Drupal 2010 retrospective and 2011 predictions

This is my first blog post in 2011, so first things first: happy New Year to all of you!

As I do each year, I want to stop for a moment and reflect on the past, before jumping head-first into the new year.

Last year was another year of growth for Drupal: the number of active committers grew; the number of visitors to drupal.org grew; the number of Drupal sites grew; and the number of Drupal events and meet-ups grew. Drupal grew by almost every discernible metric.

Overall, we became a better and more well-rounded team in 2010. We've always had many kick-ass engineers in the Drupal community. However, 2010 was the year in which we achieved noticeably better usability, design, accessibility and marketing. These are important developments, as these new skills will help prepare us for even more success in the long run.

On a personal level, 2010 was a very busy Drupal year for me. I committed 1,683 patches — that's up from 1,567 patches in 2009 and 1,031 patches in 2008. I accepted many more speaking engagements to evangelize our work. While in 2009 I flew about 100,000 km (62,000 miles), in 2010 I flew over 300,000 km (190,000 miles). That's a lot of evangelizing. I was more 'outward facing' in 2010 than ever before, which seems to be a trend. Although I enjoy meeting Drupal users, I'm glad to stay closely involved with the day to day development of Drupal core. Being able to combine these two essential elements is both important and healthy. I hope and predict that 2011 will bring more of the same.

My two personal Drupal highlights for 2010 include DrupalCon San Francisco with more than 3,000 attendees (and $72,000 USD alone spent on coffee), as well as the launch of the drupal.org redesign.

My personal low for Drupal in 2010 is the fact that we didn't release Drupal 7. It is a consolation, however, it has been delayed for good reasons and we didn't compromise on quality. One thing is a given though: 2011 will be the year of Drupal 7. It will be a nicer-looking, more powerful, and more scalable Drupal that will be easier to use. If you've overlooked Drupal previously in favor of some other system, it's time to revisit it again.

My biggest wish for 2011 is that our community remains strong. We are our biggest asset. We make Drupal both vibrant and innovative. It has been an honor to be a part of the Drupal project, and it remains so today. I have no reason to believe that that will change in 2011.

After working on Drupal 7 for three years, I'm looking forward to start working on Drupal 8. One of the things that I like most is figuring out the future, and leading the community in the right direction.

I'm utterly convinced that user experience remains the single most important thing that is holding back Drupal adoption. I want to spend time listening and talking to each of Drupal's users and learn more about their experiences. That includes content creators, site builders, developers, designers, system administrators, owners of small Drupal sites, owners of large Drupal sites and more. I also want to learn more about other systems and learn from them. There is only so much we can do in one release, especially if we want shorter release schedules. So I want to have a very clear picture of how we can improve the user experience of each of Drupal's target audiences.

Based on the 300,000 km of listening I did last year, I predict that the following three items will make it in the top five new features of Drupal 8: general usability improvements for content creators and site builders; performance improvements for single machine installations; life cycle and release management (e.g., development-staging-production, configuration management, testability).

It's clear that the mobile web will become mainstream in a big way in 2011. On top of that, the iPad is changing our world. We should think long and hard about how we can make Drupal the go-to-platform for building web applications in a world of tablets and mobile handheld devices. One of my objectives is to write a small iPhone or Android application that connects with Drupal. I want to learn more about it so I'm going to try and make it one of my weekend projects.

I also predict that in 2011, we'll see the first Drupal website that serves a billion page views per month, and that Drupal.org will be upgraded to Drupal 7 before the end of 2011.

I've spent a lot of time time thinking about Drupal distributions in 2010. While we made a lot of progress in making distributions feasible from a technical point of view, we have yet to figure out the business model around Drupal distributions. Unless we make it commercially interesting or at least commercially viable for organizations to build and maintain high quality distributions, distributions might not be as popular as we'd like. I think 2011 might be the year where many of us test how important Drupal distributions are really going to be for us.

Looking back at 2010, I'm happy with the way the Drupal Association evolved. We did some unusual things this year. We hired two full-time employees; Megan Sanicki (sponsor wrangler) and Neil Kent (events manager), and paid for the drupal.org redesign to be completed. We're also paying for the migration from CVS to Git. It isn't always easy to mix paid staff into a volunteer-driven open source project, but without that, two of my 2010 highlights would not have happened.

Relative to the bigger market, 2010 was also the year where I felt core development of Joomla! slowed down a bit. As part of that, I noticed that the Joomla community started to expand to Drupal. WordPress, on the other hand, seems to be accelerating. Slowly but certainly, it's growing from a blogging platform into a content management system. Kudos to Matt Mullenweg and Automattic for their progress. While WordPress has a long way to go to compete with Drupal on the high-end, I expect that we will see it compete more and more in the low-end of the market. I won't let them take the low-end of the market — it has been too important for Drupal's growth and adoption. I'm very passionate about making small sites successful, and I wish they were better represented in the Drupal.org issue queues. It is going to be interesting to see how these things play out. Either way, the real competition is not other Open Source projects, but proprietary software vendors and the many static HTML websites. There is so much room for growth that we shouldn't worry too much about Open Source competition.

2011 is also the year that Drupal turns 10 years old. We're starting off the year with our biggest release ever, followed by our biggest party ever. We'll have lots of things to talk about, lots of planning to do, and lots of initiatives to kick off. Expect 2011 to get very busy.

No blog post of this type would be complete if I didn't end with a sincere, heart-felt "Thank you!" to the many members of our community. Without your contributions, Drupal wouldn't exist, and my past years and future years to come would be devoid of something I love dearly. So, from me to you, for making Drupal what it is today, and for working with me to make it better day by day, let me say, simply, thank you.