Four Kitchens

What’s on the horizon for Drupal?

3 Min. ReadDigital strategy

At the end of 2012, Larry Garfield wrote a blog post entitled “Getting Off the Island in 2013,” in which he speculated that, in order to stay relevant, Drupal needed to adapt and become more open. My interpretation of the post was that although Drupal has always been open source, in many ways its community had been closed off, sometimes ignoring the larger web development community. Garfield’s post was poignant, even prophetic—that was four years ago. Today, Drupal 8 is gaining steam: it has incorporated many components of the Symfony framework and discussion about including a new, more robust, JavaScript framework in core is a hot topic. Drupal is reinventing itself, and in doing so it’s securing its position as the go-to CMS.

That’s why when I saw the new Horizons track in the DrupalCon NOLA program this year, I was stoked. The creation of the interdisciplinary Horizons track represents a shift in the Drupal community towards supporting and adopting and learning from technologies that are changing the way we build websites. It’s a way for the community to “get off the island” and see what’s going on in other areas of our industry.

One of my favorite sessions in the Horizons track was “Amazing User Experiences with Drupal and Ember,” in which Ed Faulkner showed how the power of Ember.js with Drupal makes seemingly complex features very approachable. His live demos showed how with Ember.js a few lines of JavaScript could create a user experience that feels like the future. Likewise, in “Elm – Frontend with Guarantees,” Amitai Burstein explained how the Elm language brings the benefits and predictability of functional programming to front-end development. If it compiles, it just works!

The best part of these sessions was that the presenters resisted the temptation to dogmatically bash Drupal, avoiding terms that have become low-grade insults like “monolithic” and “tightly coupled.” Instead, they showed that other frameworks, tools, and techniques can pick up the slack when Drupal falls short—Ember, React, Angular, Elm, and even GraphQL can have a place in the Drupal ecosystem.

Having worked with Drupal since 2010, I’ve had the opportunity to see it grow and evolve over the years. From my humble beginnings integrating with SOAP services (remember those?), to implementing complex SPAs (Single Page Applications) with Backbone.js and RESTful webservices with Node.js, my work with Drupal has always happened at the “messy edges,” as the DrupalCon program put it so aptly. But I’ve come to find that the most exciting work happens in the “messy edges.” When you begin pushing a piece of software to its limits, you know you’re building something exciting; it’s part of what makes web development interesting.

So, I have high hopes for the Drupal project. The Drupal community is self-reflective enough to see the flaws in the project and brave enough to reinvent itself. We’ve seen that with Drupal 8. Is there work to be done? Yes. But based on the sessions I saw and the discussions I heard at DrupalCon, I believe this community has what it takes to not only survive, but thrive.