20 August 2021
Phillipa Martin

The DrupalSouth 2021 opening ‘In Conversation with Dries’ was facilitated by Dave Sparks and covered several key Drupal issues. It was a fascinating session that provided a real insight for the Drupal community into current and future plans. 

How Drupal will remain relevant and successful 

Dries identified a few key areas that will keep Drupal relevant and successful in today’s market.  First, he noted that both the market and Drupal have evolved. Drupal now has a clearer position, specifically a really strong position in the enterprise market. The Drupal ecosystem has also grown, with more organisations now working with Drupal. This means more contributions from both individuals and organisations. 

Looking forward, key areas he called out for continued success in the enterprise market are:

  • Integration with other platforms, such as ecommerce integration, single sign-on, etc. 

  • Decoupled/headless solutions — Continuing to innovate with decoupled architecture, including cross-channel publishing with Drupal as the central content repository that can power multiple channels

  • Scale, security and performance — Continuing to build on the existing strengths across these three areas

He noted that the biggest challenge for smaller Drupal agencies was sales and marketing. In the past, prospective customers came to Drupal agencies having already chosen Drupal as the platform. Now, Drupal agencies often need to win clients via a tender process and/or proof of concepts. It’s important to show that Drupal is better than other alternatives and it’s a more complex sales process than it was in the past.  

7 key Drupal initiatives 

There are 7 key initiatives Dries identified and covered during the session. They were:

  1. Drupal 10 readiness initiative — Ensuring Drupal is working with the most up-to-date versions of third-party components such as PHP, MySQL, Symphony, Composer, etc. While Dries noted this may not sound that exciting, the latest versions come with benefits. 

  2. New admin theme — Drupal’s new admin theme (Claro) looks better, works better and is more accessible.  

  3. New frontend theme — Dries described Drupal’s new FE theme (Olivero) as “modern, good-looking and more accessible”. 

  4. Starter kit work — Replaces Drupal 8 Classy themes and uses a more modern mark-up so you can make changes to CSS and HTML more easily. 

  5. Decoupled menus — Advancing Drupal’s headless/decoupled capabilities by expanding API coverage to certain areas and adding some official components (e.g. React components) for Drupal. Decided to start with menus. 

  6. Project browser initiative — To make it a lot easier for people to discover, install and use modules...bringing an app store concept to Drupal.

  7. Automated updates — To make it easier to automate module updates, starting with security updates. 

The role of Australia and New Zealand in Drupal’s long-term success

When Dave asked this question, Dries talked about the importance of Drupal being a great product. “If Drupal isn’t great, nothing else matters” and the importance of code contributions to make the product better. 

He also spoke about the Drupal Certified Partner Program and how this rewards organisations that contribute, and extends contributions beyond just code.  

Audience questions for Dries

Below are some of the questions that were covered during the Q&A session. 

Q. What does Drupal look like in another 20 years?

A. Dries talked about looking at trends from the past and present that are unlikely to change and focusing Drupal improvements on those areas. Specifically, he called out: 

  • User experience — Continually working to improve the user experience in Drupal

  • Content — Solving the problem of large amounts of content (a problem that will continue to grow)

  • Security — Making Drupal even more robust in terms of security and privacy

Q. Any feature developments in Drupal 10 or 11 that deal with the above?

A. Dries said they haven’t  formalised any Drupal 11 initiatives. However, he mentioned the desire to evolve the entity system and Views from a user perspective. He also sees machine learning as an area of potential and that he’d encourage people to experiment in contributed modules.

Q. Regarding decoupling, do you think Drupal will settle on a preferred FE framework? 

A. Dries doesn’t think Drupal will go with a single FE framework. He talked about the many different options, all with pros and cons, and that it’s a fast moving area. However, for the Drupal BE they’ll need to pick one. 

Salsa Digital’s take

Lots of Salsarians attended the session and we all enjoyed hearing about what’s happening now in Drupal and what's planned for the future. The future is definitely bright for Drupal!