Drupal scales open-source CMS technology to 10 as need for modular digital experiences grows

The technology used to help businesses and organizations of all sizes deliver content through websites generally falls under the domain of content management systems (CMS).

Among the most popular CMS technologies is the open-source Drupal framework, which debuted in 2001 and has continued to evolve over the past two decades. In the early years of the technology, Drupal was positioned as a general-purpose system for building websites. In 2007, Drupal received a boost with the launch of Acquia as a commercial entity to bring the technology to businesses. Acquia was acquired in 2019 for $1 billion by Vista Equity Partners.

Acquia is positioned today as a digital experience provider, based on open source Drupal technology, providing a platform that enables organizations to create, manage and deliver content.

“We focused on what we call ambitious websites,” Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal and CTO of Acquia, told VentureBeat. “At the bottom of the market you have technologies like Wix, Squarespace and even WordPress, and we’re not really competing with them, to be honest, because Drupal over the years has continued to evolve into more cases of enterprise use, typically websites that have more complexity.

To further help achieve its ambitions, the open source version Drupal 10.0 became generally available on December 14, marking the latest evolution in CMS technology. Although Acquia is one of Drupal’s main contributors, it is far from the only one. The new version incorporates more than 4,000 progressive improvements made by more than 2,000 people working in 600 different companies.

The Evolution of Enterprise Content Management

The biggest trend that has transformed enterprise content management over the past decade has been the emergence of low-code/no-code technology.

Modern content management technology provides users with a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface. Buytaert said that today, Drupal is about enabling people and organizations to create digital experiences and web content without having to rely on technical expertise.

Admittedly, there is technical complexity under the hood.

There are a number of different use cases for an enterprise CMS, ranging from basic information, news, learning management systems (LMS), e-commerce, and health and government services. To enable these different use cases, modularity is necessary. It’s an approach Buytaert calls the Composable Web, where different components come together to create the right experience for a particular use case. Drupal has a vibrant community with over 45,000 different modules that organizations can use to compose the experience they need.

There are also many ways to create a website. The traditional approach is to use a CMS for a dynamic website. In recent years, the concept of a headless CMS has emerged, which is a decoupling of content management from the front-end that displays the content. Headless CMSs have also been commonly associated with Jamstack deployments, which rely heavily on JavaScript to enable web content delivery.

Overall, Buytaert said he sees more fragmentation in the CMS space than ever before, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“The omnichannel nature of where the world is heading is such that we need to publish content, not just on websites, but on any digital channel, including mobile, digital kiosks and chatbots.” said Buytaert.

Drupal 10 seeks to enable a more accessible CMS

Among the improvements in the Drupal 10 release is a new editing experience for content. The new CKEditor 5 provides a rich text editor framework designed to make it easier for users to work with text.

Drupal 10 includes the new CKEditor 5, which provides a new content editing interface. Image source: Acquia.

The new version of Drupal also benefits from the Symfony 6 open source framework for the open source PHP language, allowing for improved resiliency and performance. For front-end web development, Drupal 10 includes a theme starter kit to help organizations quickly create a custom layout.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into making Drupal more accessible and accessible to ambitious site builders,” Buytaert said.

The next recipe

There are a few features currently in development in the open source Drupal community that have not yet made it to 10.0, but will likely appear in an incremental update.

One of these features is a feature known as Recipes. The basic idea of ​​the recipes is to make it easier for organizations to compose bespoke Drupal deployments that incorporate a custom set of modules and configurations.

Buytaert explained that a recipe is a combination of code and configuration in a YAML markup file. The goal is to allow organizations to have one set of recipes for the CMS deployments they like, and then be able to use the same approach for as many other sites as they need. For example, a university could create its own custom Drupal deployment, define it as a recipe, and then allow different departments to reuse the recipe for their own use cases. The new recipe functionality is expected in 2023.

Drupal’s overall goal is to help create an open web, where organizations and individuals can create the content they want to see and use.

“The goal of Drupal 10 is to bring the open web to a lot more people, with better accessibility in terms of how we make it more accessible to everyone,” he said.

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