Drupal – Born In Politics Now A Real Contender

Although originally written as a message board Drupal is easily one of the first open source content management systems. Like many software development projects, the original aspiration was to be a commercial boxed product. However creator Dries Buytaert allowed it to become an “open source” project in 2001 and it was then it began to find an audience. Two years later it got a boost when Howard Dean, then a U.S. Presidential hopeful, and his campaign team employed Drupal to create “DeanSpace” one of the first integral components of a national political campaign.

Although his bid was largely unsuccessful politically, the team that created his website continued to pursue the development of Drupal as a political web platform through the creation of CivicSpace Labs in 2004. Drupal itself continued as an open source community and it has been growing in use and capability ever since.

Not one of the top two in use it still maintains a strong user base of what Drupal describes as a both a content management framework and justifiably as a web application framework as well. On January 14th Drupal 7.25, a maintenance release, provided for a handful of bug fixes and minor performance enhancements. To see a list of the major changes see Mike Johnston’s CMS Critic review of the release here.

However that was just a shot off the bow of Drupal developers who, although loyal, have for years complained that the platform is not always developer friendly. With that in mind and working for over a year, Drupal founder Buytaert wants to see it put to bed and release the much anticipated Drupal Version 8 by the middle of 2014.

In an interview with Computer World Australia Dries stated “We’ve been saying ‘it’s ready when it’s ready’, so what that means for us is when there are no critical bugs left. I track the number of incoming critical bugs versus the number of outgoing critical bugs. Basically how many new critical bugs are reported versus how many we fixed — and the number’s pretty steady, meaning we do a good job fixing them but there’s still some bugs coming in as people download the alphas and try things.

“They try to upgrade a module, for example. And sometimes it’s not just bugs but also when people try to implement against one of the new APIs. Sometimes they’ll say ‘What the hell is this?’ or ‘It could be made easier this way.'”

Drupal 8 will be the culmination of a comprehensive re-design of Drupal’s core and is reported to be finally correcting Drupal’s long standing lack of commitment to backward compatibility. This lack of backward compatibility has always hampered versioning of the software, limiting its ability to update frequently to better meet developer needs.

Fixing that will likely throw a bit of a wrench into current Drupal developer’s machine until they adapt to the new platform. “We’ve brought Drupal more in line with modern projects,” Buytaert said. This means work needs to be done to ensure that developers who are used to previous version of Drupal have help adjusting to D8. “It’s going to be a really great release, but there are a lot of changes and some people will have to relearn Drupal,” Buytaert said.

“It’s not the Drupal that they used to know, so that’s a challenge. A lot of people absolutely love that and we have a lot of validation around ‘Yep we’re doing the right thing for Drupal’. It’s going to attract many more people to Drupal and we’ve already started to see that.”

Drupalcon 2014 is being held in Austin, Texas this year June 2nd through the 6th and tickets are already on sale. Considering that Buytaert is shooting for mid-year to release version 8 it just might be ready by then. As adopting the new and improved platform will require a great deal of development work and learning curve many firms may find themselves short handed if they want to advance to the new version. Fortunately there are plenty of options for supplementing your internal development staff or outsourcing the move to a team of developers already prepared to embrace the new, more advanced Drupal framework.

With over one million Drupal sites already in operation and a growing list of available development help, there are many who believe that Drupal will soon join the current top two content management platforms, WordPress and Joomla, in user adoption. This increase in adoption will be the result of the Drupal team making development easier while still maintaining the core features and security that have made it a favorite with its users for over 13 years.