balloon resting on ceiling with the drupal mascot design

The Drupal open source web content management community is whooping it up this week like they haven’t in almost five years.

Drupal released the long-awaited Drupal 8.0 platform yesterday, setting off a series of bashes and social celebrations — 200 parties around the world according to Drupal creator Dries Buytaert. Drupal powers 2 percent of the entire Internet’s websites, according to builtwith. Drupal 7.0 was released Jan. 5, 2011.

“Today really marks the beginning of a new era for Drupal,” blogged Belgium-born Buytaert, who also serves as CTO for Boston-based Acquia. “Over the course of almost five years, we've brought the work of more than 3,000 contributors together to make something that is more flexible, more innovative, more easy to use, and more scalable.”

Under the Hood

Officials for the 1 million-strong Drupal community are hailing this release as the “biggest update ever to Drupal.” 

Beyond the balloons and Drupal-decorated cupcakes, Drupal officials said the release includes:

  • In-context, what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editing and previews
  • Content modeling out of the box with entities, fields and views
  • Customization of content pages and even forms and administrative pages via the administrative interface
  • Full translatability and localization out of the box
  • Configuration management for deployment of changes between environments
  • Mobile-first, responsive, HTML5 output
  • REST-first native web services
  • Enhanced accessibility and WAI-ARIA compliance
  • Modern PHP standards and practices, with integration of libraries such as Composer, Symfony2, Guzzle and Twig
  • Improved front-end performance out of the box
  • Enhanced caching and integration with CDNs and reverse proxies
  • Full compatibility with PHP7, and the PostgreSQL and SQLite databases

Digital Experience at Roots

Buytaert wrote the Drupal community kept close to heart the need to deliver solid digital experiences as it built Drupal 8.

“Digital experience builders,” he said, “are turning to platforms that give them greater flexibility, better usability, better integrations and faster innovation. The pace of change in the digital world has become dizzying. If we were to ignore these market forces, Drupal would be caught flat-footed and quickly become irrelevant.”

He noted a more modern development framework, reimagined usability and authoring experience and technical improvements to build for multilingual, mobile and highly personalized experiences.

“For 15 years, I have believed that open source offers significant advantages to proprietary solutions through superior innovation,” Buytaert said. “Today, I believe that more than ever.”

Joe Saylor, membership and marcom manager for the Drupal Association, which supports the development of Drupal, told CMSWire earlier this year that roughly 1.2 million sites are known to be running Drupal. He called that estimate on the low end because only sites with the update module installed ping back to and get counted.

“Overall,” Saylor told CMSWire, “I would say Drupal 8 is much more fun and interesting for developers, and much more feature rich for IT and marketing. This is not the Drupal of old.”

He praised the modern development and site-building practices, fewer "Drupalisms" and more industry standard best practices: object oriented programming, configuration management, HTML5 markup, multilingual options.

“You can quickly translate anything in the system with built in user interfaces,” he said.

Saylor also cited a new theming engine that will make theming easier and faster, as well as more secure.

“Drupal 8 is a REST server, so you can easily deploy any web service that you can dream up,” Saylor said. “Do you want to expose content as JSON or XML, authenticate a client with HTTP authentication, or expose views-generated lists as services? You can do all that and more.”

Still Second Fiddle to WordPress

The excitement over Drupal doesn’t hide its place in the open source web content management world. WordPress still leads. According to builtwith, WordPress powers half of the Internet’s websites (to Drupal’s 2 percent). The gap is narrowed when considering only the world’s top 100,000 sites — WordPress at 42 percent, and Drupal at 9 percent, in second place. Joomla! beats out Drupal (at 8 percent) when considering the “entire Internet.”

Blogger and consultant Mike Schinkel, a web software developer and WordPress architect, doubted last year that Drupal 8 will spike its user base. Schinkel is a managing partner at NewClarity Consulting LLC, which architects and builds WordPress sites.

“Now Drupal 8 promises to be a lot more ‘modern frameworks and platforms,’ adopting ‘modern PHP concepts and standards, object-oriented programming, and the Symfony framework,’” Schinkel blogged.

But, he added, “those stated aspects require a lot more programmer skill to work with, yet one of the things that appealed to a lot of Drupal (users and developers) is that they did not have to understand object-oriented programming, nor modern frameworks and techniques."

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by pcambraf