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Effect of the war in Ukraine on Ecommerce

March 1, 2022 by Paul Byrne

Business Environment

Without a doubt, the brutal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russian army has created a senseless, worsening humanitarian disaster. While I don’t have any blood relatives in Ukraine, I do have many I consider brothers. I cannot stand by.

Why would there be any effect?

A friend introduced me to the world of Ukrainian software development in 2011 when I was pitching a large data migration and software development project to a Fortune 500 company. He had left his company in France, spent 4 months studying Ukrainian full time, and opened a company near Kiev to recruit the many talented software engineers that Ukrainian universities produce.

Within a year, I plunged into the Magento development community. For all intents and purposes, Magento, the leading open source ecommerce software that powers hundreds of thousands of online stores, was developed by Ukrainians. I had the privilege of meeting many of them at the Magento Imagine events.

Soon, we were collaborating with and hiring Ukrainian developers to work on an array of projects. We discovered some incredibly talented product and project managers who hailed from Ukraine as well.

As we expanded our portfolio of projects we continued to encounter Ukrainians at OroCommerce, BigCommerce, PayPal, Google, software development outsourcing firms. What does Ukraine have to do with my ecommerce store?

PHP and Ukraine

The effect this war has on open source platforms can be easily explained in numbers. The top open source web content platforms, namely WordPress, Drupal, Magento, PrestaShop, Silius and so forth are written in the programming language PHP.

WordPress, while not primarily Ecommerce, hosts over 1,000,000 ecommerce shops via the WooCommerce plugin. According to BuiltWith, PHP-based ecommerce platforms are 4 of the top 10 ecommerce platforms.

graphic with map of Ukraine on pc screen and network connections all around
Ukraine, a country of about 43 million people, has 9,000 PHP developers, more than any other country, according to Daxx, a well know supplier of ecommerce development talent. By comparison, the US has only 7,000. Half of the PHP developers in Ukraine work in Kiev.

While bombs are falling around them, who do you think is building, extending and maintaining ecommerce sites?

What have software companies been doing to mitigate the effect?

According to Daxx and other sources, a number of important international companies like Boeing, Skype, Bosch, eBay, Fiverr and Wix have sizeable software development groups in Ukraine. If the Russians were to get ahold of proprietary materials at Boeing and Bosch, it would represent a sizable security risk.

I’ve contacted a number of companies with teams in Ukraine. This is the general approach I have encountered:

  • Prior to the invasion: move as many developers to neighboring countries as possible.
  • Transition critical assignments temporarily to teams elsewhere.
  • Keep businesses running so Ukrainian developers have jobs to come back to.
  • Support the hell out of those who are left behind.

The software developers left behind in Ukraine

Based on news reports and my conversations with Ukrainians, the situation is bleak. Most are unable to work because of the situation. Many are taking up arms. Others are providing logistical support. Much of their time is spent just keeping safe.

I believe this photo of a group of software developers from two days ago best tells the story best.

photo of room full of men in camo with weapons

How will your ecommerce store be effected?

Luckily, we don’t anticipate too many slow downs, and we doubt that your data will vanish out of thin air. But, If your ecommerce store is built on an open source platform like Magento, OroCommerce or Silius it could be affect in one of the following ways:

  1. Release dates may be missed These talented developers are in the middle of a crisis… and are a little busy at the moment. You may see release dates pushed back in the near future.
  2. Innovation may be slowed Alongside release dates, it’s likely that any big structural changes to these platforms will happen in the meantime considering roughly 50% of the world’s PHP developers now have their hands full.
  3. Infrastructure will be relatively unaffected Unless your hosting company’s data centers are in Ukraine, it is unlikely that your site will be affected. Most companies host in either AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft’s Azure networks. If Russia starts attacking Western infrastructure targets this could change. If you are affected you can contact Razoyo about our hosting options.

NOTE: Razoyo does not currently rely on a development team in Ukraine. Other than potential issues with Magento and OroCommerce release schedules mentioned above, our clients should not be adversly affected. If the war drags on, well, all bets are off.

Now that you can rest easy knowing that your ecommerce store won’t likely be at risk from the current situation overseas, let’s talk about how you can help get our friends, developers, and families the help they need…

How the software development world has come together

Companies large and small that have developers in Ukraine are doing everything they can to support their developers directly, as individuals. Many have offices or connections in Poland (next door to Ukraine) and are getting help moving assistance into Ukraine.

Other companies, like Adobe (current owner of Magento - Adobe Commerce ), know that developers in Ukraine are critical to their ecosystem. They are matching employee donations to humanitarian projects supporting Ukraine.

The interesting thing about the ecommerce world is that there are many teams that have been working together for years and know how to collaborate quickly. Some have access to funds or materials, others offer logistical or technical support. Others, especially the Ukrainian-Americans have helped point those wanting to donate to legitimate organizations.

All of us have taken to social media and blogs to show support and put pressure on politicians (I wish I could call them leaders) to do more.

My inboxes (email, LinkedIn, Twitter, et al.) have been flooded with requests and offers of support. More than thoughts and prayers, the development community has sprung into action and creativity.

graphic: zoy characters standing with firearms in front of a map of Ukraine

What can we do?

If you don’t have direct contacts with Ukraine, the best thing you can do is donate.

This page has links to resources from donating directly to the Ukrainian Army to spreading the word on social media.

Razoyo is also raising funds to help with the Ukrainian volunteers. They are looking for equipment and we are shipping it to them. Our first shipment of night vision equipment went out on March 2. If you would like to help us with money or equipment, you can donate here.

Western society needs to pressure our politicians in any way we can. Write to your representatives, flood social media, talk to your neighbors, attend rallies and demonstrations.

At times the paucity of real support to Ukraine breaks my heart. Our politicians and media talk about the war as if they were predicting the weather. The many Ukrainians I know are intelligent, likable people. So many are examples of rare kindness and humanity. We must do more.

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