Anticipating Drupal 9

Drupal 9 Upgrade Planning

The release of Drupal 9 has been announced for June 2020 . “End of Life” has already been announced for Drupal 7 and 8 on November 2021, which is unusual for Drupal who has historically supported both the newest version and it’s next youngest version.

At the time we’re writing this post, there are 318,079 websites on Drupal 7 and 77,361 websites on Drupal 8 (via builtwith.com), all of which will need to migrate to Drupal 9 by the end of 2021.

Major platform upgrades are big projects, and the news that you may have to engage in another one so soon - especially if you have just migrated to Drupal 8 - may come as an unwelcome surprise.

The good news is that migrating to Drupal 9 isn’t going to be anything like major releases in the past. The platform will not only introduce new technology to Drupal, but it will also usher in a new path to version upgrades.

Drupal 9: A New Platform, A New Way to Upgrade

Before, sizeable web development work was required for websites to stay up-to-date with major version updates. Drupal 9 will present website owners with an easier upgrade path.

Drupal 9 is not entirely reinventing Drupal. In fact, it will be nearly indistinguishable from version 8.9.

There are a few reasons that this process is much more beneficial than what it has been in the past:

  1. Major version upgrade with a minor release ease: Migrating from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 is much easier, and can feel more like a minor version upgrade.
  2. Stability out of the gate: Drupal 9 will be much more stable on its initial release than past major versions have been. In the past, it has usually been a good practice to allow the dust to settle on a new version and allow the community to work the bugs out before migrating. Now, you can confidently migrate to Drupal 9 immediately.
  3. You won’t lose customizations: Many of your custom modules can be carried over into Drupal 9. In the past, this is a significant part of the reason that upgrading between versions was such a massive web development project - everything would need to be rebuilt.

Deprecated Code, What is it?

Drupal 9 will support quite a bit from Drupal 8 - aside from deprecated code. All deprecated code in Drupal 8 will be abandoned in Drupal 9.

The code that Drupal is built with is constantly changing as developers find better ways to accomplish the same or new directives. Coding in many ways is like a language, with new words being added and old words becoming obsolete over time.

Once new functionalities in Drupal 8 have been stabilized, the old functionalities that they are replacing will become deprecated.

Bear Group Visual Example of Deprecated Code

Image via Drupal

There are modules and tools available, for developers and non-technical admin, that allow you to check your website to find and identify deprecated code. Here’s a link to the Upgrade Status module, a good tool for non-technical admin to review their site.

What Should I Anticipate for Drupal 9?

Drupal 9 will have the most user-friendly interface for non-technical administrators ever. Drupal 9 will include new features released in Drupal 8 that provide more control over page layouts and media management without needing development expertise.

  • Layout Builder - Create custom pages by using drag and drop functionality to build layouts with blocks and fields (available on Drupal 8 and 9).
  • Media - Customize your media library directly on your Drupal website, find specific media on pages throughout your website (available on Drupal 8 and 9).
  • An Updated Admin UI - The admin interface is updating its look and feel with a modernized admin panel for better accessibility and management (available on Drupal 9 only).

You can find more information on Dries’ website - the founder of Drupal - or you can read our other blog post here.

Should I Wait for Drupal 9 Before Migrating Off of Drupal 7?

Most Drupal websites are on 7, waiting for the release of Drupal 9 before migrating. With the new approach to major version upgrades that Drupal 9 will introduce, there is no reason to wait for Drupal 9 before migrating off of Drupal 7.

Migrating off of Drupal 7 will be just as big of a project as it has always been, but once you’re on Drupal 8, updating between versions will now become as simple as implementing minor version updates. Instead of rebuilding an entirely new website in Drupal’s new platform and migrating all content and designs over, you can stay and update the platform beneath you. Once you’re on a version of Drupal 8 or higher, you will no longer require a complete site rebuild and migration to upgrade to Drupal 9.

Why Are Both Drupal 7 and 8 No Longer Being Supported?

We mentioned above that in the past, Drupal has supported two versions at a time and ends support for their oldest platform with the release of a new platform. This time, however, support is ending for both Drupal 7 and 8.

Support for Drupal 8 is ending because it relies heavily on a third party PHP framework called Symfony. Symfony has announced that it will no longer be supporting the version that Drupal 8 is built on. With Symfony no longer supported, Drupal 8 would inevitably begin to breakdown and become more vulnerable. Because Drupal doesn’t own Symfony, it is beyond their control to maintain support for it.

Anticipating the Future of Drupal Technology

Website technology is changing all the time, and the CMS, ecommerce, and website management platforms that do not maintain the pace are left behind. Technology adapts in response to how people use the internet, through what devices, and the expectations they have.

We can continue to expect Drupal to stay a strong leader among website platforms with the new developments introduced by Drupal 9. Drupal is one of the best CMS platforms on the market because of its adaptability, its flexibility, and open source structure which allow admin to create incredibly custom websites.

You can find more information on Dries’ website - the founder of Drupal - or you can read our other blog post here.