My predictions for 2009

It is that time of year again. Time to reflect on 2008, and to put on my Drupal Nostradamus hat and look forward to 2009. But first of all, thanks for 2008! It's been a pretty crazy ride.

Drupal

My personal Drupal highlights for 2008 include the Drupal 6 release (the best Drupal release ever!), both DrupalCon Boston and DrupalCon Szeged, the Drupal.org redesign that is in progress, and, of course, beating Joomla and Wordpress at the Packt awards. ;-) As I predicted last year, more than ten books were written about Drupal, compared to a single book in 2007. The increase in Drupal books is another highlight as I actively helped connect authors to publishers. I truly enjoyed being part of the Drupal community in 2008.

My personal low for 2008 is regret that some key modules lagged behind the Drupal 6 release. The majority of these modules have now been released, and Drupal 6 is finally getting on the fast lane now. The message is clear: we'll continue to see tremendous growth and adoption in 2009.

Why?

  1. Drupal 6 is easier to use, runs faster, and comes with many great new features. The work we did on Drupal 6 throughout 2007 and 2008 will pay off in 2009.
  2. Economic pressure will help accelerate Drupal's growth, and that of Open Source in general. More site owners will discover that with Drupal, you can build a better website cheaper than with many of its proprietary counterparts.
  3. Social publishing (blogs, forums, wikis, social networks, etc.) will become more pervasive and continue to make inroads in organizations seeking to facilitate collaboration between teams and departments. These applications, while nothing new, make many aspects of business better, are here to stay, and will mature over time. Drupal continues to be in that sweet spot.

I'll continue to have a software love affair with Drupal in 2009. At the moment, I'm very excited about the community's growing interest in the semantic web -- and all the related interoperability and decentralization technologies. The seed of what I hope will become a strong marriage between Drupal and semantic web technologies was planted in my DrupalCon Boston 2008 keynote in February (with the help, hard work and preparation of many others), and will continue to grow in 2009. Drupal continues to be a technology pioneer in 2009.

I predict that Drupal 7 will be released in the fourth quarter of 2009. The two most exciting features in Drupal 7 core will be custom content types and radical improvements in usability. To reduce the risk of important modules falling behind in support or update path, a significant portion of the Content Construction Kit (CCK) related modules will move to core and we'll pave the way for the Views modules. The same holds true for other important contributed modules, including token module, path auto module, and image handling functionality. In 2009, core becomes bigger, not smaller. The Drupal 7 code freeze will be longer than expected regardless our new continuous test framework, and the upgrade path to Drupal 7 will be more painful than hoped for. But like always, we'll come out stronger than before ...

Despite Drupal being loved by many, we'll have to work hard in 2009. The thing that holds Drupal back is failure to execute many of the ideas and plans that we have. As a community, we need to grow more mentors in 2009, and we must all make sure that they are set up for success rather than failure. The community's responsibility to itself should be to remove barriers to participation and single points of failure. Alarm bells should go off when there is a desire to introduce red tape, unnecessary hurdles or dependencies, or when we fail to collaborate and make progress in key areas of the project. At the same time, we need to help more Drupal companies figure out how to contribute back to Drupal in substantial ways. Contributions are gold, talk is silver. Helping people contribute must become platinum.

Last year, I predicted that we would see the first signs of consolidation in the Open Source CMS market. I believe that prediction was correct. The "big three" (i.e. Wordpress, Joomla! and Drupal) continued to grow in 2008, while many of the other systems faded into the background a bit. I think that trend will continue in 2009. In the long run, the winners will be platform providers that enable people to connect, create and share value in different ways -- and that do so with the lowest barrier to entry. Expect other systems to (continue to) attack Drupal from both below and above. We're the best platform today, and others will have to move in to stay viable.

Oh, and IBM starts to embrace Drupal in 2009!

Acquia

I'm proud of Acquia. Acquia is the Drupal company that I started with Jay Batson. We announced the start of Acquia at the end of November 2007, and we announced our funding just before the end of 2007. People had a lot of questions about Acquia early in 2008, but throughout the year we demonstrated over and over again that we're committed to Drupal's success and that we want to do what is right for the community. We built a great team and grew from 2 employees early in the year to 30 people today. In September 2008, we launched our first products and started to offer commercial support for a defined software distribution called Acquia Drupal. Today, 3 months after we opened to doors for business, we are serving customers. We worked hard and made our milestones. It has been fun to see a new business take off. I also racked up way more frequent flyer points (i.e. air miles) than what is generally considered healthy.

The first thing you learn when selling in tough economic times is that you must figure out how to give customers exactly what they want and you must do it fast. It didn't take long for us to realize that people wanted more than Acquia Drupal: they wanted support for everything Drupal 6.x -- all modules, themes and custom code. The good news is that Acquia is a nimble company so the last weeks we worked on changing our support model to address customer demands. Starting tomorrow, we will support everything Drupal 6.x -- not just Acquia Drupal but all modules and themes available on drupal.org as well as custom code. I'm still a firm believer in Drupal distributions so Acquia Drupal still has a role as a packaged on-ramp for people getting started with Drupal. However, anyone will be able to connect any Drupal 6.x site to the Acquia Network -- helping us achieve our goal of helping people build and operate great websites with Drupal. Keep an eye on acquia.com if you want to learn more about these changes.

We're passionate about getting our value proposition right, so expect us to continue to tweak and extend our current offering in 2009. We'll also launch a number of new products. Some, like our hosted search service, we've already talked about, and I think we'll finally be ready to talk about a few others in the first quarter of 2009.

Regardless of the down-turn in the economy, I think that Acquia's business will continue to take off nicely in 2009. My heart and gut are convinced that Acquia has a tremendous opportunity to do well, and to do good. I believe (and hope) that Acquia will have the success it takes to continue to invest in Drupal.

Mollom

Together with Benjamin Schrauwen, I also launched Mollom, a web service whose purpose is to dramatically reduce the effort of keeping websites free of spam and the quality of user-generated content high. Mollom is a self-funded company and nowhere near the size or scope of Acquia (Acquia is my full-time commitment) but nevertheless, a lot of progress has been made. We announced Mollom in March, and opened the doors for business at the end of September 2008. Today, we're actively protecting 4,500 websites of which 75-100 have paid subscriptions. Mollom has caught almost 21 million spam messages since it started.

In 2009, I predict that Mollom will continue to experience steady growth and that we'll introduce a premium subscription (i.e. "Mollom Premium" in addition to "Mollom Plus" and "Mollom Free") with enterprise level features. I also predict that our efficiency in blocking spam will raise from our current 99.88% (i.e. 12 in 10,000 spam messages were not caught) to 99.95% or more (i.e. 5 in 10,000 spam messages or less were not caught). While this might sound like a marginal improvement, it actually means we make 2.4 times fewer mistakes.

Mollom has a ton of potential and is great fun, so I have all reasons to believe that 2009 will be a good year for Mollom. If fact, I predict that 'good' will be an understatement.

Conclusion

2008 was a great year, and continues Drupal's great run. The economic realities of 2009 will present challenges, but also opportunities. I believe Drupal's success will continue -- and accelerate -- in 2009, though we'll have to work hard. I predict we'll do exactly that.

Comments

Doka (not verified):

... radical improvements in usability ...

It's the right way, with many positive effects for new users and customers, but do not forget the present install base! For them radical changes in well known environment might cause difficulties in usability.

Best wishes for 2009!

Doka

January 1, 2009
Johnny van de Laar (not verified):

good to hear that drupal 7 is going to be released a bit later. i was already getting scared that drupal 5 would loose its support, while drupal 6 still has a lot of key modules without "final" releases. perhaps it's a good idea to start thinking about LTS versions of drupal, like ubuntu has (http://www.internetunlimited.nl/en/blog/if-acquia-red-hat-drupal-lets-do...)

the last few weeks we started working on a semantic web application in Drupal and I must say. semantic web, rdf, etcetera are very exciting technologies. so I would love to see more RDF support in drupal core.

anyway i wish everyone a good and exciting 2009!!!

January 2, 2009
eigentor (not verified):

Drupal 6 runs faster - sorry no. Especially moving around in the admin section is notably slower. Sorry for being a heretic.

For all the rest: thumbs up!

A special thumbs up for taking it easy with D7, my personal D6 time is just beginning. :)

January 2, 2009
Roel De Meester (not verified):

My predictions for 2009.

More focus on quality:

Drupal is becoming more and more adult. As a result we should also behave as such and start embedding Full Quality Assurance in the complete development cycle. Drupal gives us so much for free, allowing us to either 'be cheaper than the rest' or 'be stronger than the rest'.

I believe in the second option. Yeah sure! We are able to build a complete good-looking community Drupal site in less than 4 weeks. But I'd prefer to do it in 8 weeks and making sure we do it right, i.e. unit-testing all custom code (and some of the used contributed modules), provide upgrade scripts and setup a DEV-QA-LIVE environment.

To do so we first need to educate ourselves (by sharing best practices, showcases and tutorials). Next we need to educate our clients to explain the benefits of unit testing and full proof quality assurance.

More focus on products:

Last years we've already seen a handful of spin-off Drupal products (two of which are named above :)), we have some hosting solutions, but other than that we are mainly a service providing community. We are plenty and we do it well. But I'd like to see some more Drupal based products which require a huge investment of a company, but also ensure that those companies will become even more committed to supporting Drupal. Examples of Drupal products: an out-of-the box intranet tool, a hosted solution which allows end-users to create a campaign site with a few clicks, a project management tool, a Facebook integration kit.
I'm pretty sure a lot of us have had projects that could easily be generalized to a product. Hopefully some of us have the guts to actually make the investment and commercialize those thoughts.

Let's make it happen!

For the dutch-speaking visitors: On http://develoop.be/het_ecosysteem_drupal_vs_eclipse you'll find an extended version of this comment.

January 2, 2009
Pete (not verified):

I'm glad that the release for Drupal 7 has been pushed back until nearer the end of the year. I've only just started building sites with Drupal 6 and am not looking forward to upgrading my current Drupal 5 sites, especially when many of the modules do not have clear upgrade paths.

I'm glad Drupal had such a good year and I hope it continues into the future, there are a lot of people that now rely heavily on Drupal (myself included).

January 2, 2009
Daryl James (not verified):

To confirm what you are predicting, in the freelance world, we are seeing that Drupal continues to be much in demand and growing (http://www.odesk.com/blog/2008/12/stay-employed-jobs-with-the-least-comp...), despite the economy. Just thought your readers might benefit from some real-time trends information. Thanks.

Daryl James
- oDesk

January 3, 2009
Tim Hank (not verified):

Drupal has seen tremendous growth. No doubt about it.

Drupal will starting losing market share to Ruby on Rails. One large Drupal project has moved much of its code to Django and few are in process of completely re-writing the application in Ruby on Rails.

The Drupal.org home page has not seen any new posts for nearly 4 weeks now (very rare) and posts on the home page are getting more commercial to benefit a handful of people and companies. This is driving away new developers and at the same time you clearly see that there is lack of interest from developers to upgrade the contributed modules they support.

January 3, 2009
Kieran Lal (not verified):

Tim, regarding your home page comments I have a few responses. The last front page post was December 10th, and there was not a post for 22 days after that. You are right it's a little unusual to go for three weeks with out a post but a lot of people get busy during the holiday season and people in the community who want to make announcements would like their announcements to be seen by as many people as possible so they have waited until the holidays are over.

Regarding the content of the front page posts, the drupal.org site maintainers have worked hard this year to expand the number of organizations and people who are able to make front page posts. See the front page post guidelines and schedule. In particular, there has been a big increase in Drupal books and people seem to be generally happy that there are more and better learning materials available for more people to learn Drupal.

We have also increased case studies on the front page. Through personal conversations with Drupal community members around the world and through the drupal.org redesign process we found that people find the case studies extremely valuable. Since those case studies often involve for profit businesses we try to find a balance between case studies that show case what can be done with Drupal and the self promotion that comes with the people who are doing showcase worthy work.

We've had a number of product announcements this year on the front page of Drupal.org. Those products are generally Drupal specific and of interest to people in the Drupal community. Some have argued that products announcements shouldn't be on the front page of Drupal.org. They have argued that these products are simply there for self promotion. Diverse products from different companies are to be expected in a healthy and growing ecosystem. Ignoring those products would not be in the Drupal community's best interest.

Instead we've focused our efforts on opening up the process. The process for promotion to front page is now open and transparent and a more level playing field for people and organizations who wish to promote Drupal and their ability to do showcase worthy things with it.

If you would like to commit to reviewing those front page posts we are always looking for more reviewers. I've got a list of about 20 more case studies, from 20 different organizations promoting to the front page for the first time. It would certainly help to have more reviewers to provide feedback and fine tune what is front page worthy.

Cheers,
Kieran

January 3, 2009
Charles Clayton (not verified):

I think a great attribute of D7 that would seem necessary for ensuring proper growth for the Drupal Community is to improve the process of upgrading from one Drupal version to another.

If D7 had a new and stable feature that made upgrading easier to do, then more people would opt to update their version..

This allows people who feel stuck in D4 or D5 to have an easy way to stay up to pace with the Drupal evolution and not worry about version incompatibility, (which is important for users as well as developers)

Over all Drupal has changed the CMS world, as well as the array of information that is now available because of the simplicity of creating a professional website. Thank you.

Peace, Love & Namaste

Charles

January 4, 2009
Eriksen Costa (not verified):

Yeah! Radical improvements in usability!

This year will rocks a lot for the Drupal community!

Happy new year!

January 4, 2009
Imre Gmelig Meijling (not verified):

I second that! There is such a variety of Drupal opportunities that are open to us. We have embraced Drupal as main development platform and will aim for more on-edge Drupal based solutions and services.

One of the top questions that always comes back from our clients and beginning Drupal developers is: "Why Drupal?" There are many resources our there that will explain why and have good arguments and solid conclusions. With efforts underway to reinstate drupal.org and drupal.be, I look forward to sending them all to drupal.org where they can see for themselves why, how and what it's all about!

All the best for 2009,
Imre

January 12, 2009
gagner argent (not verified):

You will be right in many case, i agree with you about the consolidation of CMS market, such a great development! Thanks for sharing predictions, opinions and feelings, it's very interesting!

May 6, 2009

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