The future of Drupal - 1/3 - Is Drupal losing pace?

Monday 12 March 2018

This series of articles is a reaction, among others, to Dave Hall’s post « Drupal, we need to talk » (19/04/2017). Numerous comments were posted on Dave’s blog. Multiple internal chats have emphasized this subject as well. First part : Drupal, losing pace ?

Future of the Drupal CMS

Here are some elements of our discussions pided into 3 posts:

Part 1/3: CMS Drupal losing pace?

For several weeks, numerous articles written by the Drupal community have suggested that Drupal has become « out-of-date », or in decline. It is never too late to reconsider one’s words, in an attempt to assess them to see if Drupal’s days are really over.

Ludovic Coullet has examined the question and has laid out his opinion in three articles.

The party is over

We live in a post peak Drupal world. Drupal peaked some time during the Drupal 8 development cycle. (…) DrupalCon attendances peaked in 2014, (…), core downloads have trended down since 2015. We need to accept this and talk about what it means for the future of Drupal.

It is of course possible to relativize such an assertion. Trends are going down, but the level is still high. In addition, it all depends on the activity sector. Drupal’s market share is growing within Fortune 500 or CAC 40 enterprises where proprietary technologies used to have the lion’s share. 

Yes, Drupal is no longer on top of the list… 2 or 3 years ago, it was one of the most requested solutions, or maybe, the most requested technology for almost everything, similarly to Wordpress.

Today, Drupal is no longer the universal remedy… Is it because it was substituted by other CMS? Not necessarily. Maybe this is due to the growing demand. If I may recall, the slogan of Drupal in its seventh version was: build your own communities. The world was then following the Facebook trend, and everything had to be shaped like a social media platform. A few years before, the slogan was mobile first, when everything needed to look like a blog, and even earlier, like a forum…

Today, Drupal’s creator is using Drupal is API first, not API only as a new slogan, which is quite important on the technical level. However, in hindsight, it seems to be an additional marketing technique, but surely not the last.

If we look at the big picture, we will sure realize that in spite of all changes, Drupal is still the same.  I would never want to presume that it did not develop. But Drupal is still the same at core, with the same goal: content management. Yes, it is stating the obvious. For me, Drupal is first and foremost:

  • A powerful taxonomy system that perform content categorization
  • The ability to describe the to-be-displayed content’s form and structure without having to use even a single line of coding.
  • The ability, without development, to create content collection and to choose the display order.
  • A comprehensive and extensible management system of the users’ rights and roles;
  • An additional modules ecosystem;

All the rest is secondary.

From Drupal 7 to Drupal 8

Technically Drupal 8 is impressive. Unfortunately the uptake has been very slow. A factor in this slow uptake is that from a developer's perspective, Drupal 8 is a new application.

With respect to this particular matter, I’d rather leave it to those who already got their hands in the mud, but yes:

  • It is object-oriented
  • It has new foundations (Symphony 2 components)
  • Twig
  • A bigger openness

I would also add the persification of annex tools. We used to have Drush (for which we were envied in the CMS PHP community) and we have now:

  • Drush
  • Drupal Console
  • Composer

3 tools that usually intertwine to a great extent, and we still don’t know if they are ever going to merge into a single tool. I hope that the community takes a swift decision in this regard.

This is not over poor developer, for you also have to deal with Node (npm, gulp, grunt, bower, sass, postcss, webpack), a little bit of Ruby, and why not Docker…

Without wanting to go back to the (not-so-old) debate on the very steep learning curve of Drupal 8, we can undoubtedly say game over for hackers and webmasters, as we said before… The time has come for experts and those who are enough crazy or conceited to introduce themselves as such.

It is not because you know how to use Symphony that it will be easy for you to use Drupal 8.

It is necessary to acquire both skills, and to build Drupal- related skills. 

The upgrade path from Drupal 7 to 8 is another factor.

Oh yes ! We are currently conducting an upgrade rather than a migration of data.

You have to understand the following: Half of the modules you are using are neither supported by Drupal 8 nor by alpha versions. You have to live with it! Take the content, and develop the rest with a client who expects the same, or even a better user’s experience than that of Drupal 7. 

We are dealing with this grim reality. But things were similar when Drupal 6 was upgraded to Drupal 7. It’s life!

What do you think about Drupal's decline? Is it a mere trend, or a decline? Tell us what you think in the comment box below!

To be continued...

@lcoullet