Drupal Web Content Management System (Web CMS)That's right, Drupal 7 has officially launched today. The latest version of the well known open source web content management system has been three years in the making (and we've covered much of that work), now we just have to wait for the contributed modules to catch up.

A Significant Improvement

We dug into the specifics of what's new and improved in Drupal 7 back in November of 2009. Drupal 7 highlights include:

  • Addition of Semantic Web technologies
  • The new fields portion of core -- the Fields Module -- includes a new Fields API and a massive change in architecture.
  • D7UX, a completely reworked User Interface
  • Lots of changes to themes including the ability to modify themes via CSS
  • A rewritten, object-oriented database API based on PHP Data Objects
  • Image Cache and Image API have both been moved into core
  • The continuous testing infrastructure was added to Drupal 7 core, with automated testing constantly checking to see if anything's broken with the latest code check-ins.

Said Dries Buytaert, founder of the Drupal project, in his Drupal 2010 retrospective and 2011 predictions:

My personal low for Drupal in 2010 is the fact that we didn't release Drupal 7. It is a consolation, however, it has been delayed for good reasons and we didn't compromise on quality. One thing is a given though: 2011 will be the year of Drupal 7. It will be a nicer-looking, more powerful, and more scalable Drupal that will be easier to use. If you've overlooked Drupal previously in favor of some other system, it's time to revisit it again.

Waiting for Production-ready Modules

Yes, Drupal 7 is officially available for download (get it here). But it's important to recognize that this is just the Drupal 7 core -- the release status obviously does not apply to the thousands of modules (add-ons) contributed by the community. Although there has been much support from the community that supplies contributed modules, and an entire movement that pledged to have their modules D7 ready by release time, it hasn't exactly happened.

This effort is what the D7CX Movement was about. D7CX, Drupal 7 Contributed Modules, was an initiative to have, at a minimum, the top 40 contributed Drupal modules be Drupal 7 ready at release time.

Today we queried the database of Drupal contributed modules filtering for Drupal 7 compatibility and ordered by most installed modules first (see results). Most of the modules are still in either alpha or beta release, many are still in development only mode.

The most popular module according to the search is Views -- it does not yet have an official alpha or beta release, though our testing has showed it to be functional and fairly stable. The second most popular module, Token, is available as an alpha3 release and is also fairly stable. The Pathauto module, used to create search engine friendly URLs by, reportedly, 180,000+ Drupal websites has an alpha3 release on offer, but was last updated about 2 hours ago. Some enterprise-oriented modules, like Workflow and Autosave, do not yet have any Drupal 7 builds at all.

So, in the domain of contributed, but yes, important modules, the work continues.

A Significant Milestone, But Reality Bites

We in no way intend to disparage the efforts of the community. CMSWire staff have been testing Drupal 7 and many of the contributed modules for more than a year now, and the work completed to date is monumental. Our hats are off to the significant elbow grease on display in the Drupal community.

Drupal 7 is a big milestone and the core of the system has made enormous strides. The core product is also capable of addressing many Web CMS needs on its own.  But practical realities say that conservative IT decision makers won't start adopting Drupal 7 in more strenuous environments -- where a broad array of contributed modules are often deployed -- for 6 months or more. The risks and costs associated with a fabric of alpha software too rapidly sour the milk.

With that said, Drupal affectionados should jump in with both feet. Your testing and expertise are needed. And if you're into LAMP-based content management solutions and your launch date is six months or more off, then Drupal 7 ought to be considered as a strong candidate for your next web content management project.