla 4 we no longer have a God Object. Well, to be fair, the Factory is still there but it is no longer a God Object; it is an interface to a Dependency Injection Container (DIC for short, pronounced like Dee Eye See, not the nickname for a Richard, thank you very much). So, Factory is still a God Object but with lesser powers. A minor deity object, perhaps? In any case, the Container is initialised before Factory is used and it can also be replaced. Therefore you only need to get a copy of the DIC and replace one or more of its services with a mock object when writing Unit Tests. Much easier, much more robust, no more therapy necessary after writing Unit Tests.

The Container is now the preferred way to get access to several services previously available only through the Factory (they are still available through the Factory in Joomla 4 but will very likely disappear in Joomla 5). Let's see a few practical examples:

use \Joomla\CMS\Factory;

// Instead of Factory::getDbo();
$db = Factory::getContainer()->get('DatabaseDriver');

// Instead of Factory::getLanguage(); WARNING! STILL DOES NOT WORK EXACTLY AS INTENDED!
$language = Factory::getContainer()->get(LanguageFactoryInterface::class)->createLanguage(

// Instead of Factory::getUser($id)
$user = Factory::getContainer()->get(UserFactoryInterface::class)->loadUserById($id);

// Instead of Factory::getUser() with no arguments; note that this does NOT go through the DIC!
$currentUser = Factory::getApplication()->getIdentity();

That said, Joomla's DIC is not a real DIC; it is in fact a Service Locator. That is to say, you don't ask the DIC to construct an object and expect it to inject the appropriate dependencies based on the class type hints of the constructor's arguments. In theory it can (kind of), but in practice this is NOT how the Joomla core API classes are written. If you came here expecting a DIC like what you find in Laravel, sorry, I have to disappoint you.

Now, you are thinking, does this not make the DIC kinda useless? No, not really. You see, being a Service Locator you get a copy of it when your extension is initialised. In fact, each native Joomla 4 extension needs to have a Service Provider which takes the DIC copy as input and registers services to it. At the very least you will be registering your extension service which is used by Joomla to instantiate your extension's object and run its code. You can also register any number of services you might need, even custom ones only to be used by your extension.

At some point in the future Joomla will MAYBE remove the Factory, if not altogether then at least insofar it can only return the main application's DIC. In such a future Joomla will VERY PROBABLY make it much easier for an extension's internal classes to have access to its own DIC / Service Locator instead of only ever making it available to the Extension class. In this potential future Joomla extensions will be self-contained and perfectly testable. Even better, they can be sure that whatever happens in an extension stays in the extension, without leaking to the global application scope (and poison other extensions).