WPP-Acquia Alliance: a milestone for Drupal

Today Acquia announces the WPP-Acquia Alliance, a global partnership with the world's largest communications services company. This isn't just a milestone for Acquia -- I believe it to be significant for the Drupal community as well so let me tell you a bit more about it.

WPP is a marketing company. A very, very large marketing company. With more than 188,000 people in 112 countries, WPP's billings are nearly $76 billion USD and its revenues approach $19 billion USD.

The reason that the WPP-Acquia Alliance is interesting for Drupal, is because WPP's primary client is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The influence of the CMO has been on the rise; their responsibility has evolved from "the one responsible for advertising" to having a critical role in designing the customer experience across all the customer touchpoints (including the websites). The CMO often has a deep understanding of how to use technology to deliver an integrated, system-wide customer experience. This is one of Drupal's strengths, and bringing organizations like WPP into the Drupal fold will help bring Drupal into the office of the CMO, grow the adoption of Drupal, and expands the opportunity for everyone in our community. If you believe, as I do, that the CMO is important, then I can't think of a better company to work with than WPP.

WPP will connect its Drupal developers from several agencies under one umbrella, creating a Drupal center of excellence, and the world's largest Acquia-certified Drupal practice. Globant, Hogarth, Mirum, Possible, Rockfish, VML and Wunderman are some of the agencies who'll be contributing to the WPP-Acquia Alliance, and building innovative Drupal applications for global clients. Acquia will provide WPP its open cloud platform, solutions for multi-site management, personalization tools, and more.

Reaching the next billion with Drupal

I feel lucky to be a part of creating and building Drupal. According to BuiltWith, Drupal powers 2.8% of websites in the top 1 million. That translates to 1 out of 35 websites. I've been thinking about what that means in terms of real impact: if any of the 3.2 billion internet users today have visited 35 or more of the top 1 million websites, they've "used" Drupal. I imagine most active internet users have visited more than 35 websites, and as such, Drupal must have "reached" almost everyone on the internet. That is a pretty incredible thought.

I've heard so many amazing stories about how Drupal sites have been a part of cultural, social and political movements. One of the stories that I'll never forget is from the Egyptian uprising in 2011, when the internet shut down for days and people took to the streets in protest of the Mubarak regime. This moment showed the profound impact of the web and the injustice citizens feel when it is taken away. The Drupal site Al Jazeera was an essential news source on this uprising for the rest of the world and remained online despite traffic to its live blog spiking 2,000 percent during the crisis.

Another such story is that of the Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC), whose 189 partner organizations (including the American Red Cross) needed a better way to collaborate on disaster relief issues. GDPC embraced Open Source and built a multilingual Drupal site where disaster preparedness professionals can share information and resources that otherwise wouldn't be available. Considering the recent rise in natural disasters, this information has saved lives.

These two stories show how the web has the power to change lives, fuel economies, educate the masses and make the world much smaller in the best of ways. According to Cisco, Internet traffic in 2019 will be 64 times the volume in 2005. It is expected that another 1.8 billion people could come online by the end of 2018.

Yesterday, we announced the first Drupal 8 release candidate after almost five years of hard work by thousands of people in our community. The road towards Drupal 8 has been long and hard, but I'm excited that Drupal 8 will touch the next billion people who join the internet. They are joining fast. I hope you'll share stories of the impact Drupal has made on your lives as we continue to grow.

First Drupal 8 Release Candidate available

Today, we announce Drupal 8.0.0 RC1, the first Drupal 8 release candidate. It's a very exciting milestone, and one that has taken a lot of hard work, long nights, weekends, and extreme commitment from our community. I appreciate the dedication of everyone involved, and understand what it takes to give up personal time in pursuit of building something greater. So, for that I want to thank you.

In total, Drupal 8 has had more than 3,200 contributors and 15,000 committed patches. The good news is, we've finally reached the day when Drupal 8 has hit zero release-blocking bugs and is ready for takeoff!

Historically, the adoption of Drupal has roughly doubled with each new release. We expect no different from Drupal 8, a release I believe positions Drupal most strongly for the future. We've undergone some big architectural changes to get more people using Drupal, and to prepare ourselves for the future. I can't wait to see what the community does with Drupal 8. It's time to start building!

Drupal rc1

The coming era of data and software transparency

Algorithms are shaping what we see and think -- even what our futures hold. The order of Google's search results, the people Twitter recommends us to follow, or the way Facebook filters our newsfeed can impact our perception of the world and drive our actions. But think about it: we have very little insight into how these algorithms work or what data is used. Given that algorithms guide much of our lives, how do we know that they don't have a bias, withhold information, or have bugs with negative consequences on individuals or society? This is a problem that we aren't talking about enough, and that we have to address in the next decade.

Open Sourcing software quality

In the past several weeks, Volkswagen's emissions crisis has raised new concerns around "cheating algorithms" and the overall need to validate the trustworthiness of companies. One of the many suggestions to solve this problem was to open-source the software around emissions and automobile safety testing (Dave Bollier's post about the dangers of proprietary software is particularly good). While open-sourcing alone will not fix software's accountability problems, it's certainly a good start.

As self-driving cars emerge, checks and balances on software quality will become even more important. Companies like Google and Tesla are the benchmarks of this next wave of automotive innovation, but all it will take is one safety incident to intensify the pressure on software versus human-driven cars. The idea of "autonomous things" has ignited a huge discussion around regulating artificially intelligent algorithms. Elon Musk went as far as stating that artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat and donated millions to make artificial intelligence safer.

While making important algorithms available as Open Source does not guarantee security, it can only make the software more secure, not less. As Eric S. Raymond famously stated "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow". When more people look at code, mistakes are corrected faster, and software gets stronger and more secure.

Less "Secret Sauce" please

Automobiles aside, there is possibly a larger scale, hidden controversy brewing on the web. Proprietary algorithms and data are big revenue generators for companies like Facebook and Google, whose services are used by billions of internet users around the world. With that type of reach, there is big potential for manipulation -- whether intentional or not.

There are many examples as to why. Recently Politico reported on Google's ability to influence presidential elections. Google can build bias into the results returned by its search engine, simply by tweaking its algorithm. As a result, certain candidates can display more prominently than others in search results. Research has shown that Google can shift voting preferences by 20 percent or more (up to 80 percent in certain groups), and potentially flip the margins of voting elections worldwide. The scary part is that none of these voters know what is happening.

And, when Facebook's 2014 "emotional contagion" mood manipulation study was exposed, people were outraged at the thought of being tested at the mercy of a secret algorithm. Researchers manipulated the news feeds of 689,003 users to see if more negative-appearing news led to an increase in negative posts (it did). Although the experiment was found to comply with the terms of service of Facebook's user agreement, there was a tremendous outcry around the ethics of manipulating people's moods with an algorithm.

In theory, providing greater transparency into algorithms using an Open Source approach could avoid a crisis. However, in practice, it's not very likely this shift will happen, since these companies profit from the use of these algorithms. A middle ground might be allowing regulatory organizations to periodically check the effects of these algorithms to determine whether they're causing society harm. It's not crazy to imagine that governments will require organizations to give others access to key parts of their data and algorithms.

Ethical early days

The explosion of software and data can either have horribly negative effects, or transformative positive effects. The key to the ethical use of algorithms is providing consumers, academics, governments and other organizations access to data and source code so they can study how and why their data is used, and why it matters. This could mean that despite the huge success and impact of Open Source and Open Data, we're still in the early days. There are few things about which I'm more convinced.

Acquia raises $55 million series G

Today, we're excited to announce that Acquia has closed a $55 million financing round, bringing total investment in the company to $188.6 million. Led by new investor Centerview Capital Technology, the round includes existing investors New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Split Rock Partners.

We are in the middle of a big technological and economic shift, driven by the web, in how large organizations and industries operate. At Acquia, we have set out to build the best platform for helping organizations run their businesses online, help them invent new ways of doing business, and maximize their digital impact on the world. What Acquia does is not at all easy -- or cheap -- but we've made good strides towards that vision. We have become the backbone for many of the world's most influential digital experiences and continue to grow fast. In the process, we are charting new territory with a very unique business model rooted Drupal and Open Source.

A fundraise like this helps us scale our global operations, sales and marketing as well as the development of our solutions for building, delivering and optimizing digital experiences. It also gives us flexibility. I'm proud of what we have accomplished so far, and I'm excited about the big opportunity ahead of us.

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Dries Buytaert is the original creator and project lead of Drupal and the co-founder and CTO of Acquia. He writes about Drupal, startups, business, photography and building the world we want to exist in.

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