What to expect from Drupal going forward
Dries Buytaert started the evening, with a keynote on Drupal tech update, content and commerce and one of his favorite topics ‘Digital Experience’.
Starting off Drupal 8, which he described as ‘the game changer’ release, there is a major change in the release cycle. Main advantage is that new features now can go in minor releases, which occur every 6 months, without breaking backwards compatibility. This means Drupal 8 can keep evolving while there is no more need for a whole rewrite, and 4,5 years (the duration of Drupal 8.0 development) waiting on new features.
For example in Drupal 8.2 block placement and menu editing have improved a lot for sitebuilders. In Drupal 8.2 and the upcoming 8.3 release a lot of improvements are happening to Drupal 8’s new REST API, this opens the door to use Drupal much easier in a headless way, in combination with new JS frameworks such as ReactJS, Angular, …
But also improvements to the migrate framework, content moderation possibilities and performance improvements such as BigPipe are improvements which happened now, during the Drupal 8 lifetime.
Drupal making its way in e-commerce
A lot of changes are also happening in the e-commerce ecosystems. A lot of e-commerce websites are making the change to deliver products in a more content-rich way. As most of the commerce systems are really good on the commerce-side but not on the content-side of things this is where Drupal could play a big role.
Drupal is very strong in integrating with the variety of e-commerce solutions available (Magento, Demandware, Shopify, …). Aside from that Drupal Commerce is also a very nice Drupal solution available depending on the commerce-use-case.
As most of the commerce systems are really good on the commerce-side but not on the content-side of things this is where Drupal could play a big role.
Internet of Drupal
In the field of digital experiences Dries talked about future ways he sees Drupal and the net evolve to. This goes beyond the current view of websites and the internet today.
Emerging technologies, such as machine learning, internet of things and conversational user interfaces can change the way we see the web today. Delivering the right information to the right user on the right time through the right device. This will be more and more important and will become possible.
Think about emerging things such as Amazon Go, Alexa integration for webshops, in store beacons and sensors.
Importance of search in the era of information overload
After Dries’ keynote there were more sessions. First one about the state of search in Drupal 8. Search is a huge thing on most websites, and search requirements are getting more and more complex. Everyone want’s a google like search on his site.
The main two players within the Drupal field handling those requirements are backed by search API and Facet API. Search API powers sending and receiving your data from a search backend. This could be database search, Apache Solr, Elastic Search, … While Facet API plays a role in creating compelling search pages. Think of facets as the ‘real time’ filters on a search page.
Joris Vercammen (_borisson) is one of the contributors to the Drupal 8 search ecosystem. A lot of work has gone into porting the D7 possibilities into the new D8 architecture.
One of the main advantages is that the ecosystem merged. In D7 two main separate solutions existed, both with own advantages and disadvantages, main problem was those solutions were not compatible. In D8 both maintainers agreed on combining their efforts.
At this moment work is almost done, and the search ecosystem is fairly stable in D8 currently. Only thing awaiting us is your project which needs a compelling search environment ;-)
Adoption of Drupal at a European level
Next session by Mon Franco (mon_franco) was an introduction of the NextEurope platform. It’s nice to see how a huge organisation as the European commission uses Drupal and does this in a very open way.
NextEurope is a Drupal based platform which aims to bring all European Commission websites under the same umbrella (https://github.com/ec-europa/subsite-starterkit).
One of the most interesting things was to see how an 80 person team can work in an agile workflow. The key: make multiple smaller teams, and give them clear responsibilities.
Language becoming a lesser barrier
The last session was from Christian López Espínola (penyaskito) one of the main Drupal 8 multilingual contributors. He gave an overview of all the multilingual changes in Drupal 8 (which are a lot of improvements). Key takeaway is to see how much the process has streamlined and is simplified.
While in Drupal 7 you’ve needed 17 contributed modules to fully translate your website, in Drupal 8 all can be done with just 4 modules, which are all in core. It’s great to see how much things have become much more consistent.
Starry evening conclusion
It was a great event, it was fun to see other Drupal colleagues while food and drinks were being provided. It’s always interesting to discuss open issues from contrib maintainers, discuss Drupal difficulties and learning opportunities from each other.
Special thanks to CapGemini for organising, and for the great surprise of rewarding my (small) core contributions with a ChromeCast. Thank you!