Drupal: 15 years old and still gaining momentum

On December 29, 2000, I made a code commit that would change my life; it is in this commit that I called my project "Drupal" and added the GPL license to it.

Drupal name and license
The commit where I dubbed my website project "Drupal" and added the GPL license.

A couple weeks later, on January 15, 2001, exactly 15 years ago from today, I released Drupal 1.0.0 into the world. The early decisions to open-source Drupal and use the GPL license set the cornerstone principles for how our community shares with one another and builds upon each other's achievements to this day.

Drupal is now 15 years old. In internet terms, that is an eternity. In 2001, only 7 percent of the world's population had internet access. The mobile internet had not entered the picture, less than 50% of the people in the United States had a mobile phone, and AT&T had just introduced text messaging. People searched the web with Lycos, Infoseek, AltaVista and Hot Bot. Google -- launched in 1998 as a Stanford University research project -- was still a small, private company just beginning its rise to prominence. Google AdWords, now a $65 billion business, had less than 500 customers when Drupal launched. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari didn't exist yet; most people used Netscape, Opera or Internet Explorer. New ideas for sharing and exchanging content such as "public diaries" and RSS had yet to gain widespread acceptance and Drupal was among the first to support those. Wikipedia was launched on the same day as Drupal and sparked the rise of user-generated content. Facebook and Twitter didn't exist until 4-5 years later. Proprietary software vendors started to feel threatened by open source; most didn't understand how a world-class operating system could coalesce out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers around the world.

Looking back, Drupal has not only survived massive changes in our industry; it has also helped drive them. Over the past decade and a half, I've seen many content management systems emerge and become obsolete: Vignette, Interwoven, PHP-Nuke, and Scoop were all popular at some point in the past but Drupal has outlived them all. A big reason is from the very beginning we have been about constant evolution and reinvention, painful as it is.

Keeping up with the pace of the web is a funny thing. Sometimes you'll look back on choices made years ago and think, "Well, I'm glad that was the right decision!". For example, Drupal introduced "hooks" and "modules" early on, concepts that are commonplace in today's platforms. At some point, you could even find some of my code in WordPress, which Matt Mullenweg started in 2003 with some inspiration from Drupal. Another fortuitous early decision was to focus Drupal on the concept of "nodes" rather than "pages". It wasn't until 10 years later with the rise of mobile that we started to see the web revolve less and less around pages. A node-based approach makes it possible to reuse content in different ways for different devices. In a way, much of the industry is still catching up to that vision. Even though the web is a living, breathing thing, there is a lot of things that we got right.

Other times, we got it wrong. For example, we added support for OpenID, which never took off. In the early days I focused, completely and utterly, on the aesthetics of Drupal's code. I spent days trying to do something better, with fewer lines of code and more elegant than elsewhere. But in the process, I didn't focus enough on end-user usability, shunned JavaScript for too long, and later tried to improve usability by adding a "dashboard" and "overlay".

In the end, I feel fortunate that our community is willing to experiment and break things to stay relevant. Most recently, with the release of Drupal 8, we've made many big changes that will fuel Drupal's continued adoption. I believe we got a lot of things right in Drupal 8 and that we are on the brink of another new and bright era for Drupal.

I've undergone a lot of personal reinvention over the past 15 years too. In the early days, I spent all my time writing code and building Drupal.org. I quickly learned that a successful open source project requires much more than writing code. As Drupal started to grow, I found myself an "accidental leader" and worried about our culture, scaling the project, attracting a strong team of contributors, focusing more and more on Drupal's end-users, growing the commercial ecosystem around Drupal, starting the Drupal Association, and providing vision. Today, I wear a lot of different hats: manager of people and projects, evangelist, fundraiser, sponsor, public speaker, and BDFL. At times, it is difficult and overwhelming, but I would not want it any other way. I want to continue to push Drupal to reach new heights and new goals.

Today we risk losing much of the privacy, serendipity and freedom of the web we know. As the web evolves from a luxury to a basic human right, it's important that we treat it that way. To increase our impact, we have to continue to make Drupal easier to use. I'd love to help build a world where people's privacy is safe and Drupal is more approachable. And as the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, we have to think even more about how to scale the project, remain agile and encourage experimentation. I think about these issues a lot, and am fortunate enough to work with some of the smartest people I know to build the best possible version of the web.

So, here is to another 15 years of evolution, reinvention, and continued growth. No one knows what the web will look like 15 years in the future, but we'll keep doing our best to guide Drupal responsibly.

Comments

Wim Leers (not verified):

I can't believe I've been part of the Drupal community for more than 9 of those 15 years already. It led me to write http://wimleers.com/article/improving-drupals-page-loading-performance in 2008, which garnered so much feedback that it led to my bachelor thesis, then my master thesis, which in turn led to an internship at Facebook and eventually (now) working on Drupal core for Acquia.

I can't wait to see what the next 15 years will bring. :)

January 15, 2016
Kyle Browning (not verified):

Love you Wim, keep up all the good work!

January 15, 2016
Alex Dergachev (not verified):

Crazy how time flies, eh Wim?

January 16, 2016
Tom printy (not verified):

Thanks for a great web platform and congrats on 15 years.

January 15, 2016
George Mastro (not verified):

Wow! This screenshot gave me goosebumps! Thank you Dries for posting this information!

January 15, 2016
Alexander Nachev (not verified):

Happy Birthday Drupal :) I really don't know how to thank you for creating such a great system. I really love it and I am never going to change it for nothing. :)))

January 15, 2016
Patrick Sarmiento (not verified):

My first CMS! Drupal it was!

January 15, 2016
Davinder (not verified):

Amazing journey. Nice to hear that you have contributed to wordpress too that is the beauty of opensource.
It all goes to you and drupal association who made Drupal more powerful in last 15 years.

January 15, 2016
Susan MacPhee (not verified):

Thank you Dries! You have made the world a much better place and given millions of people the opportunity to work in jobs we love and can grow anyway we want in the name of modularity.

January 15, 2016
Chris Luckhardt (not verified):

It's certainly an impressive achievement! Congratulations to you Dries and to the entire Drupal community for making it all possible and for being another positive example of the power of open source software. It will be fascinating to watch how Drupal evolves in the immediate and long-term future.

January 15, 2016
Francewhoa (not verified):

Thanks for sharing your story Dries :) Wise move to add the GPL license early on. It's a win-win for all contributors and users. Love the Drupal name too ♥

January 15, 2016
Thomas Bonte (not verified):

Hey Dries, I've been part of the Drupal community for over ten years now and I'm still in awe for how Drupal has empowered us all to shape the web to what it is today. What an achievement! On a personal note, your leadership and entrepreneurial journey has been an inspiration to me, while trying to achieve the same for the world of music, making it more open and accessible. Here's onto the next 15 years! :)

January 15, 2016
Ayoola Falola (not verified):

Thanks for sharing this. It's such an inspiration to us new generation programmers.

I know a boy here in Nigeria that's crazy about Drupal; he shared this post with me. Thanks for being inspiring.

January 15, 2016
philsward (not verified):

At a time of uncertainty in my life, I stumbled upon Drupal and began building a personal website to be the face of my small computer repair company. That quickly transitioned into website development instead and landed a client who later picked me up full time as a partial owner of an online retail company. Today, we are at several million in sales annually.

I've been able to do some craze awesome things with the content display and layout through Drupal without a single line of custom code. I owe it all to Drupal (well, Dries of course)... So thanks for making something awesome and continuing to see it through.

January 15, 2016
Jenn Sramek (not verified):

Wow! Hard to believe that I have been involved in the Drupal community (as a Project Manager and not a code contributor) for 10 of those years. Good ole' 4.6!

In that time I have worked with many delighted clients who have moved to Drupal from every imaginable platform (or from scratch), worked with many site developers and editors to enhance their skills on their new site, advocated for clients to join the Drupal community, and been gratified when some of them have!

I have been a contractor, employee, and partner/owner of a Drupal solutions shop (CivicActions, now an Acquia partner) and now work as PS Delivery Manager at Acquia.

One of the most exciting parts for me is that along with all the technological advances Drupal brings, the core values of openness, collaboration, and sharing that come with the GPL and in spades in the Drupal community are slowly making their way into organizations all over the world, and into enterprise-level business and creating change.

Like Wim, I can't wait to see where the next 15 years bring us all.
So exciting! And so exciting to be a part of it!

January 15, 2016
Gábor Hojtsy (not verified):

It is amazing to see how far Drupal has come, and while it was for the software as well, it was in no small part due to the environment enabling people to fulfill their dreams and learn and improve for the better of themselves and the community. Thanks to you for starting Drupal on that path, fostering that environment and to all the people since who scaled that culture. I sure learned a lot, found good friends, worked on amazing challenges and seen amazing places in the past 12 years.

January 15, 2016
Peter Johansson (not verified):

The world had been a poorer place without you Dries!

January 16, 2016
Nicholas Ketchum (not verified):

It's been a "long time", and yet I feel Drupal is still in its "teenage years." (Well, I guess it is, in the literal sense!)

Hmmm, a digital butterfly flapped its wings ~15 years ago. Then chaos ensued. Good work, Dries!

January 16, 2016
Khalid (not verified):

That commit changed your life, and the lives of tens or hundreds thousands of people as well, me included. It is now 12.5 years of Drupal for me. It is my day to day work and income as well ...

January 16, 2016
Shah (not verified):

I was a 66 year old retired engineer in 2006. I had just started a Canadian food charity MuslimServ in Toronto, and needed a web site. On typical engineering manner I started first by learning Drupal and then created the web site. It was painful as I had never done anything coding before. Every thing was strange to me. Apache was an Indian tribe and SQL themed with bicycle. But I received help from a very generous community. Strangers would send long emails with hints, corrections and how-to's. That web site raised $500,000 during 6 years until I closed it down. This money was used to buy goods for disadvantaged Canadians in Toronto.

I wish Drupal and Dries a heartfelt salute for all the great things they did.

January 16, 2016
kenorb (not verified):

I can't believe either, over 8 years with Drupal, wtf? What can I say, great stuff and keep going! Open source rocks!

Change the world, as life is about making a big impact to other people's lives.

January 17, 2016
Niraj (not verified):

Back in 2010 during my first job I was introduced to Drupal 6, actually the whole company started learning Drupal and surprisingly me, the new comer was doing a few breakthroughs and it kind of stuck on me. Once i left this company after a short stint of 6 months I went for a company doing Symfony and after 2 years of Symfony (in 2012) I was back into Drupal on version 7 and it was a significant improvement from D6 and I went on to build probably the largest website in my country with Drupal (http://slt.lk/) the hard work that I put in open a whole world of knowledge for me and even got me started as the Drupal practice lead in a company called Zaizi (http://www.zaizi.com/) where I really learnt the essence of Drupal. There onwards I never stopped loving this framework. I became the first Acquia certified developer in my country (still I am :) ) we do also have a small community of Drupal developers who even celebrated the great launch of Drupal 8 (https://groups.drupal.org/node/488448) and also surprisingly and to my greatest delight I will be doing a session @ DrupalCon Asia 2016. So Drupal has changed my life and my personality in ways that I never thought will be. So I am thankful for the past and also exited for the places Drupal 8 would take me and looking forward to it.

January 17, 2016
ashish dhagat (not verified):

I have started working on Drupal 5 since then I have seen Drupal growing. This growth of Drupal is dedication of community and people which keep developing new things for Drupal. I would appreciate Drupal community for encouraging new talent in Drupal.

When I have started on my first Drupal project in Drupal 5 I even donot know where to start from though it was small site. I started learning from theme design which gave me confidence and than I gradually started writing some small code. At the same time CCK and Views help us for completing that site on time. The site was for education purpose.

I would appreciate my colleagues who worked with me on that project and I am thankful for Dries to create Drupal.

All the best Drupal 8!!!!

January 17, 2016
Si Hobbs (not verified):

I'm really grateful to be an "accidental" contributor. Thanks Dries!

January 18, 2016
Connectingedots (not verified):

Drupal is my favourite CMS, and I was looking forward the new release Drupal 8. It's amazing, great work, well done!!
Thanks to all contributors

January 21, 2016
Francis Kim (not verified):

Happy belated birthday Drupal!

January 22, 2016
Reggie (not verified):

I want to be counted among those who share their thanks and appreciation for what Dries has done to empower people like me, a non-coder, to build feature rich, interactive, dynamic web sites. The foresight to "continue to make Drupal easier to use" and employ strategies to make "Drupal more approachable" is what make me stick with Drupal.

Thank you Dries for your vision and leadership.

January 24, 2016
jaypan (not verified):

Drupal has come along great in the past 15 years, and is truly a digital architectural wonder.

Unfortunately, the Drupal forums have not moved an inch in 15 years.

January 24, 2016
Mark Hanna (not verified):

Thanks for creating Drupal! Ever since I first installed it 9 years ago I realized this is an important and powerful tool. Perhaps more importantly thanks for continuing to guide, mentor and, innovate the project. Happy anniversary!

January 25, 2016
Carsten (not verified):

... go, go go! - it's folks like Dries Buytaert who - with their ability to place the "us" above the "I" - may change this world for better. A big "thank you" to Dries Buytaert for starting this.

February 4, 2016
Ibrahim (not verified):

Rock on Drupal 8. Thanks to Dries :)

February 11, 2016

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