I have a pretty big update for you: we just launched Drupal Gardens into private beta. Since the first public Drupal Gardens demo at DrupalCon Paris, a lot of progress has been made. Today, we sent private beta invites to the first people that signed up to be beta testers, and if things go well, we'll send out a couple thousand more invitations over the next few weeks.
For those who received an invite, building Drupal sites just got easier. Drupal Gardens is a hosted version of Drupal so you don't have to worry about installation, hosting or upgrading. Think of it as Wordpress.com or Ning, except that it comes with the power of Drupal. Equipped with multi-user blogging, commenting, forums, custom content types, and advanced user management, Drupal Gardens should be a great tool for organizations that want to build social sites. For those of you who would like to also test drive Drupal Gardens, you can sign up to request a beta on drupalgardens.com and we'll be releasing more registration codes during the next few months of beta testing. We'll run in private beta for a bit and then open up to a public beta as we get closer to a final launch in early spring.
At Acquia, one of our goals has always been to help spread the adoption of Drupal. Hence, we have decided to make Drupal Gardens available for free until the end of 2010. By the end of 2010 we hope to have built all of the important features that will enable organizations to create feature-rich, social microsites. Our current thinking is that after 2010, there will continue to be a free tier for smaller sites but that there will also be paid tiers for larger websites or those who want access to premium features. There is a lot of work ahead of us and we need your help in the Gardens deciding what to plant, what to water and what to weed. We (at Acquia) can't wait to hear what you've got to say!
From a technical point of view, I'd like to point out this is a "real" beta launch. Drupal Gardens is a gem in the rough, built on the Drupal 7 core - currently in an alpha release - extended with functionality such as a WYSIWYG editor (CKeditor), media management, a theme builder, and basic "query builder" (i.e. simpleviews) capability. We're working with the various module maintainers, and contributing back almost all of our development efforts to the Drupal community.
Architecturally, Drupal Gardens is built on the ideas of an open social web; we markup data with RDFa, we implemented single-sign on using OpenID as our identity layer, we integrate with third-party services, and we allow people to export the code, the theme and data that makes up their site. We'll be sharing more technical details as we make progress, but we like to believe it will be a hosted service "done right".
I'd like to thank our alpha testers who have provided us some great feedback so far, the team at Acquia for working hard to get to private beta, and for the community for all the work on Drupal 7. I look forward to more people having the chance to test out Drupal Gardens and seeing what grows!