Acquia, Drupal, Acquia Gardens
With Tom Erickson, the new CEO at the helm, great things are expected of Acquia (news, site). One of these is undoubtedly the success of Acquia Gardens. Tagged by Acquia as "Drupal for everyone" it is a web-based, mass-market approach to the open source social web content management system.

Unveiled on the company's 2009 roadmap, Acquia Gardens' aim is to let anyone build a Drupal website via the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, with software and an IT infrastructure provided by Acquia. Though there's not much information available about the company's plans, but we scratched around a bit to see what we could find.

Up the Garden Path

Here's the stated plan: with little technical knowledge, anyone will be able to create a website that ties into their hobby, favorite sport, business, collaboration project or other opportunity. And this new site will attract users with social interaction that is hard to reproduce on a standard website. All this will happen with no need for Jane or Joe to have their own server, thanks to the software as a service approach.

With Drupal's powerful customization capabilities, a user can have the site they desire with just a few clicks, and have all the wonderful power of Drupal's content management facilities in the background to help manage and advance the site.

Try that on your typical Facebook group page.

Specifics? What Specifics?

Specific details are still thin on the ground. But as Drupal can be used for all kinds of content, it is easy to foresee nimble sites, created with elements of Drupal's modular system.

So, a site could start out as a forum, evolve to incorporate images and then video as the users demand -- all done with no coding skills and with the minimum of clicks.

Using semantics, the admin can keep as tight a rein on the content, no matter how big the site gets, or -- and this is one of the most tantalizing prospects -- allow the users to generate the content and sit back and watch it roll in, as all the best social sites do.

Will They Come?

Acquia Gardens will use the core Acquia Network, Acquia's commercial support and services, to manage a site -- offering support, management services (including traffic and usage stats) and extra services such as spam blocking, media delivery. Hosting will be provided by Acquia but can be moved at a later date to another Drupal hosting provider.

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Acquia Services -- The Vision for 2009

With Drupal project founder, Dries Buytaert, as well as other core contributers on board, Acquia likely has the expertise to make Gardens work. There also appears to be no tapering in the level of Drupal community energy. That, for the moment, is a big plus.

However, this is very much a case of "if you build it, will the builders come?"

The project's success will rely on a growing army of users wanting their own social sites and knowing that such customization and power exists in such an easy-to-access form. Additionally, Drupal's current reputation for complexity will no doubt pose a perception management challenge.

Perhaps point-n-click Drupal simplicity will manifest and an perception makeover will be achieved. Alternatively, the creative herd may just happily continue to build their communities in the existing playgrounds of Facebook, YouTube and MySpace, ignoring the possibilities of having their own fields to mind.