Drupal drops first big upgrade in five years and looks forward by looking backwards

CMS behind gov.uk and plenty more government sites worldwide promises easy upgrade from current code to new version 9.0


Open-source CMS software Drupal has unveiled its first major update in five years by launching a new version 9.0.

The biggest update is backwards-compatibility from version 8.0: the project's developers have styled the upgrade as not much more complex than adopting a point release.

"If you've kept your Drupal 8 site up to date, and have experience with updating your site to the latest minor version (e.g: 8.9.0) then you know everything you need in order to successfully upgrade to Drupal 9," says the release FAQ.

Upgrades are more complex for those using Drupal 7, the other currently-supported version of the CMS. Users are advised the 7-to-9 move "... can be thought of as a migration or re-platforming, although not as severe as moving to a complete different platform."

"Though there are major differences under the hood, the fundamental approach to managing structured data is quite similar. Significant work was also put into the Migration APIs over the course of the Drupal 8 life cycle, so the upgrade to Drupal 9 is easier than upgrading to 8 was a few years ago."

Drupal 9 also includes a new layout builder, which allows users to design pages without engineering help. An API-first architecture employs the JSON:API to enable building decoupled and headless applications. An enhanced media library improves management of images, video and other assets.

"One of the key reasons Drupal has been successful is we have always made big, forward-looking changes,” says Dries Buytaert, Drupal's founder and project lead. “As a result, Drupal is one of very few CMS platforms that has stayed relevant for 20 years."

But a little less relevant, perhaps, than Wordpress which enjoys a 38 percent share of the CMS market, Drupal's market share has dropped from 2.3 per cent 2018 to 1.6 per cent in June this year, according to W3Techs.

However Drupal remains relevant because it counts many government agencies among its users. Gov.uk started life as a Drupal project, and was then shared with Australia and New Zealand among other nations. The US Federal government is also a big user.

Support for previous versions of the software, including Drupal 7 and 8, will reach end of life in November 2021. After that date, users who are unable to upgrade to Drupal 9 will be able to extend their support until 2024 for an additional fee. ®


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