The latest Drupal release has been introduced. The 9th version of this popular CMS has been available since June 3rd, and we’ve had plenty of time to play around with it. This article is going to focus on what the big changes are, and what you need to prepare for.
Quite recently we’ve crossed from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. Remember? It wasn’t exactly an easy and quick operation. Changes turned out to be significant enough to require almost everything to be rebuilt from the ground up. What this meant were long working hours, lots of patches, and nerves. Are we in for a repeat?
Updates never were Drupal’s forte. Usually, they were kept small and manageable. This time, however, Drupal decided to take some weight off developers’ backs and tried to simplify the process as much as possible.
New editorial cycle
A new attitude towards software development has been introduced in the 9th release. Previously changes meant a significant probability of compatibility issues with some of the modules, plugins, or skins. Drupal's creator - Dries Buytaert’s philosophy of eliminating backward compatibility must have influenced this decision.
As he admitted in his manifesto - the goal was to keep following technological progress, in order to force developers to leave their “technological baggage”, which he felt negatively impacted their web projects, behind.
It doesn't get any more complex than that. If you start dragging baggage along, your product will, eventually, be replaced by something that offers the same functionality but without the baggage. Something that is faster, smaller, cleaner and on the bleeding-edge of technology. Unfortunately, only those with a long-term interest or vision tend to care about this. End-users with sites to upgrade are challenged by a different set of problems, like a Friday night deadline. They are extremely short-sighted, and rightly so.
In practice, this means a bi-annual release life cycle. You will be able to introduce new functions and updates to your projects more easily.
What’s new in Drupal 9?
Does your website still rely on older Drupal versions (6 and 7)? Not a good situation to find your company in. A lot of effort and intense work lies ahead of you. If that is the case - I would advise Direktpoint’s experts. We enjoy a challenge.
If, however, you’re already using Drupal 8, we’ve got good news for you. This time a hair-pulling amount of meticulous code review won’t be necessary. The 9th iteration of this CMS is mostly built on the foundation of the previous release. The changes were mostly due to the deletion of old, out-of-date code. What this means is that this new 9th edition is really a “slimmed-down” Drupal 8 - claim the system’s developers.
The latest Drupal is based on the newest versions of the Symphony’s 4th and 5th framework. Official support for the previous version 3.4 ends near the end of November 2021, and safety patches are scheduled only up to November 2022. You can read more about this on the official Symphony website.
Drupal’s new release system allows you to integrate new Symfony releases in a matter of a month, instead of half a year (June and December updates). This is a huge step in the right direction.
Don’t forget about the latest release of Twig - the 2.0 version. The updated version of this theme engine makes working with themes much more manageable.
Drupal 9 requires PHP version 7.3 (or newer). This allowed developers to significantly improve the CMS processing speed. Simply put - your website will load faster. How much faster? You can see the difference between PHP versions using PHP Benchmarks.
You’ve probably already come to the decision that it is time for an update. If you’re updating Drupal 8, the whole process can be automated and painless. If during the initial development you ensured everything works correctly - you’re most likely a few clicks away from being up to date.
Start by updating to the latest Drupal 8 version and make sure none of the modules in use on your website are using outdated code. You can use the Drupal-check tool to check what needs attention.
All that remains after that is to update the CMS as usual, and you’re done.
Our recommendation? Switch to Drupal 9 ASAP. Need help? Let us know!
The new Drupal is simply better than its predecessors. If your website does not rely on any out-of-date modules, there’s no reason to remain either in Drupal 7 or 8. Remember - both of those projects are only supported up to November 2021. Don’t count on any security patches or new add-ons past that date.