Some of my readers may have noticed that I recently upgraded this blog from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. You might be wondering why it took me so long, and the truth is that while I love working on my site, it's hard to justify spending much time on it.
I did most of the work on my commute to work, cramped in a small seat on the train to the tune of the rumbling train carriage. I finally pushed the site live during Thanksgiving weekend. Nothing like seeing the Drupal migration tool run on your computer to the smell of the turkey cooking in the oven. The comfortable atmosphere of Thanksgiving -- and the glass of wine that was sitting on my desk -- made it all the more fun.
While my blog has been around for more than a decade, it isn't very complex; I have approximately 1,250 blog posts and 8,000 photos. All of the photos on my website are managed by my Album module, a custom Drupal module whose first version I wrote about ten years ago. Since its inception, I've upgraded the module to each major Drupal version from Drupal 5 to 7, and now to Drupal 8.
Upgrading my little website was relatively simple, involving porting my custom Album module, porting my theme to use Twig, and migrating the data and configuration. Though I've reviewed and committed many patches that went into Drupal 8, this was the first time I'm actually undertaking a Drupal 8 module, theme, and migration from scratch.
Each of the steps in upgrading a Drupal site have undergone substantial changes in the transition from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. Building a module, for instance, is completely different because of the new introduction of object-oriented programming paradigms, the new routing system, and more. Writing a module in Drupal 8 is so much nicer than writing a module in Drupal 7; my code is better organized, more reusable, and better tested. Theming has been completely reinvented to use Twig. I found Twig much more pleasant to use than PHPTemplate in Drupal 7, and I'm very happy with how the theming process has improved. That said, I've to give a special shoutout to Preston So for helping me with my theme; I was painfully reminded I'm still not a designer or a CSS expert.
Overall, porting my site was a fun experience and I'm excited to be using Drupal 8. There is so much power packed into Drupal 8. Now that I've experienced Drupal 8 development from the other side of the equation, I believe even more in the decisions we made. While there is always room for improvement, Drupal 8 is a giant leap forward for Drupal.
Among the most important initiatives for Drupal 8's future is the "API-first initiative", whose goal is to improve Drupal's web services capabilities for building decoupled applications. In my previous blog posts, I evaluated the current state of, outlined a vision for, and mapped a path forward for Drupal's web services solutions.
In the five months since my last update, web services in Drupal have moved forward substantially in functionality and ease of use. This blog post discusses the biggest improvements.
With the release of Drupal 8.2, the core REST API now supports important requirements for decoupled applications. First, you can now retrieve configuration entities (such as blocks and menus) as REST resources. You can also conduct user registration through the REST API. The developer experience of core REST has improved as well, with simplified REST configuration and better response messages and status codes for requests causing errors.
All of these improvements are thanks to the hard work of Wim Leers (Acquia), Ted Bowman (Acquia), Daniel Wehner (Chapter Three), Clemens Tolboom, José Manuel Rodríguez Vélez, Klaus Purer, James Gilliland (APQC), and Gabe Sullice (Aten Design Group).
JSON API is a specification for REST APIs in JSON which offers several compelling advantages over the current core REST API. First, JSON API provides a standard way to query not only single entities but also all relationships tied to that entity and to perform query operations through query string parameters (for example, listing all tags associated with an article). Second, JSON API allows you to fetch lists of content entities (including filtering, sorting and paging), whereas the only options for this currently available in core are to issue multiple requests, which is undesirable for performance, or to query Drupal views, which require additional work to create.
Thanks to the efforts of Mateu Aguiló Bosch (Lullabot) and Gabe Sullice (Aten Design Group), the JSON API module in Drupal 8 is quickly approaching a level of stability that could put it under consideration as a core experimental module.
One of the issues facing many decoupled applications today is the lack of a robust authentication mechanism when working with Drupal's REST API. Currently, core REST only has two options available out of the box, namely cookie-based authentication, which is unhelpful for decoupled applications on domains other than the Drupal site, and basic authentication, which is less secure than other mechanisms.
Due to its wide acceptance, OAuth2 seems a logical next step for Drupal sites that need to authenticate requests. Because it is more secure than what is available in core REST's basic authentication, OAuth2 would help developers build more secure decoupled Drupal architectures and allow us to deprecate the other less secure approaches.
Thanks to Kyle Browning (Acquia), the Waterwheel.swift SDK allows developers of applications for Apple devices such as iPads, iPhones, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs to more quickly build their Drupal-powered applications. To learn more about the Waterwheel ecosystem, check the blog posts by Preston So (Acquia).
Thanks to the hard work of the many contributors involved, the API-first initiative is progressing with great momentum. In this post, we ended with the following conclusions:
If you are building decoupled applications with Drupal 8, we would benefit significantly from your impressions of the core REST API and JSON API implementations now available. What features are missing? What queries are difficult or need work? How can we make the APIs more suited to your requirements? Use the comments section on this blog post to tell us more about the work you are doing so we can learn from your experiences.
Of course, if you can help accelerate the work of the API-first initiative by contributing code, reviewing and testing patches, or merely by participating in the discussions within the issues, you will not only be helping improve Drupal itself; you'll be helping improve the experience of all developers who wish to use Drupal as their ideal API-first back end.
Last week I presented at the University of Antwerp, my alma mater. I was selected to be the 2016/2017 ambassador of the alumni and was asked to talk about my career and work. Presentations like this are a bit surreal because I still feel like I have a lot to learn and accomplish. Deep down I'll always be searching for something more. I want my life and career to be meaningful and creative, and full of laughter and friends. This presentation was very special as it was attended by my parents, friends from high school and college, professors whose classes I attended 20 years ago and the university's rector or chancellor, Herman Van Goethem. It was great to laugh and catch-up with old friends and family, and it felt meaningful to share some of my lessons learned to a group of young students.
Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of Drupal 8. On this day last year we celebrated the release of Drupal 8 with over 200 parties around the world. It's a project we worked on for almost five years, bringing the work of more than 3,000 contributors together to make Drupal more flexible, innovative, scalable, and easier to use.
To celebrate tomorrow's release-versary, I wanted to look back at a few of the amazing Drupal 8 projects that have launched in the past year.
The NBA is one of the largest professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. Millions of fans around the globe rely on the NBA's Drupal 8 website to livestream games, read stats and standings, and stay up to date on their favorite team. Drupal 8 will bring you courtside, no matter who you're rooting for.
Nasdaq Corporate Solutions has selected Drupal 8 as the basis for its next generation Investor Relations Website Platform. IR websites are where public companies share their most sensitive and critical news and information with their shareholders, institutional investors, the media and analysts. With Drupal 8, Nasdaq Corporate Solutions will be providing companies with the most engaging, secure, and innovative IR websites to date.
For more than 100 years, Hubert Burda Media has been Germany's premier media company. Burda is using Drupal 8 to expand their traditional business of print publishing to reach more than 52 million readers online. Burda didn't stop there, the media company also open sourced Thunder, a distribution for professional publishers built on Drupal 8.
Drupal 8 propels a wide variety of sites, some of Jurassic proportion. Following the release of the blockbuster film, Jurassic World built its digital park on Drupal 8. Jurassic World offers fans games, video, community forums, and even interactive profiles all of the epic dinosaurs found on Isla Nublar.
The World Wide Fund for Nature has been a leading conservation organization since its founding in 1961. WWF's mission is to protect our planet and Drupal 8 is on their team. WWF UK uses Drupal 8 to engage the community, enabling users to adopt, donate and join online. From pole to pole, Drupal 8 and WWF are making an impact.
The YMCA is one the leading non-profit organizations for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. The YMCA serves more than 45 million people in 119 countries. The team at YMCA Greater Twin Cities turned to Drupal 8 to build OpenY, a platform that allows YMCA members to check in, set fitness goals, and book classes. They even hooked up Drupal to workout machines and wearables like Fitbit, which enables visitors to track their workouts from a Drupal 8 powered mobile app. The team at Greater Twin Cities also took advantage of Drupal 8's built-in multilingual capabilities so that other YMCAs around the world can participate. The YMCA has set a new personal record, and is a great example of what is possible with Drupal 8.
The one year anniversary of Drupal 8 is cause for celebration, so why not raise a glass? You might try Jack Daniels and their Drupal 8 website. Jack Daniels has been making whiskey for 150 years and you can get your fill with Drupal 8.
Al Jazeera is the largest news organization focused on the Middle East, and broadcasts news and current affairs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Al Jazeera required a platform that could unify several different content streams and support a complicated editorial workflow, allowing network wide collaboration and search. Drupal 8 allowed Al Jazeera to do that and then some. Content creators can now easily deliver critical news to their readers in real time.
From Boston to LA and even Australia, Drupal is supporting the digital needs of governments around the globe. Alabama is leading the way with Drupal 8. Alabama.gov puts its citizens first, and demonstrates how open source can change the way the public sector engages online.
Box has been a leader in the technology industry since its founding in 2005. Box takes advantage of Drupal 8 and the improved features made available right out-of-the-box. Bad puns aside, companies like Box are using Drupal 8's new features and improved user interface to build the best digital experiences yet.
The historic nonprofit Habitat for Humanity doesn't just build houses for those in need; they build habitat.org on Drupal 8. Habitat for Humanity provides affordable housing for communities in over 70 countries around the world. You can discover their impact through the "Where we Build” interactive map, donate, and volunteer all on their Drupal 8 site.
Obermeyer and Drupal 8 will take you into new territory. The ski wear company offers seamless end to end commerce integration, providing both new and loyal customers a great shopping experience. Let Obermeyer's Drupal 8 integration with Drupal Commerce keep you warm because winter is coming ...
I can't think of a better way to celebrate Drupal 8's one year anniversary than by sharing some incredible experiences that are being created with Drupal 8. Whether the project is big or small, features dinosaurs, or spreads awareness for an important cause, I'm proud to say that Drupal 8 is supporting an amazing array of projects. In my recent keynote at DrupalCon Dublin, I explained why the why of Drupal is so important. After one year of Drupal 8, it's clear how powerful our collective purpose, projects, and passions can be.
Thank you to everyone who has continued to contribute to Drupal 8! I can't wait for another year of exciting projects. Special thanks to Paul Johnson for crowdsourcing great examples that I wouldn't have known about otherwise.
Last week Acquia announced a partnership with Magento. I wanted to use this opportunity to explain why I am excited about this. I also want to take a step back and share what I see is a big opportunity for both Drupal, Acquia and commerce platforms.
First, it is important to understand what is one of the most important market trends in online commerce: consumers are demanding better experiences when they shop online. In particular, commerce teams are looking to leverage vastly greater levels of content throughout the customer's shopping journey - editorials, lookbooks, tutorials, product demonstration videos, mood videos, testimonials, etc.
At the same time, commerce platforms have not added many tools for rich content management. Instead they have been investing in capabilities needed to compete in the commerce market; order management systems (OMS), omnichannel shopping (point of sale, mobile, desktop, kiosk, etc), improved product information management (PIM) and other vital commerce capabilities. The limited investment in content management capabilities has left merchants looking for better tools to take control of the customer experience, something that Drupal addresses extremely well.
To overcome the limitations that today's commerce platforms have with building content-rich shopping experiences, organizations want to integrate their commerce platform with a content management system (CMS). Depending on the situation, the combined solution is architected for either system to be "the glass", i.e. the driver of the shopping experience.
Drupal is unique in its ability to easily integrate into ambitious commerce architectures in precisely the manner the brand prefers. We are seeing this first hand at Acquia. We have helped many customers implement a "Content for Commerce" strategy where Acquia products and Drupal were integrated with an existing commerce platform. Those integrations spanned commerce platforms including IBM WebSphere Commerce, Demandware, Oracle/ATG, SAP/hybris, Magento and even custom transaction platforms. Check out Quicken (Magento), Puma (Demandware), Motorola (Broadleaf Commerce), Tesla (custom to order a car, and Shopify to order accessories) as great examples of Drupal working with commerce platforms.
We've seen a variety of approaches to "Content for Commerce" but one thing that is clear is that a best-of-breed approach is preferred. The more complex demands may end up with IBM WebSphere Commerce or SAP/hybris. Less demanding requirements may be solved with Commerce Tools, Elastic Path or Drupal Commerce, while Magento historically has fit in between.
Additionally, having to rip and replace an existing commerce platform is not something most organizations aspire to do. This is true for smaller organizations who can't afford to replace their commerce platform, but also for large organizations who can't afford the business risk to forklift a complex commerce backend. Remember that commerce platforms have complex integrations with ERP systems, point-of-sales systems, CRM systems, warehousing systems, payment systems, marketplaces, product information systems, etc. It's often easier to add a content management system than to replace everything they have in place.
This year's "State of Retailing Online" series asked retailers and brands to prioritize their initiatives for the year. Just 16% of respondents prioritized a commerce re-platform project while 41-59% prioritized investments to evolve the customer experience including content development, responsive design and personalization. In other words, organizations are 3 times more likely to invest in improving the shopping experience than in switching commerce platforms.
The market trends, customer use cases and survey data make me believe that (1) there are hundreds of thousands of existing commerce sites that would prefer to have a better shopping experience and (2) that many of those organizations prefer to keep their commerce backend untouched while swapping out the shopping experience.
A big part of Acquia's commerce strategy is to focus on integrating Drupal with multiple commerce platforms, and to offer personalization through Lift. The partnership with Magento is an important part of this strategy, and one that will drive adoption of both Drupal and Magento.
There are over 250,000 commerce sites built with Magento and many of these organizations will want a better shopping experience. Furthermore, given the consolidation seen in the commerce platform space, there are few, proven enterprise solutions left on the market. This has increased the market opportunity for Magento and Drupal. Drupal and Magento are a natural fit; we share the same technology stack (PHP, MySQL) and we are both open source (albeit using different licenses). Last but not least, the market is pushing us to partner; we've seen strong demand for Drupal-Magento integration.
We're keen to partner with other commerce platforms as well. In fact, Acquia has existing partnerships with SAP/hybris, Demandware, Elastic Path and Commerce Tools.
Global brands are seeing increased opportunity to sell direct to consumers and want to build content-rich shopping journeys, and merchants are looking for better tools to take control of the customer experience.
Most organizations prefer best of breed solutions. There are hundreds of thousands of existing commerce sites that would like to have more differentiation enabled by a stronger shopping experience, yet leave their commerce capabilities relatively untouched.
Drupal is a great fit. It's power and flexibility allow it to be molded to virtually any systems architecture, while vastly improving the content experience of both authors and customers along the shopping journey. I believe commerce is evolving to be the next massive use case for Drupal and I'm excited to partner with different commerce platforms.
Special thanks to Tom Erickson and Kelly O'Neill for their contributions to this blog post.
Updates from Dries straight to your mailbox