Drupal 8 is underway with lots of great ideas and initatives. For front-end site builders, these include improving Drupal's design, mobile, HTML5 and multi-lingual capabilities. For those working under the hood, there are plans to improve web services and staging management.
How will this affect your Drupal site building?
- It won't immediately. All of those great ideas take time and Drupal 8 might not be ready until 2014.
- When a stable version of Drupal 8 is released, the Drupal version that is two generations old (Drupal 6) will no longer be supported or receive security updates and you will need to upgrade your sites.
In this article we're going to show you how to navigate the Drupal.org site to find information on future Drupal releases and features. At the same time we're going to introduce you to the new approach to Drupal development through "Initiatives".
Understanding the Drupal 8 development cycle
At DrupalCon London in August 2011, Dries Buyteart, the original creator and project lead for Drupal, talked about plans for Drupal 8: "Personally, based on listening to a lot of people, I believe that for Drupal 8, the release date should be 18 months after Drupal 7 reaches its Plateau of Productivity."
Dries is the one who will decides when Drupal 7 reaches its Plateau of Productivity, and he hasn't made any such announcement yet. You can read more about his thought process on his blog entry on release date planning.
So the actual release date for Drupal 8 can't be accurately estimated yet. However, given the ambitious new features planned, reliable guesstimates put the release date early in 2014 [update: Drupal 8 is now schedule for August 2013].
Drupal 8 may be a little ways off, but that is mainly a result of the huge number of new features they pan to add. Drupal 8 development is moving ahead at full-steam and they are being led by six major initiatives.
Understanding the new Drupal 8 Initiative approach
Larry Garfield, one of the leading developers working on Drupal 8 wrote this on his blog on garfieldtech.com:
"At DrupalCon Chicago (March 2011), Dries announced that the development process for Drupal 8 would be a bit different.
Rather than a vast dog pile of efforts to improve Drupal in ways big and small, Drupal 8 will feature a number of major "core initiatives".
These initiatives highlight major areas of work that represent not just a patch or three but major changes to Drupal's plumbing. Each initiative will have one or two initiative leads who have the ability to coordinate and make decisions relating to that initiative while working closely with Dries.
In a large sense, it is a way for Dries to scale; rather than Dries having to keep track of 1000 ongoing conversations himself, initiative owners can coordinate related changes while Dries coordinates the initiative owners. It also gives a clear indication of what work is happening and what to expect out of Drupal 8."
Following the progress on initiatives
Drupal has six initiatives running at the same time. Each initiative addresses an aspect of Drupal that the developers see as crucial to the evolution of the platform. Each is assigned to a different lead developer who will assemble a group to focus on their initiative. You can find news on the initiatives at the Drupal 8 Initiatives group.
This group is an announcement list of major discussions and happenings in Drupal 8 initiatives, cross-posted from their dedicated groups and issue queues. If you only have time to read a single channel of info on Drupal 8, this is the one! The initiative dashboard will direct you to the most relevant news, roadmap, issues, docs, code and chat on Drupal 8 initiatives.
Content in the Drupal 8 initiatives Group, as described by the group...
" ...is along the lines of:
- We think a decision has been reached, and here's the decision. Feedback?
- We're trying to reach a decision, and we need help. Here's where to chime in to help us reach it.
- General status reports about "Hey, if you've been busy for the past while, here's what's going on and what things you should know."
Unfortunately, this group needs to be kept invite-only in order to keep the content curated to only important announcements of general interest, but you are warmly encouraged to comment and participate on any discussions posted to this group!"
For announcements of major initiatives and opportunities to contribute, follow the Core announcements group (@drupalcore on Twitter). If you want to be able to throw in your two cents, you can also learn how to contribute even if it's only to the discussion.
Initative 1: Configuration Management
This is one of the most wide-ranging of the initiatives and a list of the problems they are solving will give you an idea of the direction they're going in. Many of them focus on providing better tools for testing / staging / live site deployment practices.
- Currently there is no good way to move Drupal configuration information between environments because this data is scattered throughout the database in a variety of formats, oftentimes intermingled with content.
- This also makes it impossible to version control this information, to store history, and to be able to rollback changes.
- Every module stores their configuration data in a different format, there is no standardization at all, even within core.
- There is also no standard API for saving this information (aside from the simple case of the variables table) so developer often roll their own solutions.
- The entire contents of the variables table is loaded on each page request, even for rarely-accessed data, leading to memory bloat.
- It is cumbersome to manage information that is different between server environments for the same project (database information, api keys, etc.)
Configuration Management Initiative - http://groups.drupal.org/build-systems-change-management/cmi
Initative 2: WSCCI - Web Services Context Core Initiative
Web services is an area that has exploding in recent years. What does that mean? In a nutshell, a web service is a web site responding to a request not with an HTML page but with data intended for another program to consume. That could be as mundane as an RSS feed, as complex as a headless SOAP application server, or anything in between. The traditional website form should be only one of many ways that the data can be presented.
Web Services and Context Core Initiative - http://groups.drupal.org/wscci
Initative 3: Design 4 Drupal
Design for Drupal is about bringing the community of designers together to be a part of the Drupal community. It’s about enabling designers and themers to do great stuff, coordinate efforts, come up with crazy ideas, and build a movement to make Drupal beautiful.
Design 4 Drupal Initiative - http://groups.drupal.org/design-drupal
Initative 4: Drupal 8 Multi-Lingual Initiative
This group works on internationalization issues, like making it possible to translate menus, nodes and taxonomies in Drupal. This includes everything from process and workflows, to actual code issues or optimizations required. The Translations group is where to go if you are working on translating Drupal core or want to contribute modules.
Multi-Lingual Initiative- http://groups.drupal.org/internationalization
Initative 5: HTML5
This is a discussion and working group for anyone interested in implementing HTML5 markup and API's in Drupal. They are working on several projects to provide HTML5 support for Drupal 7, and pushing to get HTML5 native markup and form elements into Drupal 8 core.
HMTL 5 Initiative - http://groups.drupal.org/html5
Initative 6: Mobile
Dries himself said that if he were to start Drupal today, it would focus on mobile first, before any other platform. The Drupal 8 Mobile Initiative is a concerted effort to make Drupal 8 a first-class mobile platform. This group is founded to collect ideas, solutions and problems regarding bringing Drupal to the mobile web.
Mobile Initiative - http://groups.drupal.org/mobile