Previewing Drupal 8
Work on the next major release of Drupal is well under way and new features have been set
Do you run or use a web site based on Drupal? If you do, odds are it’s built on Drupal 7. Drupal 7 was officially released in January of 2011 and in mid-February of this year the number of sites built on Drupal 7 officially surpassed those built on Drupal 6. Today it accounts for the majority of Drupal-based sites, with more than twice as many sites being based on Drupal 7 than on Drupal 6. In short, Drupal 7 now rules the Drupal world.
Naturally, then, it is time for Drupal users to turn their attentions to Drupal 8.
While you’ve been busy building or tweaking your Drupal 7 (or earlier) site, more 1,000 developers have been working on the next major revision of the popular open-source CMS. Work on Drupal 8 began in March 2011 and last weekend an important milestone in this version was reached: the Feature Freeze.
Well, actually, the Feature Freeze, which was long scheduled for December 1, 2012, was (sort of) pushed back by Drupal creator Dries Buytaert; or, rather, a new phase was introduced, called the “Feature Completion phase” and that’s due to end on February 18, 2013 (just after DrupalCon Sydney). What happens during the Feature Completion phase? Essentially what the name implies: no new features are to be introduced, but those that have shown “substantial progress” - meaning it’s either already committed or a recent patch has been posted and tested - have until that February date to be completed.
In conjunction with this new phase, Buytaert also announced last week that the Drupal 8 Code Freeze has also been pushed out from February 1 to July 1, 2013. The official release date for Drupal 8 has not been given, but given that it was originally scheduled for August 2013 (six months after the original Code Freeze date), it will now presumably be pushed out to January 2014. For most folks, then, Drupal 8 won’t be a consideration until well into 2014.
Now that the new feature set has (essentially) been defined, at this point, I’m sure the casual Drupal user is asking what goodies Drupal 8 will bring? Seven major core initiatives have been identified:
- Views in core - The most significant enhancement is pulling the popular (many would say, essential) add-on module that allows users to query and display content from the database without having to write SQL into core Drupal.
- Support for HTML5 - Drupal's default doctype will switch from XHTML to HTML5; input filters, functions and forms will all accept HTML5 elements.
- Configuration management - This initiative is about making site configuration versionable and manageable through code and generally “improving the deployment process for Drupal,” as Moshe Weitzman, longtime Drupalist and current Director of Research and Development at Acquia told me.
- Web services - This should result in improving Drupal’s ability to deliver non-HTML output formats, such as XML and JSON, based on REST-style architecture using Symfony components.
- Layouts – This initiative is focussed on cleaning up and standardizing the methods for creating output and placing content on a page; it will lead to things like context-aware blocks and allow for nested layouts.
- Mobile – With the explosion of tablets and smartphones, this initiative is focussing on making admin screens more usable on mobile devices, via native app integration, HTML5, and responsive design.
- Multilingual – Some of the key tools and modules currently used to build multilingual sites will be pulled into core and the interface design will be improved to make it easier to build and support multilingual sites.
Weitzman also pointed out that there will be improvements in Drupal’s Entity API (the way in which content is modelled and stored) supported by new field types in Drupal core for email addresses, links and (possibly) dates.
Is your site on Drupal 7 (or an even older version)? Are you already dreaming of Drupal 8? Or are you a Drupal 8 contributor? Let us know in the comments.