What You Need to Know About Drupal 8
Six months ago we said that "Drupal 8 is underway with lots of great ideas and initiatives."
Now it's time for an update. Where does Drupal 8 stand today?
Drupal 8 in a Nutshell
- When is Drupal 8 being released? Not until August 2013.
- What's great about Drupal 8? Possibly everything. This is probably the most ambitious CMS launch I've ever seen.
- Who is Drupal 8 for? To begin with, it is for developers and early adopters only. Drupal 7 took around 18 months to become more popular then Drupal 6. Most Drupal users might not be on 8 until 2015.
- Will upgrading be easy? Unlikely. It will probably be similar to the difficult move from Drupal 5 to 6 or from Drupal 6 to 7.
- I am on Drupal 5, 6 or 7. What do I do?
- Drupal 5 users should probably migrate to Drupal 7 now.
- Drupal 6 users have more time because 6 will be supported at least until 8 is released.
- Drupal 7 users are in the best situation because 7 will likely be supported for four or five more years.
Drupal 8 Release Schedule
- December 1, 2012: Feature freeze.
- February 1, 2013: Code freeze.
- August, 2013 at DrupalCon Europe: Launch.
Each initiative now has just over four months to get their feature set ready and just over six months to get their code ready for inclusion.
Drupal has made it easier to keep track of what's going on by creating these two overview pages:
As you can see in the image above and in text below, the initiatives are all at different stages. Some initiatives have already made huge strides forward. Other initiatives have split, some seem to have merged, many are collaborating on shared work and at least one seems moribund.
In addition to the six main initiatives there's also one new official intiative and two major unofficial projects. We're going to give you an an overview of all nine initiatives and projects.
Read on and I'm sure you'll agree with me that Drupal 8 is a hugely ambitious release.
Official Initative: Configuration Management
- Link: http://groups.drupal.org/build-systems-change-management/cmi
- Goal: To improve testing / staging / live site deployment practices.
This is one question we get time and time and again from developers who are new to Drupal: "How do I create a staging environment for my sites?" Currently we have no good answer for them, except to suggest hosting services like Pantheon.
The current obstacles to a good staging environment with Drupal 7 are clear. There's no good way to move Drupal configuration information between environments because data is scattered throughout the database in a variety of formats, oftentimes intermingled with content. This also makes it impossible to version control the information. There is also no standard way for Drupal modules to store their configuration. This initiative aims to overcome all of those problems.
Official Initative: Web Services
- Link: http://groups.drupal.org/wscci
- Goal: To present Drupal's data in many more ways than just HTML.
There is a pattern emerging. The "Not Invented Here" syndrome is ending and open source CMSs are increasingly willing to use the work of others.
We talked about Joomla adopting Twitter Bootstrap in order to make their system mobile. Drupal is doing something very similar with their Web Services initiative. Drupal is adopting large parts of the Symfony framework. They are not alone in this, with the eZ Publish CMS also adopting Symfony. Why are they going with Symfony?
- It's popular. There are a few PHP frameworks out there but Symfony is widely adopted. There is widely thought to be a shortage of Drupal developers. By using a framework that many coders already use, Drupal can make it easier for those developers to adapt.
- APIs. Dries has an explanation of the Drupal / Symfony decision here and the first three benefits he mentions revolve around APIs and the ability to build applications on top of Drupal.
- Saves time and effort. By adopting existing work, it frees some developers to focus on other parts of Drupal 8.
Official Initative: Multilingual
- Link: http://groups.drupal.org/internationalization
- Goal: To make it improve Drupal's handling of multi-lingual sites.
As you can tell from the status update image above, the multilingual initiative is progressing rapidly. Gabor Hojtsy has led this project tirelessly, holds bi-weekly meetings and has comprehensive overview here: http://hojtsy.hu/d8mi.
Official Initiative: HTML5
- Link: http://groups.drupal.org/html5/drupal-8
- Goal: Enabling Drupal 8 to produce HTML5 by default.
They are making progress on converting Bartik, the default Drupal 7 theme, to HTML5. There's also a push to make Drupal's forms mobile-friendly. This whole project overlaps considerably with those that follow:
Official Initiative: Mobile
- Mobile: http://groups.drupal.org/mobile/drupal-8
- Goal: To make Drupal into a fully mobile platform.
This initiative overlaps so closely with the HTML5 initiative that it now has many of the same goals, including overhauling Drupal's default themes and creating mobile-friendly forms.
Official Initiative: Design
- Link: http://groups.drupal.org/design-drupal/d8di
- Goal: Creating a new Drupal 8 theme and improving Drupal's usability.
This was one of the original six initiatives, but to be honest, I could find very little information on progress. The last update on this groups page for this was in July last year, although there does seem to be a conference call scheduled for this week.
It is still listed on one of the two initiative overview pages: http://groups.drupal.org/drupal-initiatives but not the other: http://drupal.org/community-initiatives/drupal-core. If anyone knows what's happening with this initiaitve, please leave a note in the comments and I'll update this section.
New Initiative: Layouts
- Link: http://groups.drupal.org/scotch
- Goal: To make it easier and quicker design and output all the different elements in a Drupal page layout.
In March this project was split off from the Web Services initiative but it has already produced a huge amount of work. There are prototypes available on Drupal.org and a detailed PDF breaking down exactly what they intend to do.
They're also doing a great job of promoting the initiative, including via this 20 minute webinar:
Unofficial Initative: Views in Drupal Core
I'm said several times in DrupalCamp presentations that the real usability improvement in Drupal 7 was in Views. It really is much easier and much less initimading to use Views than it was back in Drupal 7.
As a result, serious consideration is being given to including Views in the Drupal 8 core. You can read the initial launch post here.
If the "Views in Drupal Core" initiative happens it would be a huge task, on the scale of the largest official initiatives. It's possible that, if this happens, the feature and / or code freeze deadlines for Drupal 8 would need to move.
Unofficial Initative: Spark
Out of all the major Drupal 8 projects, this is the one that will have the biggest impact on end-users. Its also going to the only one that is made available to Drupal 7 users.
Spark aims to add a lot of usability improvements for end-users. The project is developing a Drupal 7 distribution with all these improvements: http://drupal.org/project/spark. They then hope to move them to Drupal 8.
Some the ideas in Spark are best seen rather than just read about. For example, there's in-place editing:
There's also a layout builder for responsive design:
The team are also planning to use the Aloha Editor in Drupal. You can test it out here: http://aloha-editor.org/demos/3col/.