My personal highlights for 2005 include the Drupal 4.6 release, the three Drupal conferences I helped organize, the Drupal books that are being written, the fund raise, the new infrastructure (including the support from Sun Microsystems and the OSL), and the unexpected exponential growth of the community. 2005 was a blast. Not only for Drupal, but for many Free and Open Source content management systems.
What is in it for 2006?
In terms of code we'll see forum improvements, image and/or document improvements, some basic install profiles, more AJAX, incremental theme system improvements, significant node system changes, and various improvements to the administration pages.
The exciting trend in 2006 will be the many new media services on the web; people want to publish more content. Most of this will be social media published by individuals or online communities. Not just more content and pictures, but also a lot more video. Information overload, a direct result of this, will drive the adoption of RSS, Atom, aggregators and news readers. Lots of people will figure out that, to stay productive and up-to-date, content aggregation and content filtering is a must. By the end of 2006, people will not only want to aggregate all interesting or relevant content, they'll also want to consolidate the functionality of the various web services. In short: more content, the need for aggregation and filtering, and ultimately, consolidation of functionality. Clearly, Drupal is in a proper spot to benefit from these trends.
The less exciting trend of 2006, but probably the more important one in terms of growth and revenue, is the increased adoption of content management systems for small, basic websites. Millions of small websites will start using content management systems. The biggest mistake we'll make in 2006 is that many of us will be neglecting small website owners. This is where more traditional systems like Mambo, Joomla! and even WordPress will shine, and because of that, they'll grow faster than Drupal. Fortunately, Drupal 4.7.0 will be a great release for many of the small website owners. Much of the work we did in 2005, will have its impact in 2006. We'll continue to grow, but the growth will be linear rather than exponential.
Furthermore, by the end of 2006, most other systems will provide role based access control, localization, clean URLs, some sort of node system, etc. Functionality-wise there will be less differentiation amongst the available content management systems, and as a result, more emphasis is put on ease of use, out of the box experience, the (support) community and performance. Some of the more obscure functionality like the aggregator, the taxonomy system, and the throttle system will be subtle but important differentiators. It's been a long, well-run race so far, but unless we manage to make Drupal more accessible to new users and to get back to the basics, we'll find the ground shifting beneath our feet.
Even with many good or exciting things happening in 2006 (make no mistake, they will happen), we'll find ourselves at the base of a new mountain. Just like in 2005, there will be growing pains, yet they'll be bigger. A community with 40.000 members has many voices, and each such voice demands slightly different things. Some people will be unhappy, disorientated and impatient for things to improve. At times, they'll be highly articulate about this. It is going to be a long and complicated climb. Growing is learning to climb bigger mountains, learning to deal with bigger growing pains. Fortunately, you've been the best community I know, and the best I have ever had the privilege of working with. You have the enthusiasm, the passion and the determination of the world to climb that mountain.
Despite the slightly worrisome tone of this message, 2006 promises to be an exciting year. Drupal will make more inroads on companies, governments, public institutions like school and universities, open source projects, and — most of all — non-professionals. Just like in 2005, we'll make substantial progress.