Drupal End of Life extended to 2023

John Newton

What does Drupal EOL extension tell us about the state of Drupal

Several years ago, Drupal 6 and 7 could probably have been considered the 'best' content management systems available. Of course, by 'best' I am being subjective here and I would have chosen Drupal over Wordpress, Joomla etc because of rigorous code standards, structured yet flexible building tools, configurable administration experience and so on.

Fast forward to Drupal 8. An amazing technical achievement that propels Drupal forward to leverage many new technologies and opportunities. Drupal 8 provides developers myriad advantages over Drupal 7 and if you are building large, complex sites and applications it is a powerful choice. However, for the majority of agencies who were using Drupal, Drupal 8 was not a good fit for their needs. The technical skills required to build sites became a lot more demanding, something it took a couple of years to fully appreciate. More importantly, the ecosphere around the product shrank and end users (ie the customers of the Drupal agencies) found themselves increasingly frustrated by a lack of modules to help them implement new features on their sites. Their costs also rose - there were fewer Drupal experts around and development time just took longer. Site owners started looking at other systems that were lighter, more flexible and cheaper. Many Drupal agencies were on the receiving end of this drift. Some many closed their doors or started offering non-Drupal solutions. We were fortunate in that we had been using Wordpress for small projects for many years and so while Drupal was our go-to solution, we already had Wordpress expertise in-house. These days, we still run quite a few Drupal sites still but would never consider building a new site in Drupal. We use Wordpress exclusively. 

Not that Wordpress is perfect - how could it be? But it's flexible, mature, has an amazing array of third party plugins that make web development so much faster and cheaper. Now we're building full-time with Wordpress, we can pass these savings onto our clients. There are many things I would change about Wordpress but equally it's the best CMS out there by a country mile.

So what about extending Drupal 7 end of life - that's a good thing, right? It's certainly welcome news for people scrambling to decide what to do with their existing sites. It's also a sign that the Drupal hierarchy is watching what's happening in the community and listening to its members. When Drupal decided to move towards a larger, more complex tool, Dries was very clear about what the change would mean. The case was made for moving into a new area of the marketplace. However, many in the community were not happy and Drupal 7 forked to Backdrop in order to keep the old technology going. And of course, many site owners who had no appetite or budget to move to Drupal 8 stuck with Drupal 7 waiting to be forced into a move.

I am pleased that support for Drupal 7 has been extended. However, the new yearly review cycle on the decision tells us a lot. Drupal realises that the user base will fall off markedly if support for 7 is withdrawn. A Drupal 8 (9,10) only community will be much reduced. Drupal underwent a revolution rather than a gradual transformation, although I'm sure that was not intentional. But the extension of Drupal 7 EOL has also left people asking questions. How much longer is Drupal 7 actually going to be around - should I upgrade/change platforms now or continue to wait and see? In the meantime, Wordpress forges ahead - no costly upgrades, continuous growth in terms of functionality and a largely happy community.