Drupal is more like a shark than a dinosaur. Meaning Drupal has been able to adapt to every big change in web development. Just like the shark evolved through 400 million years of evolution and multiple extinction events, so did Drupal. It went through all the rapid changes in 20 years of web evolution. Unlike the dinosaurs, who went extinct 65 million years ago, Drupal adapted and stayed the top choice for open enterprise CMS, especially as the key component in the modern digital experience platform (DXP). In fact, the business ecosystem is very alive and kicking. This business survey of 2021 shows Drupal-based companies are seeing their revenues grow significantly.

As a founder of a Drupal-based digital agency of almost 90 people in mid-2022 and Drupal-based Experience Cloud, I can testify to this. Our company has seen a growth of +20% in turnover in 2021 and is on the same trajectory in mid-2022. The growth of Dropsolid Experience Cloud has been a multiple of this 20% in the agency.

What we see is that, although it might seem the number of Drupal installations goes down, the ones that move to or stay on Drupal double down on it. Where a 100k site 5 years ago becomes a 300k site and a 300k CMS site becomes a 1M€+ DXP investment where Drupal is the backbone of the DXP. This is why - although there are fewer installs - the total Drupal turnover keeps growing. In short, Drupal chooses quality over quantity as it matures, while adopting new innovations in a sustainable way.

DXP

A website is not just a website anymore

Websites have become Digital Experience Platforms (DXP). Drupal is being embedded in the enterprise architecture as the component that allows for structured site-building and composable content across multiple languages, countries, markets, channels, roles, sites... with multiple integrations for multiple personas. This results in digital experiences that can deliver any piece of content to every customer on every channel in a personalized way.

Drupal became the best open-source structured site-building experience for ambitious site builders, leveraging data and content in a secure, scalable, and performant way. Drupal has become the best way of composing enterprise content experiences in an open way.

MACH alliance to keep Drupal sharp

The competition that is keeping Drupal sharp is what is promoted under the collective MACH alliance. They promote platforms that are based on microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless.

These CMSs promise a better editor experience and API-first capabilities that allow for headless with faster experiences across channels which results in better performance and thus better SEO, conversion, and online sales. They also promise a better price value due to cloud-native architectures. Their microservice-based architectures promise less maintenance and promise to allow any component to be optimized and every data point to be exploited through the API to improve the stack for maximum efficiency, cost, and customer experience.

An impressive value proposition where the advocates of this promise sometimes depict Drupal as an obsolete monolith from the past. Basically a dinosaur. Challenging questions are raised like this one on Reddit and Medium about the vitality of the Drupal ecosystem. Arguments are mostly based on the fact Drupal is not adapting to new trends. 

So is Drupal adapting? Is it still future-proof or has it had its best days and is it slowly declining? As made clear at the start of this post, that's not what businesses supporting Drupal are reporting. Why is that? Why is not everyone on the MACH train? Why are companies still buying into Drupal? Why is the ecosystem of service providers, developers, and customers building an ever more evolved digital experience on Drupal?

The answers on MACH and Drupal

MACH in itself is not a selling point. It's how these principles are integrated. Drupal strikes balance on all MACH principles, making it a great choice to innovate with stability.

In these two articles you can learn how Drupal adopts the MACH principles and creates value from it:

The future of the Drupal community?

In 2021 contributions and contributors to Drupal declined slightly. Dries Buytaert explains the reasons behind it.

I do predict fewer agencies will promote and contribute to Drupal but the capable agencies will contribute with more quality than ever. Mature tech requires mature teams. Teams who are capable of delivering mature tech that keeps the business of customers safe and combines it with innovative tech to push the boundaries. This is why some agencies won’t be capable of delivering Drupal. The market barrier to entry is becoming ever steeper. Drupal projects require seriously dedicated teams of engineers to build these ambitious digital experiences. Teams that can run Drupal in the cloud, integrate it with other apps in the IT infrastructure, set it up headless, and unlock data through the APIs for other apps like marketing automation and personalization, can build great customer experiences across many channels. They will dominate the market. Only the true Drupal dedicated companies will keep growing.

Companies that double down on Drupal will keep growing and will build more and more ambitious digital experiences and these results will attract more customers and more talent. These companies will keep growing. I predict contributions will be less spontaneous than in the past and more professional. The Drupal community is growing up. The engineers are more senior, well-rounded developers. I suspect companies will pay more and more for contributing to Drupal by hiring dedicated developers to work on Drupal.

Due to ever-increasing professionalism, the number of contributors might go down but the quality of the contributions will go up.

What are the challenges?

Drupal's overall install base is slightly decreasing due to fewer and fewer sites using it, although bigger and bigger projects are being built on it. This could make Drupal look like it's declining but in fact, it's not. Companies building and using Drupal should showcase their impact. More is not always the indicator of better.

Impact would be a better indicator. If the Drupal community could find a way to show Drupal impact (turnover generated with Drupal, size of the sites on Drupal, impact of business and organizations with Drupal, ...) that would be a far more objective metric.

Attracting talent might be a challenge due to this optical distortion. Although I see an infusion of new talent happening when Drupal starts to incorporate more and more JavaScript out of the box. This will bring in a lot of new talent just as it did when Drupal 8 was built on top of Symfony. 

Joining communities is where Drupal's strength lies. Developers from all backgrounds are welcome. The community is super inclusive. Are you doing PHP, Symfony, JavaScript, HTML, CSS... or are you doing Drupal using PHP, Symfony, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, ... ?

The conclusion: Drupal is a shark

Drupal is a mature technology and still evolving. It is a shark and not a dinosaur. Although in numbers Drupal might seem to decline, pound for pound Drupal is still the best open enterprise CMS on the market. Drupal contributors are more and more professional and contributions become more valuable.

Eventually, everything is always changing, that's just reality. I think the best is yet to come but it will be different. Less Drupal sites, but much bigger Drupal experiences with more impact and an even more diverse and professional community that just keeps evolving Drupal through all that is to come. 

The new platforms have to prove themselves. They are still raising money to grow and become profitable. This is getting more difficult in the current economic climate, and a crisis is typically a climate where open-source does best. Drupal (and open source in general) had a breakthrough after the 2008 crisis where customers were looking for value and less for bells and whistles. The eco-system of companies surrounding Drupal are long since profitable and still growing.

Drupal does what it always does: “Integrating proven new trends.” At this point in time Drupal is adopting the MACH principles and doing so while keeping customers' business safe.

Innovation needs to happen and keep happening. Without innovation, even mature products will have big challenges ahead. So let's keep innovating and keep evolving Drupal just like the shark and it will be around at the top spot for a long time.