My predictions for 2009
by Dries Buytaert
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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.
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.