Drupal 8 is coming soon.  For those of us that work in Drupal every day, the release of Drupal 8 will be met with a mix of excitement (great new features!) and trepidation (learning the new version and converting old sites is a ton of work).  In an effort to help folks understand the impact of the release of Drupal 8, we have put together some quick answers to the most common questions we are getting.

When exactly will Drupal 8 be released?

The truth is that we don’t know exactly.  My best guess is that it will be released some time between March and June of 2014.  Drupalcon Austin starts on June 2nd and I suspect the Drupal community will push hard to release Drupal 8 prior to that conference.

Let me explain the reasoning behind my estimate.  Like most software platforms, Drupal follows the Alpha/Beta/Release Candidate software release life cycle.  For Drupal 7, there were 7 Alpha releases, 3 Beta releases and then 4 Release Candidates prior to the official launch of Drupal 7.

The most recent release of Drupal 8 is Alpha 7.  Given that there were 7 Alpha versions of Drupal 7, it seems likely Drupal 8 is very close to entering the beta phase.  Drupal 7 was officially released four months after the release of the first beta version.  Assuming the first Drupal 8 beta is released in January, I would guess Drupal 8 will be released at some point in May 2014.

What are some to the key features in Drupal 8?

You can find a good overview of the key new features here.

Here are some of the improvements our Brick Factory team is most excited about:

  • Drupal 8 is designed to be responsive and mobile friendly.  All built-in themes and the administrative pages are all designed to work well down to mobile.
  • For our Drupal 7 builds the Views module has become a vital tool.  In Drupal 8 Views will be part of core and much more integrated with other functionality as a result.
  • Content editing has been improved dramatically, with CKEditor built in as the default WYSWYG editor.  This should make Drupal much more user friendly.
  • Moving from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6 or Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 was/is a huge pain.  Drupal 8 will include content import tools that should make this process much easier.
  • The configuration management system in Drupal 8 is much improved over previous versions.

There is a bunch more.

How soon after the official release will you start building new client sites in Drupal 8?

We will probably wait two to three months after the release of Drupal 8 before we make it the default platform we use for new Drupal builds.  There are three main reason for our caution in transitioning to the new platform:

  1. While Drupal 8 will have been tested rigorously prior to its official release, it is still a new piece of software that will inevitably have bugs and security holes.  We typically like to wait a bit for these key issues to be addressed before building mission critical sites on a new Drupal version.
  2. When a major new Drupal version is released it usually takes awhile for modules to be updated to work on the new platform.  And some extremely popular modules in Drupal 7 will simply go away altogether.  Given this, we like to wait a bit for the module situation to sort itself out before starting to build in a new Drupal version.
  3. Developing websites in Drupal 8 is going to be really different from building in Drupal 6 or 7.  While we have already started learning Drupal 8, it will take us some time to develop the level of knowledge we have in Drupal 6 and 7.  We want to spend some time mastering the new platforms before we build client sites in it.

When Drupal 6 was released in 2008, we immediately adopted the platform and used it for some ambitious new site builds.  This turned out to be a big mistake.  We wasted a lot of time learning the platform on the fly and ended up having to do bunch of custom development work to make up for the lack of available module.  This experience has taught us caution.

My site runs in an older version of Drupal.  How will the release of Drupal 8 impact me?

It depends.

The Drupal community typically supports the two most recent versions of its platform.  When a Drupal version is supported new updates continue to be released that plug key security holes in the core platform.  Currently, Drupal officially supports Drupal 6 and 7.  Once Drupal 8 is released, versions 7 and 8 will be supported.

If your site is built in Drupal 7 you can expect Drupal core and key modules to continue to be updated for three to four more years.  So there is no pressing reason to move to Drupal 8 unless you are super anxious to take advantage of the new features.  I would advise you to look to migrate as part of your next site redesign.

If your site is running in Drupal 6 I would make plans to migrate to either Drupal 7 or 8 at some point in 2014, assuming security is a concern and your site is mission critical.  With the release of Drupal 8 you will officially be running on an unsupported version of the platform.  No new security patches will be released for Drupal 6 and modules will stop being updated, which means you will be vulnerable to security issues.

If your site is running in Drupal 5 or below this won’t impact you much.  You are already running an obsolete version of Drupal and exposing yourself to a variety of security problems.  The release of Drupal 8 won’t really change anything.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.