One thing that is exciting to me, is how much we appear to have gotten right in Drupal 8. The other day, for example, I stumbled upon a recent article from the LinkedIn engineering team describing how they completely changed how their homepage is built. Their primary engineering objective was to deliver the fastest page load time possible, and one of the crucial ingredients to achieve that was Facebook's BigPipe.
When a very high-profile, very high-traffic, highly personalized site like LinkedIn uses the same technique as Drupal 8, that solidifies my belief in Drupal 8.
LinkedIn supports both server-side and client-side rendering. While Drupal 8 does server-side rendering, we're still missing explicit support for client-side rendering. The advantage of client-side rendering versus server-side rendering is debatable. I've touched upon it in my blog post on progressive decoupling, but I'll address the topic of client-side rendering in a future blog post.
However, there is also something LinkedIn could learn from Drupal! Every component of a LinkedIn page that should be delivered via BigPipe needs to write BigPipe-specific code which is prone to errors and requires all engineers to be familiar with BigPipe. Drupal 8 on the other hand has a level of abstraction that allows BigPipe to work without the need for BigPipe-specific code. Thanks to Drupal's higher-level API, Drupal module developers don't have to understand BigPipe: Drupal 8 knows what page components are poorly cacheable or not cacheable at all, and what page components are renderable in isolation, and uses that information to automatically optimize the delivery of page components using BigPipe.
It is exciting to see Drupal support the advanced techniques that were previously only within reach of the top 50 most visited sites of the world! Drupal's BigPipe support will benefit websites small and large.
Building Drupal 8 with all of you has been a wild ride. I thought it would be fun to take a little end-of-week look back at some of our community's biggest milestones through Twitter. If you can think of others important Tweets, please share them in the comments, and I'll update the post.
Feeling nostalgic? See every single version of Drupal running!
— Cheppers (@cheppers) November 19, 2015
Here is how we opened the development branch for Drupal 8: live at Drupalcon!
The secretsauce of #drupal isn't code or features or market share, important thought they are. The secret sauce is community.
— Sean Yo (@seanyo) March 10, 2011
— Jeff Geerling (@geerlingguy) March 10, 2011
Drupal 8's first beta showed the power of community
Drupal 8.0.0 beta 1 released! https://t.co/FwdmRYaZUx Ahh the power of COMMUNITY driven software! :-)
— Doug Vann (@dougvann) October 1, 2014
— Gábor Hojtsy (@gaborhojtsy) October 1, 2014
We had issues ... but the queue steadily declined
— xjm (@xjmdrupal) September 19, 2014
Drupal 8.0.x-rc1 release window is today. Good sign of real stability is major issue count going down for 6+ weeks. pic.twitter.com/5VnHGmL9zb
— catch (@catch56) October 7, 2015
We held sprints around the world: here are just a few
— xjm (@xjmdrupal) July 5, 2015
Working on D8 Criticals at the Ghent DA critical sprint, this is how the "My issues" page looks for me right now! pic.twitter.com/y5SnavVtND
— Sascha Grossenbacher (@berdir) December 13, 2014
— Cameron Eagans (@cweagans) March 23, 2012
And we created many game-changing features
— Wim Leers (@wimleers) April 8, 2015
And.... there we go! http://t.co/ed6XtMIs MOTHER BLEEPING VIEWS IN MOTHER BLEEPING CORE!
— webchick (@webchick) October 22, 2012
— Alex Pott (@alexpott) February 15, 2014
With Content + Config Translation in core D8 core is more translatable than D7 with all of contrib. #drupal
— Tobias Stöckler (@tstoeckler) November 18, 2013
Amazing to see Drupal 8's multilingual capabilities explained on the multilingual release page (for example Farsi): pic.twitter.com/9owVE3xABo
— Gábor Hojtsy (@gaborhojtsy) November 19, 2015
The founder of PHP said: Drupal 8 + PHP7 = a lot of happy people
— Rasmus Lerdorf (@rasmus) April 21, 2015
We reached the first release candidate and celebrated ... a little
— Whitney Hess (@whitneyhess) October 7, 2015
— Manuel Garcia (@drupalero) October 7, 2015
Kudos to the 3000+ contributors and to the entire Drupal community that helped make this happen. https://t.co/FtATRtSmCU
— Leslie Glynn (@leslieglynn) October 7, 2015
And, just yesterday, we painted the world blue and celebrated Drupal 8 ... a lot!
— Drupal (@drupal) November 10, 2015
— Drupal (@drupal) November 19, 2015
— Taco Potze˙ (@tacopotze) November 19, 2015
— Duo (@DuoConsulting) November 19, 2015
— Shakeel Tariq (@shakeeltariq) November 19, 2015
— Agustin Rojas Silva (@Aguztinrs) November 19, 2015
— HornCologne (@HornCologne) November 19, 2015
— webchick (@webchick) November 19, 2015
— Paul Johnson (@pdjohnson) November 19, 2015
— Dries Buytaert (@Dries) November 18, 2015
— Peter Decuyper (@sgrame) November 23, 2015
We just released Drupal 8.0.0! Today really marks the beginning of a new era for Drupal. Over the course of almost five years, we've brought the work of more than 3,000 contributors together to make something that is more flexible, more innovative, more easy to use, and more scalable.
Drupal 8 has been a big transformation for our community. This particular reboot has taken one-third of Drupal's lifespan to complete. In the process we've learned that reinvention doesn't come easily or quickly. There are huge market forces happening around us, and we can't exactly look away. Mobile is moving our society to near-universal, global internet access. Most companies have begun to transform themselves digitally, leaving established business models and old business processes in the dust. Digital experience builders are turning to platforms that give them greater flexibility, better usability, better integrations, and faster innovation. The pace of change in the digital world has become dizzying. If we were to ignore these market forces, Drupal would be caught flat-footed and quickly become irrelevant.
But we didn't. I'm proud to see that we've responded to these market forces with Drupal 8, and delivered a robust, solid product that can be used to build next-generation websites, web applications and digital experiences. We've implemented a more modern development framework, reimagined the usability and authoring experience, and made technical improvements that will help us build for the multilingual, mobile and highly personalized experiences of the future. From how we model content and get content in and out the system, to how we build and assemble experiences on various devices, to how we scale that to millions and millions of pageviews -- it all got much better with Drupal 8.
I'm personally incredibly proud of this release. Drupal 8 is the result of years of hard work and innovation by thousands of people, with lots of attention to detail at every level. Congratulations to everyone who stepped up to contribute; this was only possible thanks to your persistence and tireless hard work. It took a lot of learning, our best thinking and our best people to create Drupal 8, and I'm very, very proud of what we have accomplished together.
For 15 years, I have believed that Open Source offers significant advantages to proprietary solutions through superior innovation. Today, I believe that more than ever. Drupal 8 is another key milestone in helping us win and doing what is best for an open web. Of course, our job is not done but now is the time to have fun and celebrate this monumental milestone. Tonight, we'll be hosting more than 200 parties around the world! (It's also my 37th birthday today and the release of Drupal 8 along with all those parties is pretty much the best present ever!)
A couple of weeks ago a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of one of the largest mobile telecommunications companies in the world asked me how a large organization such as hers should think about organizing itself to maintain control over costs and risks while still giving their global organization the freedom to innovate.
When it comes to managing their websites and the digital customer experience, they have over 50 different platforms managed by local teams in over 50 countries around the world. Her goal is to improve operational efficiency, improve brand consistency, and set governance by standardizing on a central platform. The challenge is that they have no global IT organization that can force the different teams to re-platform.
When asked if I had any insights from my work with other large global organizations, it occurred to me the ideal model she is seeking is very aligned to how an Open Source project like Drupal is managed (a subject I have more than a passing interest in).
Teams in different countries around the world often demand full control and decision-making authority over their own web properties and reject centralization. How then might someone in a large organization get the rest of the organization to rally behind a single platform and encourage individual teams and departments to innovate and share their innovations within the organization?
In a large Open Source project such as Drupal, contributions to the project can come from anywhere. On the one extreme there are corporate sponsors who cover the cost of full-time contributors, and on the other extreme there are individuals making substantial contributions from dorm rooms, basements, and cabins in the woods. Open Source's contribution models are incredible at coordinating, accepting, evaluating, and tracking the contributions from a community of contributors distributed around the world. Can that model be applied in the enterprise so contributions can come from every team or individual in the organization?
Reams have been written on how to incubate innovation, how to source it from the wisdom of the crowd, ignite it in the proverbial garage, or buy it from some entrepreneurial upstart. For large organizations like the mobile telecommunications company this CDO works at, innovation is about building, like Open Source, communities of practice where a culture of test-and-learn is encouraged, and sharing -- the essence of Open Source -- is rewarded. Consider the library of modules available to extend Drupal: there can be several contributed solutions for a particular need -- say embedding a carousel of images or adding commerce capability to a site -- all developed independently by different developers, but all available to the community to test, evaluate and implement. It may seem redundant (some would argue inefficient) to have multiple options available for the same task, but the fact that there are multiple solutions means more choices for people building experiences. It's inconceivable for a proprietary software company to fund five different teams to develop five different modules for the same task. They develop one and that is what their customers get. In a global innovation network, teams have the freedom to experiment and share their solutions with their peers -- but only if there is a structure and culture in place that rewards sharing them through a single platform.
Centers of Excellence (CoEs) are familiar models to share expertise and build alignment around a digital strategy in a decentralized, global enterprise. Some form multiple CoEs around shared utility functions such as advanced data analytics, search engine optimization, social media monitoring, and content management. CoEs have also grown to include Communities of Practice (CoP) where various "communities" of people doing similar things for different products or functions in multiple departments or locations, coalesce to share insights and techniques. In companies I've worked with that have standardized on Drupal, I've seen internal Drupal Camps and hackathons pop up much as they do within the Drupal community at-large.
My advice to her? Loosen control without losing control.
That may sound like a "have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too" cliche, but the Open Source model grew around models of crowd-sourced collaboration, constant and transparent communications, meritocracies, and a governance model that provides the platform and structure to keep the community pointed at a common goal. What would my guidance be for getting started?
- Start with a small pilot. Build that pilot around a team that includes the different functions of local country teams and bring them together into one working model where they can evangelize their peers and become the nucleus of a future CoE "community". Usually, one or more champions will arise from that.
- Establish a collaboration model where innovations can be shared back to the rest of the organization, and where each innovation can be analyzed and discussed. This is the essence of Drupal's model with Drupal.org acting as the clearing house for contributions coming in from everywhere in the world.
Drupal and Open Source were created to address a need, and from their small beginnings grew something large and powerful. It is a model any business can replicate within their organization. So take a page out of the Open Source playbook: innovate, collaborate and share. Governance and innovation can coexist, but for that to happen, you have to give up a measure of control and start to think outside the box.
I don't usually write about the topic of investing, but it is something I enjoy, so I decided to take the jump by sharing some thoughts on MasterCard, one of my favorite companies. Although it's not an obvious technology disruptor, MasterCard is a successful technology company. When it comes to investing, boring can be beautiful. Mastercard is relevant in the context of my blog, where I often write about the digitization of the world.
An investor who invested $10,000 in MasterCard around the time of its IPO in 2006 would have seen that investment grow to $200,000 today. MasterCard has significantly outperformed the S&P 500, since a $10,000 investment in the S&P 500 would have returned less than $20,000 over the same 9.5 year time frame. I was not fortunate enough to buy at the IPO; I only got into MasterCard 18 months ago.
MasterCard, along with its rival Visa, has one of the most lucrative business models I've seen. MasterCard and Visa enjoy a virtual duopoly in payment transaction processing. Unlike other credit card companies like American Express, MasterCard and Visa don't assume any of the credit risk; the customer's bank takes on the risk of its customer not being able to pay the bill, and either the merchant or their bank takes the risk for charges that are fraudulent or unrecoverable. What makes MasterCard and Visa so lucrative is that they simply act as "digital tollbooths" that take a small interchange or "swipe fee" on every credit or debit card transaction that goes through their network, without assuming any of the risk.
When you pay $100 with your MasterCard, MasterCard takes about $2.60 in interchange fees and the retailer collects the remaining $97.40. MasterCard has a net profit margin of an astounding 52%. So of that $2.60, MasterCard gets to keep $1.30. Now consider that MasterCard processes many billions of credit card "swipes" each year, and you start to see the beauty of their business model. Because MasterCard has minimal capital expenses, it is able to generate enormous free cash flows and maintain a pristine balance sheet with virtually no debt. It can then invest the retained profits toward new technology, advertisements, share buybacks, dividends, etc.
As someone living in the United States, I take my credit cards for granted and use them to pay for almost everything; at the grocery store, at Starbucks, my utility bills, train and plane tickets, etc. I almost never use cash.
But that is far from the norm; MasterCard cites a global credit card penetration of just 15%. Cash usage has declined to 59.4% in developed markets, while it is still 92.7% in emerging markets. This means that MasterCard is likely to have years of growth ahead, as 85% of global transactions are still cash-based. For example, at present, the Chinese market is dominated by state-backed UnionPay, but China recently opened its domestic transactions to foreign companies like MasterCard. The company claims it is already seeing double-digit annual growth in cross-border credit card transaction volume in China, primarily fueled by e-commerce. Beyond China, the ecommerce market is growing 25% year-over-year globally, opening up even more opportunity. All things considered, I believe MasterCard is poised to continue to see tremendous revenue growth. In addition, MasterCard continues to buy back stock (3-5% of the float per year) which further adds to their earnings-per-share growth.
Technology disruption seems like the biggest risk to MasterCard. While MasterCard and Visa currently play prominent roles in both Apple and Google's digital wallet as the processing "middlemen", that could change. If Apple or Google creates a more secure payment infrastructure, there might be no need for a MasterCard or Visa. Furthermore, technologies like the Blockchain could render companies like MasterCard and other middlemen in the payments value chain obsolete. Merchants are more likely to adopt new technologies if they get some sort of benefit in the form of reduced interchange fees or risk. What better way to reduce fees than cutting out the middleman?
While emerging markets do represent the largest areas for growth for a company like MasterCard, in some countries, it will be extremely difficult to set up the same level of banking infrastructure that the US or Europe has. That is why we're seeing mobile payment technologies like M-PESA take off in Kenya, enabling the easy transfer of cash over an alternative to credit card rails. There is a chance that technologies like M-PESA could leapfrog traditional credit card infrastructure entirely.
There are also some big legal and regulatory risks. Since Visa and MasterCard operate a near-duopoly, they have a lot of government eyes watching them on behalf of merchants. For example, in 2010, the US passed the Durbin Amendment, which forced Visa and MasterCard to lower interchange fees on credit card transactions. Also, both Visa and MasterCard are being investigated for price-fixing and possible collusion in a near $6 billion settlement lawsuit with merchants. Each of these legal and regulatory hurdles could become a significant hit to MasterCard's bottom-line.
Despite these risks, MasterCard isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The strong growth drivers, the relative lack of immediate competitive threats, and their profitable business model make me believe that MasterCard will keep outperforming the market. There are a few things to dislike about MasterCard; at 0.65% the dividend is low and at 30 the price-to-earnings ratio is high. The high price-to-earnings ratio makes MasterCard somewhat risky, as stocks with a premium valuation are more vulnerable to a steep corrections. I think MasterCard is a buy-and-hold, as long you buy into it at the right price point ...
Disclaimer: I'm long MasterCard. Before making an investment in any of the companies mentioned, you should do your own proper due diligence. Any material in this article should be considered general information, and not a formal investment recommendation.