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Exclusive: Interview with Drupal Founder Dries Buytaert

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?

 

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