As many of you will know, this week has seen the 25th Drupal Convention, which was hosted in Barcelona. Over 2,000 people attended from across the globe, participating in activities including knowledge sharing sessions and presentations, coding sprints where people work on Drupal itself, and a variety of social events. Many of those sessions concerned Drupal 8, which we’re hearing rumours could have its first release candidate available on 7th October. Regrettably, we were unable to attend in person, but the Drupal Association has kindly put videos from the sessions up on Youtube for people to watch. We’ve been looking at a few of these, and here are some of our key take-aways from the week.
One of the highlights of every DrupalCon is the keynote by Drupal’s project lead and founder, Dries Buytaert, which usually functions as something of a state of the nation address for the Drupal community. This occasion was no different. In his Barcelona speech, he confronted the assertion that Drupal has lost momentum recently, with the delay in the release of Drupal 8 and a slight slowdown in adoption rates.
Whilst Dries admitted that this was a valid concern, especially given the emergence of new CMS rivals and the continued strength of competitors such as Wordpress and Magento, he argued that this is normal in software development life cycles when a new version is impending. He showed data which illustrated a similar slowdown in Drupal 6 adoption before Drupal 7 was released. That data also showed a big spike after the release of Drupal 7, and the Drupal community is confident that Drupal 8 will have a similar invigorating effect. We certainly can’t wait to start working with an official release.
He also announced a revised development workflow for Drupal core moving forwards involving a more efficient feature branching system so that hopefully future versions of Drupal can be released much more swiftly and smaller revisions can be incorporated more frequently. For us, this is a necessary step in helping the software to move forwards quickly and keep it ahead of the pack in terms of functionality and robustness. In all, the keynote was a very honest appraisal of Drupal and its place in the world and introduced some positive new ideas which should help the project continue to move forwards at an increased pace.
As noted earlier, many of the sessions related specifically to Drupal 8. Some that we were particularly interested in included those regarding Drupal 8 performance. The new version’s cahcing systems are so powerful that they’re going to speed things up by an order of magnitude, and we’ve already found Drupal 7’s performance to be good in most cases. Drupal 8 should be truly seamless, which will mean significant improvements especially in mobile performance where it could help to provide stiffer competition with native apps.
Another key theme for the weekend was Decoupled Drupal, which means replacing Drupal’s front end with a different software to deliver content to the user. This has been a much debated topic within the Drupal community, and a lot of thought has gone into making this possible in Drupal 8. For example, it’s much easier to build services in Drupal 8 which send data to an endpoint than it was in Drupal 7. However, decoupling has disadvantages in that you sacrifice any of the frontend elements that Drupal can do very well, such as layouts.
Dries and others have therefore suggested the principle of ‘progressive decoupling’, which decouples individual components from Drupal and allows for each element in a web application to be rendered using the most appropriate technology, whether that be Drupal or a more specialist front-end framework. At the moment this is still very much a work in progress, but Drupal is already far ahead of other CMS in enabling this kind of system architecture, and it looks like a really exciting area for development. Drupal’s ability to integrate will be one of its key selling points over the next few years, and you can be sure that we’ll be looking at ways as an agency to leverage this potential to provide even better value to our clients.