Drupal’s Future: CMS or Framework… or Both?

With the announcement of Drupal being used to power WhiteHouse.gov, Drupal has been thrust into the spotlight even more. Its merits of a content management system have already been heralded, but as Drupal matures, people are starting to understand its power even more, and use it for non-CMS uses, such as the recently featured site on Drupal.org, GoTwitr.com. This begs the questions: is Drupal turning into a framework? Is it one already? Should it be?

Drupal as a CMS

Drupal was born as a CMS, and it would be a sad day if it gave up on those roots. This isn’t predicted to happen, at least anytime soon. In fact, there has been plenty of work on the user interface in Drupal 7, including extensive UI testing and bringing in UI designers from outside the community to revamp and simplify the administration and content editing experience in Drupal 7. And while there’s still an amount of configuration needed to get Drupal running well and tuned to be fast, it’s still an out of the box solution that has near-immediate usability as a CMS.

Drupal as a Framework

There are some that would argue that Drupal is already a framework. There are currently over 4500 modules listed on Drupal.org, all of which extend functionality. If none of those fill the need that you have, the hooks system in Drupal makes extending Drupal nearly as easy as it is to write within a framework like CakePHP or CodeIgniter. You have all of the social media that’s available, with Facebook and Twitter integration, along with even newer technologies. You have APIs, content syndication, content aggregation, and of course, unique features to every site. The fact of the matter is that while content is king, there are so few large sites out there these days that fit strictly under “Content Management”. All of these are ways to incorporate users into the website, not just make them someone looking from the outside. If content is king on the web, the user is its queen. The future of the website is to not simply involve the user with its content, it is to integrate the user with its content.

Both – It’s a good thing no matter what people say.

The future of the CMS as a concept in general is to be a framework. This doesn’t mean that you have to lose the CMS in the process; if anything, having a good framework with a built-in CMS is only going to make Drupal more appealing to developers, while keeping site administrators happy. While there has been a growing faction in the Drupal community that would like to make the core even smaller (Drupal is smaller than an MP3 file as it is right now), there is a clear benefit to the promotion of Drupal as a whole for having a CMS out of the box, even if there is still significant configuration involved for customized configurations. By keeping the CMS focus while developing Drupal as a framework, we will be able to introduce people to the simplicity of Drupal as a CMS, and let them grow into the functionality that a framework brings.

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Published On: Nov 16, 2009