DrupalCon Portland ‘24 seemed to fly by, but its impact was so profound and memorable that every Drupal community member will remember this for a long, long time.

Last week, Specbee proudly sponsored and hosted a booth at DrupalCon Portland '24. Our VP of Sales and Marketing, Jim Barnthouse, and Head of Operations, Michael Weaver, attended. Before Michael left, he asked if I had any questions for Dries (if he got a chance to talk to him, which he did by the way). I had a question about the future of Drupal. I wanted to know how Drupal plans to compete with other competitors like WordPress, Adobe Experience Manager, and Sitecore. As it turned out, Dries already had everything figured out! And in his Driesnote, he dropped the announcement of the Drupal Starshot initiative.

 

While watching Driesnote, I was fascinated by the fact that Drupal predates a lot of prominent applications like Safari, Instagram, & WordPress. This makes Drupal special since it has been around for a whopping 23 years. But the innovation has never stopped. From the adoption of Symfony components to build Drupal 8 to supporting OpenAI within months of its release. This constant strive for innovation makes Drupal a great CMS. All thanks to the contributions and efforts of thousands of dedicated people, making Drupal better every day.

What is Drupal Starshot?

Since its inception, Drupal has been pitched as a CMS that can build web applications using various core components and contributed modules. Often while building a Drupal website, we need various features like setting up patterns for clean URLs for the contents, adding meta information, spam protection, a form-building UI, etc. The Drupal Starshot initiative aims to be the new default Drupal installer (maybe called as “Drupal CMS”) that will include these various common features packaged in it incorporating the best-used contributed projects and best practices. Apart from this, Starshot is also built on top of recent new Drupal initiatives like Project Browser, Automatic Updates & Recipes for faster innovation and execution.

Drupal Starshot will introduce a new version of Drupal with great out-of-the-box experience. This doesn’t mean that Starshot will replace Drupal Core. The traditional Drupal core will still exist as it is for people to use and build applications with it. However, the “Drupal CMS” will be the recommended downloadable option over the traditional Drupal core to get started.

Do we need Drupal Starshot?

Drupal core provides a solid foundation for building a high-performance and innovative website. However, there is a steep learning curve when it comes to building a website using only Drupal Core. It often becomes overwhelming for new developers to get started because of the lack of certain general and common features in the strong foundational Drupal core. This significantly reduces the adoption and appeal of Drupal among beginners. Though this factor improves as people progress in the game and become more proficient, they learn how to leverage the different contributed modules and best practices to build a website using it. But still, this remains a downside factor for Drupal for new people coming in; the adoption and ease of use.

To keep up with the highly competitive market of growing CMSes Drupal has to grow to compete with them. This is where the Drupal Starshot initiative comes in that aims to ensure that a strong foundational Drupal core, combined with the refined common features with contributed projects, utilizing the best practices in the industry and new innovative initiatives, is easy to use out-of-the-box and make a lasting first impression on people who are trying it out for the first time.

Drupal Starshot Highlights

A recommended Drupal CMS

The recommended option to get started with the “Drupal CMS” will come packaged with default and pre-configured modules and configuration for basic setup of functionalities. This can include:

  • Drupal SEO functionalities like Pathauto for pretty URLs of contents, Metatag to add meta information for pages, and XML Sitemaps
  • Content authoring features like the Linkit module that provides an autocomplete interface for internal and external linking in rich-text editors
  • Content schedulers to schedule publishing and unpublished contents
  • Improving the authoring experience by adding Simple Add More or Type Tray
  • A further improved administrative theme like Gin
  • Spam protection using Honeypot or ReCaptcha

These modules can highly improve the out-of-the-box experience of a user to start building websites using Drupal. This significantly decreases the development time and cost to launch a Drupal website.

Not another Drupal distribution

Starshot is NOT another Drupal distribution or an installation profile. Although Drupal distributions are a great starting point for building a Drupal website for a purpose, there were certain challenges that came along with it. For example, they are difficult to keep updated, can’t be removed easily, and cannot be added after starting your project. To overcome this, the Drupal Recipes initiative was introduced to developers & site builders to incorporate Drupal functionality from predefined packages quickly and easily that can be added at any point of a project lifecycle.

Starshot will be built using Recipes that provide more flexibility and robustness to the Drupal CMS including various functionalities using contributed projects. Using recipes doesn’t lock you in like a distribution does. So, users will have the liberty to choose and include the functionalities that are required for a project.

Experience Builder

The “Experience Builder” is the new initiative to further enhance the page-building capabilities of Drupal replacing the Layout Builder page builder. The out-of-the-box experience of the page builder that Drupal core provides that is the Layout Builder lacks heavily in the authoring experience. Though it can be improved, it requires several modules and tweaks to make it user-friendly. This poses a huge bottleneck for the adoption of Drupal. The new Experience Builder addresses this issue by stitching in the best of Layout Builder, Paragraphs, In-Browser theming & SDC (Single Directory Component) with a JavaScript framework like React to provide a seamless experience for authors and site builders to build landing pages.

Future of Drupal

With the announcement of Starshot, Drupal cements its place to compete with the big names in the marketplace, making it easy to adopt and build beautiful web applications. This is definitely a big initiative that will change the paradigm of how Drupal is being seen and utilized. Since Starshot is not tied to the Drupal core release cycle it opens up opportunities for faster innovation and new features incorporating contributed projects to release more often.

New to Drupal? Check out this article to help you decode some of the Drupal jargon we have used in this article (like recipes, distributions, SDC).

Final Thoughts

Dries made a great point in his Driesnote: if we want to be a part of the web race, which is going to happen anyway with or without Drupal, we need our Moonshot moment. And that moment is now. Drupal needs your help in bringing this initiative to life. Specbee has pledged to contribute to the Starshot initiative as much as possible to reach its goal. You can do so too by taking the Starshot pledge here.

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