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Drupal 9 is coming: what does this mean for you?

Since the announcement was made that Drupal 9 is expected in 2020, two important question may have come up if you have a Drupal website. The first question is 'What does the launch of Drupal 9 mean for my Drupal website?' And the second question is whether an existing Drupal 7 website should be upgraded via Drupal 8 or straight to Drupal 9. We will be answering both those questions in this two-part article, as well as giving you a number of tools for deciding what the best choice is in your specific situation and for your Drupal website.

Pascal van Bergen | 12 jun 2019

What Drupal is, in a nutshell

We have been using the Drupal framework for creating websites, portals and web applications since 2006. Thanks to the wide range of modules available for Drupal, you can combine, configure and complement them in countless ways, making new functionalities and applications possible. Drupal is open-source software, which means that it is free and no licence is required. And thanks to Drupal’s large and active community and the security team, Drupal is exceptionally secure and up to date, which protects you against security leaks, hackers and other risks. This applies to Drupal 7, Drupal 8 and the planned Drupal 9.

The Drupal 9 launch: what can you expect?

Support for Drupal 7 and 8 will end

Drupal 9 will probably be released in 2020. One year later – in November 2021 to be precise – the Drupal Community will stop supporting Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. At this time, it appears that security updates will still be offered for Drupal 7 by third parties after this date. It is however not known what the costs of this support for old Drupal versions will be, nor which parties will be offering it or the period for which such support will be available. This therefore leads to uncertainty. Things may possibly become clearer around the time that Drupal 9 is launched.

Migration to Drupal 9 is a small step

The good news is that the transition from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 will be small. This has been different in the past, when a new Drupal version brought major changes so that an upgrade effectively meant rebuilding the website. This was due to the fact that during the lifetime of Drupal 7, for example, no major functional changes were implemented in Drupal 7 and no major features were added. Because technological advances were continuing unabated, substantial changes were needed in Drupal 8. In Drupal 8, though, it was decided to keep including new technological developments and features in the so-called ‘point releases’, e.g. from version 8.0 to 8.1. The result is that Drupal 8.7 has a lot more functionalities than Drupal 8.0, for instance.

The new functionalities that have been added were however often not entirely new, but instead wholly or partly replaced an existing technology. In Drupal 8, the old alternatives were not removed immediately in the next point release. In Drupal 9, however, all the old technologies that have been replaced in the meantime will be removed. Other than that, Drupal 9 will in principle be that same as the final point release of Drupal 8 in functional terms.

During development in Drupal 8, it is therefore important to always use the new functionalities provided with every 'point' release, and to discontinue the use of the old methods. If you do this and maintain the website properly, then Drupal 9.0 should only be a small step from the final version of Drupal 8 – in fact not much bigger than for instance from Drupal 8.7 to Drupal 8.8.

So when should you upgrade your Drupal website to Drupal 9?

If you’re already on Drupal 8 and your website has been properly maintained, you will be able to move smoothly onto Drupal 9.

But if you have a Drupal 7 website, the moment when you will have to consider an upgrade is fast approaching. You have two choices here: switching to Drupal 8 now and then progressing to Drupal 9 with just minor changes once Drupal 9 is released, or waiting until Drupal 9 appears and making the switch in one go. There are various considerations that this choice will be based on. We will talk about them in more detail in the next article.

>> Should I upgrade my Drupal 7 website to Drupal 8 or wait for Drupal 9?

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