Drupal

A broader based article will eventually replace this one about my concerns about the future direction of Drupal.

Will Drupal Fork?

I began writing my book on using Drupal in November 2015 when the exciting news came through that Drupal 8 was about to be released. Since then I have allowed other projects to take precedence, because my book is aimed at content writers who might be considering installing Drupal instead of WordPress to run their website. The present situation with Drupal 8 suggests that the Drupal coding community is losing interest in the non technical user by launching an incomplete system, raising the minimum php version to a level that many end users will not have easy access to on web hosting services, and back porting developments to Drupal 7 without sufficiently thorough testing. It all seems to be warming up to a major fork in the road, similar to when most of the developers at Mambo quit over the direction the management was taking that CMS (Content Management System) and created Joomla, which is ahead of Drupal as the second most used CMS in the world. Are we seeing the beginning of a divide where most Drupal developers follow the slow path into Drupal 8 becoming a complete system (even founder and project leader Dries Buytaert does not recommend using Drupal 8 in a production environment)? With most users advised to stick with Drupal 7 while the coders play with a supposedly launch ready Drupal 8 will there be a Joomla like fork of those who prefer to stay with a system for non enterprise.

Drupal 8 is forging ahead into web application development, but appears to be taking developer its mainstream interest away from non enterprise users, as evidenced by Buytaert's Dries Note Address at the DrupalCon 2016 in New Orleans. It was in that same address that Buytaert advised against web designers switching to Drupal 8 unless they were happy using the core set of modules in the new system. Drupal has since its early days relied on contributed modules to provide many of what web designers would think of as standard features. It is one of the reasons that many have viewed Drupal as too enterprise focused and led to the overwhelming dominance of WordPress powered sites on the web. The case in point is that Drupal 7 comes with only a plain text editor in its core system. That has been fixed in Drupal 8 with CK Editor made a core module, but a high proportion of the contributed modules are still in beta mode for Drupal 8.

The reason that most contributed modules are taking so long to port is that Drupal 8 radically restructured the way in which modules are coded. That has already led to a developer focused fork in the creation of Backdrop CMS. Backdrop is based on Drupal 7 and its name is a pun on the founding system. Drupal was originally to be called Dorp (Dutch for village - it started out as a message board) but a typo had it registered as drop.org. Backdrop developers clearly see the current direction of Drupal as returning to its enterprise roots as it is positioning itself as a CMS for small and medium sized businesses. The question that interests me is whether someone will fork Drupal 7 to take on WordPress and Joomla in the non technical end of the market or will web content writers gradually move towards those two platforms as Drupal pursues the needs of its enterprise customers.

The possibility of a fork comes about because Drupal is open sourced under the GPL licence and so anyone can take the code and run with it in a different direction. This causes problems in some projects when the developers get so distracted by exciting new coding challenges and forget about current users. I am a long time user of the Debian Linux operating system and there have been times in the past when it has fallen foul of developer myopia.

Considering the non production ready status of Drupal 8 there is likely to be a lengthier time in which Drupal 7 remains available on the one click installers that web content writers will be attracted to. It is unfortunate that, at present, Drupal 7 does not have an html editor in its core, but I will return to finishing the half written Drupal 7 book once a couple of more urgent projects are out of the way. It is with a heavy heart, though, as I wonder if I would be better off telling writers to stick with or switch to WordPress.

Copyright Mercia McMahon
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