Driesnote 2022 and the Future of Drupal

Every year, Dries Buytaert, the founder and project lead of Drupal gives a keynote at an annual conference for Drupal developers. It’s one of the most anticipated events of that conference, also called Drupalcon. Over time, this keynote has come to be known by the portmanteau; the Driesnote.

The Driesnote is a time for Dries to layout the future of a platform that is used by 1 in 30 sites on the internet. At this year’s conference, Dries struck a hopeful tone about the next few years for Drupal. Meanwhile, the hand wringing and struggles of Drupal 7 weren’t mentioned. Even as D7 end of life is extended, it appears that this version is in the rear-view mirror.

The focus of the Driesnote was on Drupal’s future: Drupal 10 and Drupal 11. Dries laid out the concrete improvements in Drupal 10 like a new frontend theme that is more accessible, a new backend theme, and automatic updates. However, much of the talk was spent explaining the strategy behind Drupal 11 and the direction the content management system was going in.

Here’s a few takeaways from the Driesnote:

Still “Ambitious,” but With a Focus on Site Builders

Perhaps the biggest change announced in the Driesnote was a rewrite of Drupal’s vision. Drupal’s often repeated mantra was that it was for “ambitious digital experiences.” That phrase captured the spirit of Drupal; its a CMS that is well suited for an organization trying to do something big or daring – like use the CMS to push inflight entertainment or to create a virtual store with some sort of augmented reality feature. With a emphasis on headless architecture and similar initiatives, Drupal did create a CMS that was very extensible over the last five years.

During 2022’s Drupalcon, Dries offered up a new vision; “Drupal is for ambitious site builders.” Drupal is attempting to bring more people into the open-source community by positioning itself between Software as a Service (Saas) options like Squarespace and custom frameworks like Symfony. SaaS options are easy to use and require no code but aren’t very flexible. Frameworks require extensive coding experience but are very open ended. Drupal is trying to find a middle ground for people who want more complexity than a SaaS solution but may not be able to code enough to use a framework.

Regardless of how this changes the community, focusing on a persona rather than a product is good marketing and something to build a vision around. It appears that Drupal 11 will mark a major shift in Drupal core, as the focus shifts to these ambitious content creators.

Drupal 10 Release is Pushed Back

Drupal 10 was set to be released in June 2022 but that date was moved back to December of 2022. The reason is CKEditor 5, a WYSIWYG rich text editor. Current versions of Drupal use CKEditor 4. CKEditor 5 is a complete rewrite of it’s previous version, with no backwards compatibility and no upgrade path. Even though Dries compared the upgrade in CKEditor to the upgrade from D7, in the end it will be easy for everyone using Drupal to upgrade from CKEditor 4 to CKEditor 5. We’re just not there, yet.

New Features in Drupal 10

Another exciting announcement at the Driesnote was that certain core initiatives are nearly ready or done. Most of these initiatives will change the look and feel of Drupal out of the box.

Olivero is coming close to being completed. It will be the new default frontend theme for Drupal sites. The current theme is outdated and hasn’t been updated in many years. Olivero not only provides a more modern look, but is the most accessible frontend theme that has ever shipped with Drupal.

The new backend theme for Drupal, Claro, is both stable and the new default theme as of the Driesnote. Claro will simplify the authoring experience and be more inviting to content creators and editors.

Also in the near future is automated updates. This probably won’t be in Drupal 10.0 but will be in early minor releases. If you’re just a content editor, this probably won’t make a difference but it will make developer’s lives easier every Wednesday.

All in all, the Driesnote struck a positive note on the future of Drupal. The big upgrade from D7 to D8 is still weighing heavily on many organizations and site owners, but it is starting to be eclipsed by what could be a very bright future with a clear vision and purpose going forward.

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