Drupal 7 - One Small Step for Mankind

  • 5-Jan-2011

After a long wait, extended several times, Drupal 7 was released today. So what is it like, and should you rush over to download and install it right away?

We've recently updated the Drupal review in our Web CMS Report to a preview of version 7. Major updates like these are always difficult to review -- because there are no actual production instances yet to glean real world experiences, as we customarily do. That makes us cautious to predict anything about how it will fare in real life scenarios. And you should be equally cautious if you're considering implementing it in a production environment.

There's a lot to like about what the Drupal community did in version 7. The software's interface (which, like DotNetNuke, is meshed into the visitor-facing website) has been overhauled and dragged into the current decade. Drupal finally has native content modeling (this formerly required an optional module, CCK) so you can have different content types. And perhaps most importantly for the high-traffic customers Drupal has been attracting the past few years, some of the Pressflow distribution's features for better scalability have been ported to Drupal Core. (Though, paradoxically, a simple Drupal install will probably be slower than version 6.) These make Drupal a much more serious contender for the high stakes game than before.

Of course, that's all relative to the previous version. Version 7 is one giant leap for Drupal, but one small step for mankind. It doesn't fundamentally change how it stacks up against most of the platform systems we cover. Drupal still lacks a lot of the infrastructure that's considered a commodity in other platform systems.

Yes, with the plethora of free add-in modules available Drupal can be made to do a lot of things. But at this crossroads between version 6 and 7 the problem with that is quite obvious, too. A lot of version 7 modules are still in pre-release alpha or beta. And it suddenly becomes painfully clear that quite a few modules have been orphaned: their developers have abandoned them in version 6. Modules require due diligence; because you will, always, need modules. (Without a module, Drupal Core doesn't even have a rich text editor.)

There are global release parties this Friday. And as usual, there will be quite a few headaches after that. If you don't have a Drupal tattoo, you'll likely want to be a spectator for a few months before jumping into the melee. So if you're thinking of betting on Drupal, check the odds in our research now -- and then check them again in six months' time.