Acquia had two big product announcements at DrupalCon Paris. The first was the general availability of Acquia Hosting, which I'll blog about tomorrow. The second is a status update on "Acquia Gardens" which we first announced in the beginning of 2009.

For those who have not heard about Acquia Gardens, this product will provide an easy on-ramp for people to experience the awesome power of Drupal without having to worry about installation, hosting and upgrading. Think of it as or Ning for Drupal. Think of it as 'Drupal as a service'.

We announced that the final name for the product is Drupal Gardens. This service is Drupal, so including Drupal in the name emphasizes that point. Plus, this is all about promoting Drupal so we don't want to hide that. Our goal is to make the base service free of charge, and to introduce Drupal to hundreds of thousands of users. Many individuals and organizations want a killer web site, but have no idea that Drupal is a great way to build one or to connect with other websites. Even if they did hear about Drupal, few non-technical people succeed in installing and hosting a Drupal site. I believe Drupal Gardens could play a key role in promoting the viral adoption of Drupal, and the name Drupal Gardens is key to that.

For the same reason, I'd really like Drupal Gardens to stay close to what Drupal does, to work with module maintainers, and give back where we can. For example, it would be awesome if Gardens users could contribute to Gardens, simply by contributing to Drupal -- either by contributing to existing modules that we use to build Gardens, or to new modules that Acquia might contribute. Along the same lines, we want people to be able to export their Gardens site -- the code, the theme and data -- and move of the platform to a any Drupal hosting environment. By doing so, we provide people an easy on-ramp but we allow them to grow beyond the capabilities of Gardens without locking them in. These are the kind of win-win situations that I hope we can create.

We also showed a demo of the current state of Drupal Gardens. The product is in pre-alpha, but we wanted to give you an update and show what we've been working on. The main feature that I demonstrated in my Acquia presentation is a tool we developed called the "theme builder". The theme builder makes it really easy to build a beautiful design for your Drupal site from within your browser without having to write any HTML, CSS or JavaScript. The theme builder is enabling technology, and certainly part of my vision of what content management systems should enable users to do: empowering them to quickly and easily assemble powerful websites without having to do any programming.

Drupal gardens theme builder
The theme builder comes with pre-defined themes to start from.
Drupal gardens theme builder
The theme builder comes with a basic layout manager.
Drupal gardens theme builder
The theme builder comes with pre-defined themes to start from, color palettes and a custom color selector.

The current plan is to be in the market the beginning of 2010. Gardens is built on, and depends on, the release of Drupal 7. While we don't yet have the exact timing for this (Drupal 7 is ready when it is ready), we do plan to start inviting people to start alpha testing in the next couple of months. If you are interested in taking part in the alpha program, or if you'd like to get notified about the progress of the product, sign up at

Drupalgardens com signup


Cliff (not verified):

I love the concept. But if that's the home page design, please review it for color contrast. "Drupal Gardens" (blue on lighter blue) and "Follow us on Twitter" (spring green on green) have far too little contrast to background to be read by people who are colorblind or who, for whatever reason, need high contrast.

Linea Rowe (not verified):

Thanks for the suggestion about blue on blue being hard for some people to see. That page is our coming soon page and we'll replace it with the real Drupal Gardens home page. We'll be sure to use a higher contrast color palette.

(Drupal Gardens Product Manager at Acquia)

Dan Frydman (not verified):

Looks really exciting Dries. Will be great to test out ideas for Drupal sites for clients by actually sitting with them and doing some of the work, rather than hacking away at it behind the scenes.

Interesting on the community side - how will modules get configured? When can we see the keynote delivered from DrupalCon Paris?

Hope that you can avoid some of the hang ups of and make for a smooth move towards seamless sites without it starting to feel like Geocities either.

All the best!

Linea Rowe (not verified):

Hi Dan,
Users will be able to access the module configuration settings the same way they can with standard Drupal. Since we're building Drupal Gardens with new users in mind, we'll create each site with default settings and then we'll give guidance on how to change the settings.

We want to make it easy and quick to get a site up and running, but at the same time, we want users to be able to have control over their site. We're hoping that the default settings, combined with a good online help will turn Drupal newbies into proficient Drupal users.

-Linea Rowe
(Drupal Gardens Product Manager at Acquia)

Ryan (not verified):

Signing up to check it out now. Thanks for the updates for those of us who couldn't make it to the Con. My first one sitting out since Barcelona, and I sooo wish I was there. Only the possibility of an early delivery of my first baby girl could keep me from coming. : )

Anonymous (not verified):

Looks good. When are you releasing the theme builder on

Anonymous (not verified):

Do you really think the theme builder will be released on I highly doubt it, but I'm hoping I'll be proved wrong.

ac (not verified):

I don't see why they wouldn't release it back to the community.

Anonymous (not verified):

I sure hope so but lets remember that money is involved and Acquia has share holders that want an ROI. Releasing it back to the community is brilliant because this is exactly what Drupal needs and it'll be a huge step forward for Drupal. But Acquia also has it's own commercial interests, by keeping it commercial people have another good reason to start using Drupal Gardens.

Anyway, we should probably stop speculating and someone should just asks Dries.


Drupal Gardens is still pre-alpha, and we don't plan to make the 'theme builder' available under terms of the GPL prior to launch. At some point after launch, we might reconsider that.

Reinier (not verified):

We have been developing a site-builder for the local Ugandan market. We would make a lot of our licensees extremely happy with this.
If you need feedback from real-world sitebuilder users, we have a few that we could ask to take the builder for a spin.

Linea Rowe (not verified):

Thanks Reinier,
We'll be looking for people to give usability feedback, so please sign up on and we'll be sure to contact you.

Linea Rowe
(Drupal Gardens Product Manager at Acquia)

Tj Holowaychuk (not verified):

Great, more crappy Drupal themes. Lol.

monicadear (not verified):

Excellent news. During wireframing, it's always an ongoing back-and-forth to show people how to play with placement of blocks within a page --- perhaps using a site like this will allow users to become comfortable with the back-end, play around a bit with colors/styles, and then take the leap to get a version installed on their own host.

Remember Tripod? and Geocities? Then Blogspot and

I signed up, looking forward to testing. Thanks!

Alex Saavedra (not verified):

Great news, I've just signed up for beta testing. Can't wait to test Drupal Gardens.

Anonymous (not verified):

Is this vaporware? Announced 6 months ago, still nothing concrete anywhere.


As mentioned in my blog post above, our goal is to launch early in 2010. We made a ton of progress since the announcement. We're currently in alpha with 20 sites or so, and will be in beta shortly.

Marsh (not verified):

Your original comment says "Our goal is to make the base service free of charge" ... could you expand on that a bit. What would be considered a base service and what would be a charge service? I am excited by what you are attempting to do and by no means expect it to be totally free. I design and support several non-profit organization sites and the use of godaddy and other hosting services have come up short, especially when we start talking about viral strategies for these non-profits to use to find new financial supporters.

Anonymous (not verified):

DrupalGardens is nothing like which is free and no ads. Why not make like, who wants to have .drupalgardens for a domain, not me. I think it's an awful idea, once again WordPress does it better.

Jacob (not verified):

Unless I'm missing the mark, I think the HUGE difference will be seen once they get more modules and starting packages configured for availability. WordPress can't do some of the CMS things Drupal can (Membership, e-commerce, etc) so once they start getting these plugged in, expect to see it really take off.

Trying out the beta, and congrats on the theme builder...that is a seriously awesome capability.

Spyros (not verified):

Product looks great but I'm not entirely clear as to what benefits it brings in comparison to Ning and WordPress especially when those are actually free ...

Shawn (not verified):

I REALLY hope that Drupal Gardens theme builder is released under GPL. I completely understand the challenge of creating / protecting intellectual capital to recapture investment, but keeping it under a restricted license seems to undermine all the principals set forth.

If the goal is to stimulate Drupal development and make it ubiquitous then you must release as Open Source. Even Google is going that route. If the impact meets the vision (or anywhere close) there will be a huge commercial windfall for everyone involved with Drupal.

Keeping this closed, I'm afraid, will seriously compromise the open spirit you have worked so hard to cultivate. Furthermore, you should signal early that it WILL be open, so people can plan to contribute.

Great job and thanks for letting Drupal leapfrog the rest.



Shawn, we don't disagree with you and chances that we will Open Source the Theme Builder. The question is: when? Drupal Gardens is in private beta, and Drupal 7 itself isn't even released.

Releasing the Theme Builder would probably require some additional engineering because it is tailored to run on our underlying hosting infrastructure.

Right now we're laser focused on building Drupal Gardens, and the Theme Builder that is part of that. Once Drupal Gardens is released, we'll revisit the question of whether to release the Theme Builder under the GPL.

Anonymous (not verified):

I am starting a small FOSS project and need a website for it. I was planning to use but if dries can provide me with beta code for on my email id - I would love to use and provide feedback for drupalgardens :) I have already signed up for the beta the first day dg was announced.

Thanks a lot :D

Anonymous (not verified):

Themebuilder has grown up nicely! Its an elegant balance between ease-of-use and a developer friendly tool. This is so critical for Drupal and IMHO you really have cracked the code on theme development for the masses.

My only concern is that other GPL tools such as Skinr, Fusion, and 3rd party tools like artisteer, etc are also attempting to solve the same problem and while its great to see innovation develop from many sources, I think its important for theme enhancement (much like WYSIWYG) to have some leadership to drive mass Drupal adoption.

You clearly have a lot going on and I applaud your efforts, but please consider adding accelerating your roadmap plans to release Themebuilder to Drupal 7.

Nollind Whachell (not verified):

I've been wanting to utilize Drupal for a very long time but I decided I wouldn't until the usability and user interface were dramatically improved. In effect, I want the CMS to work for me, not me having to work for the CMS. The Drupal 7 UX project gave me some hope but those hopes were dashed once I saw the results.

Drupal Gardens, however, proves to me that someone finally gets it. I've been a long time Squarespace user, even having worked for the company for a bit, and I've alway been on the lookout for a CMS that was an open source version of Squarespace. Drupal Gardens looks like an extremely close match to what I'm looking for, especially since the interface has a clean simplicity to it that reminds me a lot of Squarespace.

All said and done though, while the theme builder and layout capabilities look awesome, I'm still unsure of how this approach differs in terms of structuring content. If Drupal Gardens can pull off something like Squarespace where 1) you can rapidly create your site structure on the fly without having to enter any content first and 2) in such a way that it almost emulates creating a site map, then I would be truly impressed and could easily see myself jumping over to using it instead of Squarespace. The primary reason for this is that Squarespace is lacking big time in terms of community features (i.e. polls, advanced forums, advanced profiles, etc) and seems to be moving at a snails pace with regards to improvements. That Drupal Gardens has these features built into it is a huge plus.

BTW even your pricing is extremely competitive. Squarespace Advanced package is $20/month but includes no community features. Squarespace Community package is $50/month but doesn't even include polls, advanced forums, or advanced member profiles.