Back in 2020, Drupal delivered a surprise by estimating a June 2022 release for Drupal 10. While the release was ultimately pushed back to December 14, 2022, you need to know where your website stands for the upcoming upgrade.
For any IT team, changes to a site platform are cause for concern. With less than a year before Drupal 9 hits end-of-life, you need to start planning your preparations for the coming year.
Thankfully, Drupal has remained true to its word about its latest updates avoiding the complex migrations that were required moving from Drupal 7 (but I’ll touch more on that later). Still, the overall impact of Drupal 10 ultimately depends on the condition of your current site.
Platform updates are always cause for uncertainty, and your preparations will vary to navigate a move to Drupal 10. If you start by taking into account where your current site stands, you can best ensure it’s on steady ground for the benefits that lie ahead.
Advantages of upgrading to Drupal 10
The benefits of moving your site to Drupal 10 follow a familiar path. Drupal’s development team doesn’t pack major updates with flashy new features, unlike traditional hardware and software development. Instead, the community continues to refresh the latest version of Drupal with brand new tools.
The arrival of Drupal 10 will clear the system of old, backward-compatible code so the platform runs more efficiently. That way, as work begins to create new tools for version 10, Drupal developers are starting from a clean slate.
The promise of a clean codebase may sound a bit anticlimactic from the perspective of your users. But for developers, it’s an addition by subtraction. Drupal 10 will run much faster than your current platform by losing the clutter required to support out-of-date features.
What can you expect from the next version of Drupal?
Many of the features included with Drupal 10 have already been in use at various points in Drupal 9’s development. Here are a few benefits planned for Drupal’s new release:
- Updated frontend and admin themes: These features have been available in Drupal 9 but will become the default themes. In addition to offering improved capabilities for migrating a site into Drupal, the new administration theme is more intuitive with better spacing and readability.
- New package manager: Though potentially unavailable until version 10.1, this feature enables admin users to install modules through the UI. Instead of requiring a developer to FTP modules to a server, you can install them directly from a menu in a way that resembles WordPress extensions.
More good news: Drupal 10 will last longer than 9
One of the third-party technical dependencies of Drupal is its PHP framework, Symfony. Symfony runs on two-year release cycles, which introduces the potential for Drupal to do the same. Drupal 9 uses Symfony 4, which was at the tail end of its development when Drupal 9 was launched. Consequently, as Symfony fell out-of-date in less than two years, so did Drupal 9.
These dependencies were a big part of why Drupal 9 had such a short lifespan as compared with the platform’s history. At one time, versions of Drupal required five to seven years of development.
Drupal’s development team is releasing Drupal 10 on Symfony 6, which was released earlier in 2022. Drupal 10 will last at least four years before the next major version is released. By working to get ahead of schedule with Symfony, Drupal aims to deliver a platform that’s faster and more stable — with staying power.
Will upgrading to Drupal 10 be easy? It depends.
Drupal 9 will reach its end-of-life sooner than may be ideal, but you face an easier upgrade path to Drupal 10 if your site is currently running version 9.4 or 9.5. Just as with the upgrade from version 8 to 9, updates to Drupal 10 will run “in place.” Rather than needing to migrate to a new platform to upgrade, Drupal 10 is being built inside Drupal 9.
You won’t have to rebuild your site to upgrade to Drupal 10 if you’re up-to-date with its latest version. However, not every organization can keep its website current with every platform release. As with any journey, the road to Drupal 10 entirely depends on where you are now.
If your site is running Drupal 9:
Much like the shift from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9, moving to Drupal 10 can be seamless with the right planning. You need to monitor custom code in any platform update, and Drupal Rector streamlines the process. The module identifies your areas of need, and in many cases will update your code automatically.
You still need an engineer to oversee the upgrade, but Drupal Rector eliminates the tedium of manually updating a bunch of APIs beforehand. As changes are made to Drupal 10, developers are required to add an automated rule to Rector. Consequently, your future upgrades will be even easier.
Once Drupal 10 is released, you have until November 23, 2023 to complete the upgrade before Drupal 9 reaches its end-of-life. At that point, your site will no longer receive security updates from the Drupal community.
If your site is running Drupal 8:
Drupal 8 reached its end-of-life in November 2021, which means your site may be at risk without the community’s support with security patches and bug fixes. To offset that danger, you should use Drupal Rector to identify deprecated code in your Drupal 8 site to automate a portion of your upgrade journey to Drupal 9.
Fortunately, the move from 8 to 9 is an easier transition than you may think. Once your site is up-to-date to version 9.4, then the jump to Drupal 10 should be fairly straightforward upon its release.
If your site is running Drupal 7:
If you’re still on Drupal 7 (or older), your platform is currently scheduled to reach its end-of-life in November 2023. While this date has been extended several times over the past few years, there is no guarantee it will be extended again. However, you’re not alone. According to estimates, more sites are on Drupal 7 than there are on 8 and 9 combined.
Migrating your site from Drupal 7 is a complicated, labor-intensive undertaking, which is why the community extended the platform’s support during the pandemic. However, once Drupal 7 reaches its end-of-life next year, you’ll only be able to receive security updates through Vendor Extended Support. Those organizations remain an option to provide service for your site until 2025 — for a price.
To reduce support expenses, you should start working toward loading your site into Drupal 9.4 or 9.5 as soon as possible rather than waiting for the latest version. Drupal 10 will include migration tools from Drupal 7, but Drupal 9 already includes many of the modules you use. That may no longer be the case after Drupal 10 comes out.
Future-proof your site with an upgrade to Drupal 10
Whether you’re facing a migration from Drupal 7 or the end-of-life for Drupal 9, platform updates require planning to succeed. There is no sense in waiting to get started. If anything, upgrading to Drupal 10 from a much older version may grow more complex the longer you delay.
The days of launching a website and ignoring it for five or 10 years are over. The industry just moves too fast. Fortunately, with the right plan, your organization can get the platform you need to take on whatever lies ahead.