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Open Source CMS Drupal 7 is launched !

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In the spirit of the Holidays, the collaborators of Dutch-born CMS Drupal officially delivered their long-awaited version 7 on January 5.  (See Mike’s preview of Drupal 7 for more information.)  This new version comes 23 months after the release of version 6.  The Drupal.org homepage confidently describes version 7 as “easier to use, more flexible and more scalable.”  So, is it now ready to use in new sites?  And, just as importantly, is ready to migrate existing Drupal 6 (D6) sites to Drupal 7 (D7)?

The key points about Drupal 7:

  • D7 involved 30,000 custom made automated unit tests for each update.
  • After Drupal 6’s release, the reception was tepid until the stable release of a very important module — Views.  (Views for D7 is still in alpha.)
  • 880 of 7000 modules are now available for D7.
  • Drupal donations will be used to fly needy Drupal core developers (non-paid open source developers) to conventions.
  • Much thought is now being put into Drupal 8.  One push is to create dashboard views for users (logged in users, I believe he means) which are similar to movable Post-It notes.  Views and Webform will receive a lot of attention and redesign–to me this seems to indicate Views and Webform being included in core.
  • Drupal should adopt a fast release cycle like Yahoo (which reportedly releases updates 30ish times a day).

Here is comparisons of Drupal to competitors WordPress and Joomla.  WordPress takes 55% of CMS market share (although only 24% of sites use a CMS). Drupal takes a, not terribly impressive but certainly large, 5% of CMS market share.  WordPress and Joomla as fine CMS’s for small websites, but lacking in the large & enterprise website space.  Drupal, is aiming itself to be a platform to build corporate, product, community and internal sites.

Much of the new D7 functionality lies in the Drupal ORM, based loosely around PHP PDO (view a taste here).  The new database ORM looks to be written from scratch, as opposed to using an existing project like Doctrine ORM.  The goal is to truly make Drupal database agnostic, which seems to be a reality now.

The new database classes are also a step in the Object Oriented direction for Drupal, which is known for staying true to its procedural codebase.  This non-OO codebase was touched upon by Tom McCracken of LevelTen Design.  ‘I came from a Java and Ruby-on-Rails background where everything was Object Oriented.  When I started working with Drupal, I was like, what the heck is this?’.  McCracken goes on to state that he became a fan of Drupal because of it allows ‘Web Leaders’ to easily engage all the fast changing social networks of today.  He describes Drupal as being a tool for companies in the top 20% of their trade–the Web Leaders.

Is D7 ready for prime time?   Many database table names are different, the database ORM and non-ORM queries have a different syntax, the AHAH/AJAX processes are rewritten, ‘lots of major changes to the files handling system’, comment system has been overhauled, to name a few major differences.  Popular D7 modules which are not ready for production sites include: Organic Groups, Ubercart, Page Title, Calendar, Metadata, Views,  and Skinr (used in the popular Fusion themes).  That is just a short list. I’d say that I’m just as reluctant about pushing clients to buy development-hours for upgrading from D6 to D7.   There are certainly lots of neat improvements in D7 that I can’t wait to start using: a built-in admin menu which will probably make the ‘Admin Menu’ module obsolete, bundling poormanscron into core, and (better late than never) a UI mechanism for updating modules on the fly (WordPress-style).  But is D7 stable enough?  Looking at past history, D6 released 4 large updates within 6 months after its release.  One should probably expect the same for D7, and therefore shouldn’t be so quick to adopt such a new platform.

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