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Drupal in 2021: Year in review

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  • January 8 2022
  • 13 min read
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Perceptions can change the way you go about doing anything you may want. “New year brings with it new beginnings”, one may perceive. “New year poses similar changes and nothing has changed but the date”, another may shout out. Nevertheless, the new year has already begun and that feeling of do-great-be-great this year in anything we set out to do is also palpable (initially at least, before it fades away in the midst of all that keeps us busy the year round.) Anyway, 2022 is here and it’s time to wrap up the important changes or the events that happened in the Drupal ecosystem in 2021.

Celebrating two decades of Drupal!

The celebrations did not stop ever since the launch of Drupal 9 in 2020 (Well, the vibrant Drupal community members never stop celebrating Drupal and always find a reason to celebrate.)

photos of people holding posters to celebrate birth anniversary of Drupal in 2021 with text: Happy 20th birthday Drupal


2021 marked the 20th anniversary of Drupal. Two decades of existence and still counting! It was a reason big enough to rejoice. Drupal is one of those few open source softwares that is brimming with active, growing community and its community members’ inclination towards innovation has kept the CMS relevant even in the midst of modern day technologies. Read web development trends in 2021 and macro trends in 2021 and how Drupal keeps up with them.

Yet another year of virtual, global community events!

Logo of DrupalFest with colourful drops sandwiched by the text Drupal Fest


The Drupal Association launched DrupalFest 2021, a global community event held virtually, to kick off the celebrations and expand on the theme #CelebrateDrupal for the entire month of April (Check out CelebrateDrupal.org). The event was a success with over 48 events taking place in 19 nations and 7 different languages for the month-long celebration of Drupal contribution, community and the positive impacts Drupal has made possible.

Moreover, despite the ongoing hurdles posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Drupal Community remained connected virtually through its all-important annual events - DrupalCon North America 2021 in April and DrupalCon Europe 2021 in October. Both the events were a grand success with a record 2300+ participants and 900+ participants respectively.

infographic with drupalcon north america 2021 written on corner and showing statistics on number of participants
drupal con europe 2021 logo with drop icon and skycrapers in background
Source: Drupal Association


And, to provide guidance and accountability for addressing the accessibility of events with utmost respect, sheer professionalism and absolute grace, the Drupal Event Accessibility Playbook was announced this year by the Drupal Event Organizers Working Group and Drupal Community Working Group. The objective was to help make inclusivity simpler to build into event planning.

The state of Drupal project pipeline

Drupal adoption rate saw a palpable growth in 2020-2021.

graphical representation with multi coloured region to show drupal usage statisticsdifferent columns showing numbers on drupal usage statistics
different columns showing numbers on drupal usage statistics
Drupal core usage statistics | Source: Drupal.org


2021 also marked the timely releases of minor version releases of Drupal 9. Drupal 9.2 and Drupal 9.3 releases brought with them further enhancements to Drupal 9.

infographic showing drop icons on left and right with drupal 9.2 and 9.3 written on either side


Drupal 9.2 ensured to keep your site even more safer and secure, gave better visitor privacy protection, had improved migration tools from Drupal 7, arrived with an improved Olivero frontend theme and provided early support for the WebP image format.

Drupal 9.3 teased with an experimental module for CKEditor 5 in core, had an even more stable Olivero ensuring a fresh, modern and highly accessible frontend theme for Drupal out of the box, and had several improvements done on the content editor’s and developer’s front.

First released on November 9, 2015, Drupal core version 8 series reached its end of life on November 2, 2021. The last version was released on November 17, 2021. So, all the releases of Drupal 8 core and Drupal contributed project releases that were compatible with only Drupal 8 were marked unsupported as they did not have any further security team support. Reads all your burning questions around Drupal 8 end of life and a comprehensive report on it to know more.

a green drop signifying Drupal 8 end of life


On the other hand, Drupal 9 adoption kept on happening at a staggering pace reaching 0 to 60000 websites within a month. The same took seven months for Drupal 7 and three months for Drupal 8!

three blue drops on left and display boxes on right showing drupal adoption
Source: Dries Buytaert's blog


The year also saw a rapid adoption and development happening in the Drupal 9 ecosystem as almost 88% of the top 1000 Drupal modules were fully compatible with Drupal 9 in a quick span of time. In contrast, only one-third of the top 50 Drupal modules were compatible with Drupal 8 after about one and a half years.

pie chart with multi coloured segments to show Drupal adoption
Source: The Drop Is Always Moving | Twitter


With Drupal 9 all set for more feature upgrades and Drupal 10 release around the corner in 2022, several initiatives were launched for further enhancements. Impressive progress was made on these key initiatives:

a) Project browser

To help more evaluators and site builders fall in love with Drupal, Project browser initiative was launched. This would streamline the process of finding and installing modules for the site builders right from their Drupal site which is similar to, let’s say, Google play store or Apple app store on a smartphone.


b) Project messaging in core

This is to add a feed of announcements from Drupal.org directly to core and enable the communication channel to reach Drupal end users directly in their Drupal installation for the first time in Drupal’s history.

c) GitLab Acceleration

Dries Buytaert, founder and project lead of Drupal, announced the GitLab acceleration initiative for enabling Drupal.org’s migration to GitLab. This is because most open source communities today have made it a standard practice to use tools such as GitHub and GitLab. The contributors look forward to using either of those when contributing to open source. 


The objective here is simple. It’s to make it easier for people to become contributors after they adopt Drupal. Many developers outside the periphery of the Drupal community are used to leveraging GitLab and enabling them to use the tools they are already familiar with is a much needed step towards garnering new contributors.

screenshot of zoom meeting with Dires Buytaert's photo appearing on top left and his screen visible in the rest of the area
Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog


d) New front-end theme (Olivero)

A lot has happened on Olivero, the new frontend theme. Drupal 9.2 and 9.3 were released with further enhancements to Olivero. Dries confirmed that the work on this is nearing its completion. Enormous work has gone into making Olivero fully accessible and making it WCAG AA conformant. The proof of it was the praises that National Federations of the Blind (USA) showered on it as they appreciated it for being “low-vision accessible”.

e) Decoupled Menus

With REST, JSON:API and GraphQL, Drupal has an amazing web services implementation available. The Decoupled Menus initiative came about with the objective of expanding the number of web service endpoints that Drupal provides and creating a huge bank of web components and JavaScript framework integrations.
 
Composable enterprise architecture or composability, a concept that strives to capture business and technical capabilities as APIs, seen as modular components across lines of business, is a growing trend today. Developing more web service endpoints and JavaScript components extends Drupal’s leadership in both headless development and composability and will make it one of the most-sought after tools for developers. The initiative has made fantastic progress. Take a look at how is it being worked upon:


f) Automatic Updates

The Automatic Updates initiative was brought forth to make it easier for updating Drupal sites safely and securely. The initiative has made amazing progress in 2021 and a working development version could be demonstrated as follows:


g) Drupal 10 readiness

The Drupal 10 readiness initiative was launched to ensure the release of Drupal 10 in 2022 providing enough time to update sites while keeping Drupal secure and updated. This initiative is focussed upon upgrading the third party components that Drupal depends upon. Plenty has happened and the initiative is right on track. The upgrade to Drupal 10 will be made easy. All thanks to proper management of deprecated code and continuous investment in Rector. Upgrading from Drupal 9 to 10 can be largely automated which is a 300% improvement in comparison to Drupal 8 to 9 migration.
 
As Drupal 9 was built in Drupal 8, similarly Drupal 10 is being built in Drupal 9 as much as possible. Exception being CKEditor 5 is being built as a contributed module for testing purposes and easier collaboration. Also, PHP 8 and Composer 2 support has been shipped to Drupal 10. Support for Symfony 5 looked good and that of Symfony 6 was in the works.

h) Easy out of the box

The goal of Easy out of the box initiative was to have Layout Builder, Media and Claro enabled by default for any Drupal user. Not much progress has been made on this yet and through Drupal 10 it is expected to take a U-turn.
 
Despite excellent progress that Drupal initiatives have made in 2021, The Drupal Business Survey 2021 stated that the many participants during the survey were particularly worried about Drupal’s popularity fading away in the coming year. Competition from cloud CMS platforms was said to be their biggest reason to be wary of.

pie chart with multicoloured segments to show Drupal project pipeline progress
Source: Drupal.org


When the survey looked at the factors influencing clients’ decisions to either go for Drupal or stay away from it, the facts were encouraging. The usual parameter of ‘having used Drupal before’ no longer arrived on to the scene as the number one reason for working with it. People are no longer just opting for Drupal out of habit and past experience. Being open source and a great fit for their business requirements at varying circumstances have proved to be important reasons for businesses to adopt.

bar graph showing statistics on drupal project pipeline
Source: Drupal.org


The survey also found that since Drupal is on the higher end and more time-intensive during development, its price can be on the higher side as well when compared to competitors. Even the maintenance costs were said to be higher than competitors. Likes of WordPress and SaaS CMSes are being seen as a much more user-friendly option.

More on community initiatives and how strategic initiative take shape in Drupal here.

The state of Drupal contribution

Drupal.org’s contribution data for 2020-2021 showed that there have been fewer contributions and fewer contributors this time around.

table with different coloured rows and columns to show statistics on Drupal contribution
Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog


But the important thing to notice here is that the top individual and organisational contributors aren’t leaving Drupal and only have become less active during the 2020-2021 period. A 7.7% annual attrition rate in the top 1000 contributors is very low and the average contributor in the top 1000 has been active for 13 years. Also, many Drupal agencies have contributed less but very few have completely stopped contributing altogether which means that top Drupal agencies remain committed to Drupal.

bar graph with different coloured bars to show statistics on Drupal contribution
Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog


Covid-19 pandemic has definitely been one big factor making contribution more intricate and/or less desirable this year. In fact, a memorial wall called #Drupalmemorial was also initiated to encourage the community to share memories of lost friends and remember the good they brought in their lives. 

Dries terms this slow period as the Dupal Super Cycle. This is basically a period where after a major release, work shifts from active development to the maintenance stage. In other words, Drupal’s development cycle slips in and out of busy period and quiet period depending upon when the major version release happens.

bar graph with orange vertical bars to show statistics on Drupal contribution
Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog


Moreover, many Drupal agencies do not have enough time to contribute to Drupal because they are too busy growing, which is fantastic. And, because of Drupal stability and maturity, there are far fewer bugs to be fixed and features to be contributed. Rector automations have also been the cause of less contributions which is good.

Contributions to Drupal core witnessed a 7% year-over-year increase in credits while that of contributed projects like modules, themes and distributions saw a reduction compared to previous year.

Bar graph with multi coloured bars to explain Drupal contribution
Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog


Approximately two-thirds of all contributions were entirely sponsored. But, the volunteer contribution still remains very important to Drupal.

Furthermore, Drupal’s contribution recognition system is the first community that started allowing contributors of all kinds to attribute their work as a volunteer whether it’s on behalf of an employer or client organisation(s). Drupal.org also introduced the ability for contributors to choose what contributor roles they identify themselves fulfilling which can be local community leaders, event organisers or even project maintainers. Such data can be leveraged to understand the key contributor roles in the Drupal community and identify the diversity of individuals who hold these contributor roles. This will provide better analysis of the contribution ecosystem and help make better decisions on how to take the project forward. This system is now also the basis for a proposal to adopt a new metric by the Community Health Analytics Open Source Software (CHAOSS) community, IEEE and GitLab.

Amongst the traditional Drupal businesses, OpenSense Labs, which has been contributing frequently to Drupal and feels immense proud to be a part of one of the largest open source communities, featured in the list of go-to service providers for all things Drupal.

The Drupal Business Survey 2021 had interesting stats to show as well on how and why companies contribute to Drupal. It stated that all companies (80-85%) contribute documentation and code alterations and about 50% of them help to fund the community with donations and sponsoring events.

Bar graph with multi coloured vertical bars to explain Drupal contribution
Source: Drupal.org


Read about the perks and approaches of contributing to open source to know more.

The state of Diversity, equity and inclusion in Drupal

Drupal Association launched a new initiative named Discover Drupal to provide more opportunities for people who have been underrepresented in the open source community.

discover drupal logo with drop icon


Like every year, the Drupal Association logo was decorated with a little more colour in recognition of Pride month.

drupal association logo with multi coloured drop


The Drupal community also addressed the negative behaviour that sometimes plagues the positive environment that everyone tries to create. This is because such behaviours can make it difficult or in fact uncomfortable for many to be in and hinder them from finding the right words to get conversations running in the healthy direction.

The Community Working Group (CWG) workshop held at DrupalCon Seattle 2019 paved the way for CWG Community Health team to come up with a communication initiative for the Drupal Community that comprises de-escalation templates called as Nudges.

table with multicoloured rows and columns to describe drupal's diversity and inclusion


What do the numbers say about the Drupal ecosystem’s diversity quotient? Well, over the years, Drupal is definitely becoming more and more diverse albeit gradually. This year contributions by those who did not identify themselves as men were less than 9% and Drupal remains committed to close this gap further and eradicate gender imbalance.

Bar graph with multi coloured vertical bars to explain Drupal diversity and inclusion
Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog


Europe accounts for the largest contribution to Drupal but the numbers are on the decline in comparison to last year. North America is on the second in the list and is steadily moving upwards and onwards on a year-on-year basis. Asia(India in particular as it remains the second highest contributor after the USA), South America and Africa continue to possess a huge potential to tap into with a large combined population that they have.

Bar graph with multi coloured vertical bars to explain Drupal diversity and inclusion
Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog


Learn more:

 

The state of Drupal businesses

A large majority of the participants in the Drupal Business Survey 2021 said that their business grew despite the pandemic. The reason is attributed largely to the way clients have been forced into the digital spectrum more so in the last two years. Digitalisation is skyrocketing and so is the demand for Drupal services.

pie chart with multi coloured segments to show Drupal adoption
pie chart with multi coloured segments to show Drupal adoption
Source: Drupal.org


The survey also suggested a few tips to sustain this growth in business, deal size and project pipeline for the organisations. Good margins on Drupal-related services are important. In other words, project pricing should be meticulously planned and structured. Moreover, you need to offer competitive salaries to your workforce. And, act accordingly when you see that you are unable to deal with the excessive amount of work. That means decrease the amount of work without having an impact on your business revenues by increasing the prices of your Drupal services.

The Charities and Non-profit sector came out as the most popular industry with a large number of the Drupal agencies having clients from this vertical. It was followed by Education, Healthcare & Medicine, Government & Public Administration and Media and they too had a significant number of clients. Explore Drupal by industries here.

Conclusion

Drupal business is booming and everyone of us, the Drupal lovers that we all are, have to ensure it stays that way. We need to learn from each passing year and market our services and Drupal in the right way to the right clients. Yes, there have been less number of contributions comparatively this year but it is not something to be perplexed about and concern ourselves with. Covid-19 pandemic, business growth and Drupal Super Cycle can all be regarded as some of the main reasons behind the slowdown.

Drupal grew by leaps and bounds in previous years : 2019 and 2020. Let’s look forward to another year of prosperity and growth for all the Drupalists out there. Drupal will continue to grow and embrace innovation in 2022. So will Drupal businesses.

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