Fortunately it's nowhere near April, so when I tell you that the Drupal Web CMS (news, site) project has finally released Drupal 7 beta 1 you won't think I'm pulling a prank. Let's take a look at this milestone release.

How They Reached Beta

Drupal 7 Maintainer Angie "webchick" Byron explained that the jump from Drupal 7 alpha to beta means:

  • All critical data loss and security bugs for Drupal 7 have been resolved as far as they can tell
  • They feel the APIs are frozen enough that contributed module and theme authors can safely work on updates to satisfy their #D7CX pledges
  • The upgrade path appears to work smoothly now

Byron also warned, however, that this is a beta and there are still bugs in need of squashing. There's more information on the Drupal 7.0 beta 1 release page.

What's Next

At this point, there will be new beta releases until there are no more critical bugs left in the queue. Once there are no more critical bugs (there are 37 critical bugs in the issue queue at the time of this writing though 26 of them are marked fixed but not yet closed), Drupal 7 will reach the release candidate stage. From there, Byron says that once they've had at least one release candidate that doesn't cause any new issues to be added to the bug list, Drupal 7.0 will finally become a production release.

The Drupal 7 beta 1 release page offers suggestions on how you can get involved with bug hunting no matter what your level of expertise or ability to code. There's even a development module that generates data to populate new sites and make them easier to test.

Dries Buytaert, Drupal's founder, said regarding this milestone: "I feel like a kid on Christmas eve. I can hardly wait to unwrap the beta package." If you're not sure why he's so excited, check out the changelog of all of the features that are new to Drupal 7. Which one are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments!

More to Come, Much More

As Drupal community members know, there's more to Drupal than the core software -- a lot more. Most reasonable consultants won't recommend a new Drupal release until it's been seasoned in the field for a while, and even more importantly, until the contributed modules -- the third party software add-ons that add features to the Drupal core software -- catch-up with the core release version.

Major Drupal releases have a tendency to require significant contributed module reworking. Module authors therefore have to find the time and perhaps the financial incentive to dig deep and update their software. This process tends to lag significantly behind each major Drupal release.

The wise folk behind Drupal are trying to mitigate this issue via the "Drupal 7 Pledge" campaign, whereby key module authors and teams pledge to have a release-ready module build on the day that Drupal 7 is released (see the pledged module list here). This is ambitious, but seems to be yielding some results. Those of you watching the Drupal 7 release cycle, will also want to watch the status of the modules on the pledge list. The story is not complete without them.