Drupal open source web content management system Drupal project founder Dries Buytaert has had a productive year, even by his standards. He wrapped up his PhD, became a father, started a company (Acquia) with Jay Batson, and, oh yeah, continued to steer the good ship Drupal towards modular, multi-user Web CMS heaven. We caught up with the man just before Christmas, and collared him for a quick chat about Acquia, Drupal and OSS.

The Future of Drupal?

CMSWire: Drupal has come an exceptionally long way -- from a college-dorm bulletin-board project to an enterprise-class Web CMS platform. What is Drupal going to be in five years time? Dries Buytaert: When was the last time you had to hire a webmaster to hand-craft your website and content using XHTML and CSS? Nowadays content creators can input, format and publish their own content themselves. The traditional webmaster role is dead. Publishing tools and content management systems, like Drupal, have either replaced them altogether or moved them elsewhere in the site production process. Five years from now, I hope that Drupal will have had a similar impact on the web developer and the designer as it has had on the webmaster. I want to eliminate them altogether on many projects, and move them to higher value tasks in others. Put another way, I want to empower individuals, both professionals and amateurs, to take control of the framework and the tools of web site production. Mash-ups and web services are an example of this trend - they let people remix the intelligence of the web to work in ways that are useful to them. Drupal is already well on its way to eliminating many menial developer chores - the stuff that no developer enjoys but that someone has to do. In short, I want Drupal to empower more and different people to get involved in web publishing and collaboration. That means making Drupal easier to use, easier to theme, easier to translate, and easier to build and mashup applications with. Also, putting my Acquia hat on, it would be great to see Drupal become the most trusted enterprise infrastructure for rapidly assembling applications and delivering content.

Acquia to Aid Drupal Development

CMSWire: Acquia is going to bundle Drupal and non-Drupal products into solution-oriented distributions, build a Drupal-oriented version of the Red Hat Network, and run a technical assistance center to help subscribers with various installation and other problems. You will also essentially aim to be the company which will decide when and if Drupal products are good enough to be adopted by the community as a whole, by adding your personal ‘seal of approval’ to products. What does this mean to individual Drupal users? Is it going to cost them money to use the best Drupal modules etc? DB: Acquia is not seeking to make a closed-source version of Drupal. Not only does the GPL license and copyright law preclude this, we simply don’t believe in the concept. Drupal will remain free for everyone to download, use, alter and distribute. Acquia wants to see the Drupal community succeed and to do so, Acquia will listen to and work with the Drupal community to advance Drupal. Acquia will provide added value to Drupal users by reducing risk and saving them time. Users who are cautious about deploying Drupal will have the option to purchase a commercial subscription from Acquia to help them maintain and monitor their Drupal website. CMSWire: Come on, give us some specifics here! What’s your first product/ bundle solution? When does the network launch, and with what? DB: We are not prepared to say just yet. We’re looking at a variety of use cases ranging from media & publishing to educational institutions to intranet collaboration and corporate websites. If there was one lesson to be learned when growing the Drupal project, it is that you have to listen to your users. At Acquia we are doing exactly that. We are talking to a lot of Drupal users and we will act on what we hear.

Where is Open Source going?

CMSWire: The open source model has given rise to a utopian environment for us consumers, in that the net result of projects like Drupal is insanely powerful and revolutionary products which we can get for free. Will this situation persist, do you think? Is open source too powerful a development model to be stopped, or will it somehow implode on itself? DB: Open Source is here to stay and grow. Everyone should take the time understand the permanent and profound changes that Open Source is bringing to the marketplace. Open Source succeeds because Open Source offers a fundamentally better value proposition for users and customers. With closed source software, the vendors are in charge. With Open Source software, the users are in charge. If you are unhappy with your Open Source vendor, you take your source and you go to another vendor or you make the necessary improvements yourself. CMSWire: Do you ever worry that you will never get your just financial rewards? You laid the foundation for an incredible product, one that other people are making a lot of money out of. In any other era you would already have made a fortune out of it... if, say, the year was 1908 instead of 2008 and you had built a hot new automobile or a great rail innovation. It somehow seems unfair? DB: Thousands of people have contributed to Drupal in numerous ways. Over 1800 developers contributed Drupal modules (third-party extensions that can be added to the core) for Drupal 5. Drupal has grown a lot bigger than me. The community is really what makes the Drupal project tick. I encourage everyone to make money with Drupal. If we want Drupal to grow, it has to make inroads in the commercial software market. For that to happen, we need a certain level of support that is currently not available. To me, it seems like creating an open multi-vendor ecosystem is the winning strategy. At Acquia, we hope to contribute to that ecosystem. CMSWire: I've read that your dream job would be as part of a Formula 1 Team. If you were, would you be : (a) a driver (b) pit crew (c) head engineer (d) team boss, or (e) umbrella-holding model? DB: Pit crew! One of the big unknowns in open source Content Management this year is the effect Acquia will have on Drupal. Interested? You should be. Go on over to Acquia. If you're wondering what Drupal is, you should probably ask your doctor to cut your dose and let you have three or four hours of 'awake time' each day. Head on over to Drupal and go figure it out, you knucklehead. Meanwhile, it being the season of goodwill, what Dries wants, what he really, really wants, is a Porsche 911-GT3. Either that, or a green laser pointer. Now, Drupal has proven to be a popular platform for political candidates, including US presidential candidates, and also the likes of Michael Bloomberg. Which gives us an idea. Hows about this: Bloomberg can get him the Porsche to show his appreciation for mikebloomberg.com, while me, Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd chip in and buy him the laser pointer. Whaddya say, fellas?