Getting Ready for Drupal 9

Posted on February 12, 2020

Drupal 9 is set to be released on June 3, 2020. If you are a business owner with a website built in Drupal, what does this mean for your current website? Should you be worried? With any major Drupal update, there come questions and concerns about how challenging the upgrade process will be, and how it will affect websites around the world. But there is no need for panic if you’re getting ready for Drupal 9.

There Are Over 700,000 Websites That are Still Running on Drupal 7

Drupal 8 was released all the way back in 2015 – making it almost 5 years old at this point.  In the accelerated world of software, that would be the equivalent of still downloading music to your iPod Mini or watching DVDs of your favorite Disney movies vs Disney plus.  The point is, Drupal 7 is old, 6 is even older, and with the way technology has rapidly advanced over the last 5 years it’s way past time to do something about your old, outdated, and likely insecure website.

Drupal Overview

Drupal is the open-source content management framework behind millions of websites and applications. It powers many of the web’s most influential platforms. It has long been how companies and organizations—large and small—keep up with the demands of managing their content operations.

It’s built for easily creating versatile, structured content and connecting powerful integration tools. It’s also known for multi-site capacity and deep multilingual support.

In its infancy, Drupal was still known as Dorp (the Dutch word for “Village”), and it was far from the versatile tool we use today. In 2000, Dorp (soon to be named Drop, thanks to perhaps the most infamous typo in the tech world), was primarily a place for then college student Dries Buytaert and the social network at his university to talk about current events and organize get-togethers.

Flash forward 20 years and Countless versions, contributions, updates, and patches later, and this community has worked to create one of the most powerful platforms on the web.

Drupal Community

Drupal’s continued development and support are backed by a highly organized open source community as well as a growing list of organizations large and small. The community keeps to regularly scheduled updates, so you generally know when a new version is coming.

The community also has some large and successful projects – including Drupal’s flagship e-commerce product, Drupal Commerce, which offers nearly unlimited flexibility to add e-commerce support to any web application.

Along with the thousands of existing integration modules built for Drupal, the developer-first backend architecture means if something doesn’t already exist, a developer would be happy to create it for you!

What’s So Great About Drupal 9? 

Drupal 9 is a revolutionary major Drupal release because unlike all previous releases, it is backward-compatible. It is the continued evolution of the existing Drupal 8 platform, which means it eliminates one of the technical limitations of Drupal–the need to rebuild your site or go through an arduous migration process when a new major version is released.

If you’re already on Drupal 8 and keeping your site updated, then you’ll be ready for a smooth update to Drupal 9! If you’re on Drupal 7 or earlier, you can rebuild in Drupal 8 secure in the knowledge that you won’t need to rebuild again when the next version of Drupal comes out.

When Drupal went from version 7 to Drupal 8, it was a major overhaul. The Drupal Community built a radically different version of Drupal in a separate codebase. Unfortunately, this meant that many modules and functionality that existed in 7, were different or did not exist at all in Drupal 8. Because of this, Drupal 7 websites should look at the update from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 as more of a rebuild or re-platform, rather than an update or simple migration.

The good news is that the Drupal Community has learned their lesson and are taking a much different approach from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9.  Instead of working on Drupal 9 in a separate codebase, they are building Drupal 9 in Drupal 8. This means that they are adding new functionality as backward-compatible code instead of rethinking the entire codebase.

Ultimately this means that once sites are on Drupal 8, the upgrade to Drupal 9 will be straightforward and relatively easy (we’re talking hours of time vs rebuild projects) as long as you are keeping your version of Drupal 8 and any modules as up to date as possible along the way.

Drupal 7 vs. Drupal 8/9

In contrast to WordPress which has to remain backward-compatible all the way back, Drupal’s strategy allows them to remain easily updatable to new versions while still being able to change core functionality, deprecate old code, and keep up with modern development techniques.

Since Drupal 9 is simply the continued development of Drupal 8, Drupal 8 and 9 are extremely similar in structure, while Drupal 7 has some major differences. A few relevant ones are below.

Drupal 7

  • Themes and modules only work with that one major version of Drupal. When you update to a new major version, you need to replace all themes and modules, and the same themes and modules might not exist in the new version yet, or ever.
  • The site configuration exists only in the database, so it is difficult to test and stage website changes in other environments and then deploy them to production.
  • Minor updates only–performing a major version update is not possible and requires a new site to be set up.

Drupal 8/9

  • Themes and modules built for Drupal 8, as long as they are kept up to date, should also be fully compatible with Drupal 9.
  • The site configuration can be exported and imported at any time, making it quick and easy to make changes on a dev site, test them on a staging site, and deploy them live.
  • Both minor and major version updates can be installed the same way and rebuilding the site should no longer be necessary.


What Does EOL (End of Life) Really Mean?

The end-of-life date for Drupal means that it will no longer be supported, maintained, or improved by the Drupal Community.  Being on a version of Drupal that’s “no longer supported” means a number of things:

The Drupal Security Team will no longer provide support or Security Advisories for Drupal core or contributed modules, themes, or other projects, leaving your site’s data and infrastructure at a much higher risk of hacking and compromise

Projects, themes, and Contrib Modules (modules built and maintained by the Drupal Community to enhance functionality) will no longer be built, maintained, or advanced by the community.  This would leave those websites “stuck in place’ with the functionality they currently have with no community to maintain and fix issues with current modules.

EOL Drupal versions may be flagged as insecure in 3rd party scans and security tools since it will no longer be getting support.

In short, EOL Drupal websites will no longer be able to utilize the community support system to build, maintain, enhance, and provide security to the software’s core or to any modules.  Using unsupported software is risky and never recommended.

If you have additional questions on the Drupal update – or are ready to talk next steps, please let us know!