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Drupal Digital Experience Platform (DXP), Evolutionary Advancement and Consequent Detritus

Given the sophistication of, and the enormity of, the current generations of the Drupal digital experience platform (DXP) (i.e. Content Management System (CMS), it has been apparent for years that Drupal’s intended user demographic is, and has been, web development professionals. At this juncture, with Drupal 10.2.x being the current release, the major shift the Drupal CMS / DXP began some years ago in this regard has proven its value, despite some of the consequences, including having left behind a major portion of its past users, in favor of implementing Drupal’s more recent, and ongoing, evolutionary Drupal advancements and refinements.

When the 8th generation of the Drupal CMS / DXP was released in 2015, Drupal’s internal foundation (its core) parted ways with its prior generations. Most importantly, the major core changes in Drupal 8 did not provide any direct means for upgrading from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, or for readily moving content from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. Migrating content from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 involved, and continues to involve, an extraordinarily complex set of mostly command line oriented migration tools and scripts. As a result, when the Drupal  core development team rewrote Drupal's entire internal structural foundation, it alienated hundreds of thousands of Drupal users, about half its user base of over a million installed websites at that time, many of whom had been using Drupal since as early as the 3rd or 4th generation of the Drupal CMS.

Drupal’s evolution to a much more advanced internal foundation (core) had at least two major consequences: 1) some Drupal users abandoned Drupal entirely or began using a fork of the Drupal 7 core code renamed Backdrop, and 2) other users continued to use Drupal 7 without any plans to migrate their Drupal websites to Drupal 8 and beyond. As of the beginning of 2024, the maintainers of Drupal’s core have announced that Drupal 7 is finally going to become “end of life” at the end of the 2023, due at least in part to the fact that current versions of the PHP server language with which Drupal is implemented would make it difficult to continue maintaining the older code base. In practical terms, at the end of 2023 the Drupal user base, half of which constitutes Drupal 7 based websites, is going to contract from about 810,000 websites/users, to about 400,000 websites / users on Drupal 8 through Drupal 10 (usage statistics).

The current generations of the Drupal DXP/CMS are built on an open-source foundation, the PHP open-source framework Symfony PHP language component framework and its related Twig web page templating engine. Among the important aspects of Drupal as an open-source DXP/CMS framework is that Drupal’s code licensing terms, including and especially Drupal's add-on (i.e. contributed) modules, must strictly adhere to its GNU General Public License open-source software licensing terms. The GNU General Public License is an essential aspect of what makes the Drupal code eco-system functional from a user-base perspective, and equally importantly from perspective of software system security supported by the Drupal Security team. Neither closed-sourced DXP/CMS systems, nor the inappropriately licensed WordPress (with its history of plugin security disasters and profitmongering nightmares), could ever hope to operate at a quality level, and at a security safety level, equal to the Drupal DXP / CMS.

In the years since the introduction of Drupal 8, the people in control of Drupal’s core, such as Drupal founder Dries Buytaert, have publicly stated that Drupal is now, and has been since Drupal 8, a CMS / DXP geared toward professional web developers, and not toward a less technologically sophisticated user demographic. The state of the art advancements that Drupal 8, Drupal 9, and most recently Drupal 10, have brought with them seem well worth the detritus that has been left behind in current day Drupal’s wake.

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