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drupal 6

Today, after over 8 years, we say thank you and goodbye to Drupal 6.

Drupal 6 is now officially "end-of-life".

Drupal 6 launched in 2008 and was the backbone behind many of the projects that made Drupal famous. At its height, there were over 300,000 Drupal 6 sites that were reporting to Drupal.org.

Below you can see Drupal 6's popularity during its first 3 years of Drupal 6. The red line shows Drupal 6's growth and the green line shows Drupal 7.

Goodbye, Drupal 6

Drupal 6 peaked at the beginning of 2011, just before the release of Drupal 7. For the last 5 years, the number of active Drupal 6 sites has been slowly declining.

The image below shows the last 3 years of Drupal 6. Even today, as Drupal 6 reaches the end-of-life, there are still around 100,000 active Drupal 6 sites. However, that's now a tiny fraction of the Drupal 7 number.

Looking at the data from Drupal.org, Drupal 7 peaked at exactly the same time as Drupal 6: just before the release of the next version.

Drupal 7 peaked at over 1.3 million sites: it was far more popular than Drupal 6 ever was. The question now is whether Drupal 8 can continue the momentum that started back in 2008 with the release of Drupal 6.

Why does the Drupal team stop supporting older versions?

Because their time and resources are limited.

Drupal makes it clear that they can only support two versions at a time. For a few months, the community has supported Drupal 6, 7 and 8. That couldn't continue.

What does this mean for Drupal 6 site owners?

Drupal.org has an overview of what "end-of-life" means. Here's the short version:

  • The Drupal 6 core will no longer be supported by the community.
  • All Drupal 6 module and themes will be flagged as not supported.
  • There will be no more security support.

There are some companies that have committed to continue providing Drupal 6 support.

Why would you keep using end-of-life unsupported software?

Do people still use unsupported software like Drupal 6? Absolutely. I do on some of my sites. There are all sorts of valid reasons not to update:

  • The update is too difficult or expensive. There's no getting around it. Updating can be expensive.
  • It might lack features you need. Features you have on your Drupal 6 site might not be available for Drupal 8 yet. Why risk the update when your site works fine now?
  • You're busy and have better things to do. To be honest, this is often why I don't update. I have a business to run and other things on my plate. I just don't have time to update some non-essential sites.

Should Drupal 6 site owners update?

This is an entirely personal opinion, but if you have a Drupal 6 site, you do not need to rush to upgrade.

Drupal 6 is over 8 years old. Yes, it is possible that more security vulnerabilities will be found in Drupal 6, but it is unlikely. The most likely outcome is that your site will keep on running without any problems. You may be fine for months or even years.

Yes, you will need to make an update decision eventually, but you may be fine for months or even years.

It's also worth considering that the migration path to Drupal 8 is not yet firm. We hope that the release of Drupal 8.1 in April will make the migration much easier.

At its height, there were just over 300,000 Drupal 6 sites.

About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.