Drupal at 13: All Grown Up?

I don't know if there's a standard rate to convert software age into human terms, ala "dog years". Probably not, given the fact that some projects seem both with beards of grey, while others appear determined never to grow up. Still, it's pleasantly ironic to me that Drupal's 13 birthday — the beginning of the "teen" years — may mark the onset of true maturity.

Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 is clearly a technical sea change: taking responsibility for "must have" features in core, architecturally separating configuration from content, supporting a real scaffolding toolkit, leveraging external projects and libraries for low-level core functionality. Those are hallmarks of a grown-up software project.

There's also awkwardness associated with such a transition. The Drupal 8 development cycle has been kind of like puberty for the project. A lot has changed. The project is bigger, smarter, more powerful. But we've also had our share of blemishes, missteps, confusion — growing pains.

Mistakes are how learnings happen. They're a necessary component of progress. Even though I'm not looking forward to the upgrade cycle, and there are things I'll miss about the early days of Drupal (the wildness and freedom in particular) I feel confident that hindsight will look kindly on these years.

It's not just code that's growing up either. The community crossed the psychological million-user barrier this year. More importantly, what's emerging isn't just larger; it's also more professional and global than ever before. 

Professionalism helps create stability. While it sometimes trades against some of that grassroots flavor I personally enjoy, I think it's good for the future of the project. Not only does "Drupaling for a living" keep people engaged, it underwrites work that can't be done effectively by volunteers or hobbyists. It also attracts people with years of wisdom and experience elsewhere, providing valuable perspective and increasing the value of our hive mind.

Likewise, expansion in emerging markets is a huge net positive. In the world of web development there's tension around outsourcing, but you can't help but smile as Drupal spreads throughout the globe. There are billions of people around the world just coming online, and they have a lot to gain from open source, and to contribute.

I don't meant to sound triumphalist. Drupal's destiny is far from certain, and the proof is always in the pudding. We're negotiating one of the most difficult transitions an open-source project will ever undergo — but so far we're doing well, and everyone deserves credit for that. Drupal isn't all grown up quite yet, but we're getting there. Steady on.

PS: This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit as I prepare for my Saturday Keynote presentation at SANDCamp. If you're going to be there, come check it out!

Topics Education, Drupal
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