It's Crystal Ball time once again, when every two-bit hack on the Web reaches for the ether and prises back the veil of time, peering into the murky future. Dries Buytaert is no hack - he's the founder of Drupal and the co-founder of Acquia. But he's as entitled as anyone else to play Nostradamus, and he's just outlined his vision of what we can expect in the open source CMS world, and in the Drupal project over the next twelve months.
OSS CMS Market Consolidation
Buytaert sees consolidation on the horizon, as the leading open-source CMS products attain some kind of critical mass and begin to dominate the sector.
"...near the end of 2008, we'll see the first signs of consolidation in the Open Source CMS market. The Open Source CMS space will become less fragmented; the "big three" (i.e. Wordpress, Joomla! and Drupal) will continue to grow but the growth of many other systems (i.e. Plone, Typo3, Xoops, e107, ezPublish, dotNetNuke, etc) will slow down significantly."
It will be interesting indeed to see how this prediction plays out. But will a sort of stable and still relevant Middleweight division emerge, incorporating the likes of Plone and ezPublish (and now MovableType, following recent developments?)
Drupal will be made easier to use, bringing closer Buytaert's stated objective of democratizing web publishing. "Drupal 7 will ship with one or two install profiles, many UI improvements, more AJAX, a basic WYSIWYG editor (or better WYSIWYG support), some wizards, and improved image and file handling."
"While we listen to our users in 2008, most of the excitement will be developer-centric." Two key Drupal development modules: Views and CCK will be more closely integrated with the core product.
"A significant portion, but not all" of the Content Construction Kit (CCK) will be moved to Drupal core, and there will be changes made to the core to enable a better fit with Views. All this will should improve developer efficiency.
Also, "While unheard in Drupal circles right now, object-relational mapping (ORM) will be the buzzword du jour by the summer of 2008. This, in turn, will lead to better web service integration, RIA integration (specifically Flex), and improved import/export functionality in Drupal 7."
The suggestion has also been made that the pace of core releases will slow, to appease a community which is constantly having to rewire old modules for new releases, potentially at the expense of fresh innovation. But if Dries is already talking about what's going to be in D7...
"Unless we manage to put more effort into (i) marketing, (ii) support, (iii) documentation and (iv) drupal.org this might turn out to be a tough battle for Drupal. Drupal.org will be our biggest challenge in 2008, and much of that will determine whether we'll be one of the "big three" Open Source CMSes at the end of 2008." Drupal.org is also the subject of intense debate on the forums at that very website. The Modules section, an utterly vital service, is considered by many to be sub-par. It offers little information on what the best modules in a particular area are and has free-form descriptions which often leave much to the imagination.
When searching for WordPress modules, in contrast, one is presented with user ratings, download popularity, and other useful information which is simply not available on Drupal.org.
There is also room for improvement, as has been noted, in the Themes section of Drupal's home. Many have no preview image on the list page. Themes are not sorted by type, and cannot be searched by parameters such as amount of columns, what inbuilt configurable areas are available (i.e. are headers/footers for a particular theme directly configurable via blocks), and so on.
Wordpress.org has all of that, and while it is hardly fair to draw usability comparisons between the two products, it is fair to suggest that Drupal can benchmark itself against the peerless blogging platform in terms of what's on offer at project headquarters.
Compare the Drupal Theme page of ill fame.... now compare it with the WordPress theme page.
One hesitates to criticize any facet of the Drupal project, given the quality and prodigious scope of the product. But it doesn't matter how good we are, we can always be better...
Dries' final prediction is that “...I will get all of this year's predictions right, but that you still want to get a second opinion.”
Do you think Buytaert has called it right? Or is this the work of a man who had one too many egg-nogs? Have your say below.
For more details see: Dries Buytaert's predictions and More Drupal predictions.