Blog/ Is Drupal Dying?

Two weeks back, I was over at eBay when one of the product managers we work with interjected "I will be really sad if 3 years from now, you are still stuck in Drupal."

As a company, we do have plans and ambition of expanding to other technologies. But was such an extreme statement warranted? The first question that came to my mind is what's so wrong with Drupal? "It's so 20th century!" was his response. He continued "You guys should look into forward-looking technologies such as node.js." For me, technology is just a means to an end and in my experience, if a solution is fit to be developed in Drupal, it will take at least 2 to 3 times more time and money to be developed in node.js. So why not Drupal? His answer taught me a few things about business:

  • VP doesn't really know which technology is better. They have to demonstrate within eBay that their department did something cool with a technology that is hot. And node.js is hot right now.
  • It's much easier to find node.js developers who are willing to work on-site than drupal developers. So from long-term maintenance perspective, it makes sense to go with node.js.

He added that Drupal is going down in Google Trends. And sure enough, here is the graph. According to Google Trends, 2009 was the peak for interest in Drupal and then it has steadily gone down.

At this point of time, I was left wondering whether Drupal is indeed dying. As of now, I don't have an answer to it but here are some of my observations:

  • I am seeing more clients considering switching from Drupal to Wordpress than the other way around (although my observation here could be biased since we only deal with Drupal clients so we'll only know if they are thinking of switching from Drupal to Wordpress, not the other way around).
  • Some of you may argue that people are waiting for Drupal 8, but the Google Trends graph is showing down-trend since 2009 so it's way before Drupal 8.
  • It's possible that Drupal is becoming more of an enterprise CMS so a lot of small and medium sized businesses are not opting for it. This is probably true. Among large corporations, I have seen IT supporting Drupal way more than IT supporting Wordpress but again, I could be biased here because we work with Drupal only.
  • If Drupal is indeed dying, what will it be replaced with? Certainly not node.js. Is Wordpress good enough now?
  • Will Drupal 8 revive Drupal and make it hot again? I doubt it. Momentum is not in its favor.

I know that I am leaving this post in an ambiguous state because frankly, I don't have an answer myself. Let me know you thoughts by sharing them in comments below.


By Vensires (not verified) Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 13:27 Permalink

"Drupal is dying" reminded me of the "PHP is dying" motto we all have heard! Don't forget that Drupal is based on PHP and according to the Google Trends ( ) PHP also has a constantly decreasing trend much before 2009! So well "Drupal is dying" stands relatively to the "PHP is dying" phrase?

Drupal is based on PHP and PHP works exactly like this: Load the script, execute it, die! A script (even if it's a whole CMS or CMF) actually dies only when people stop building things with it. Drupal's most great advantage is its community. If the core developers stop developing code for Drupal, another team from the community will take their place. If this wasn't the case, then nor Backdrop CMS would ever reach the public, nor any of Drupal's distributions.

I would also dare to get it the other way round. Maybe it is the way this project manager thinks that is close to die. If a Web Development company always follows the trends and embraces every new technology the day it gets public "because it's hot right now", then this company will never be perfect at anything. Just remember the whole browser-war; Chrome was promoted as very light and fast; Firefox was promoted as open source, stable and full of add-ons; Internet Explorer was... just shipped with Windows; Opera had very good and stable features (e.g. tabbed browsing, mouse gestures, even built-in web server) but didn't do anything so exceptionally well! And that's a reason why Opera stayed always back as a not so famous browser. The same goes for a very good and stable company which doesn't do anything exceptionally well though.

As long as sites like Facebook are built, then PHP won't die. As long as modern sites like this one are built, then Drupal won't die.

By Netsensei (not verified) Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 15:43 Permalink

Have you checked the latest Driesnote (Dries' keynote @ Drupalcon Barcelona)? He explains the steady decline of Drupal adoption in the past years.

As soon as a new version of a product is announced, adoption of the current stable version slows down noticeably. As soon as the new version is released, adoption spikes. This is called: the Osborne effect. At this point, Drupal 8 has been almost 5 years in the works since it's announcement. That's noticeably longer then previous major releases. Over the last 3 years, everybody was expecting a release of D8 right around the corner: no wonder adoption has slowed down. Dries does expect a major uptake of adoption as soon as D8 gets released.

Dries' rightly notes that 5 years waiting between two major versions all the while with an unpredictable release date should be avoided in the future. That's why the floor is open to talk about how core is developed at this point.

Furthermore, you are right to think of Drupal as just a means to an end. It's what business value software generates that counts. Be it Drupal or Node, if it gets the job done: why not? Moreover, what does "stuck" mean? Drupal in itself is a rich ecosystem with tons of aspects in front/back-end to explore to fill a life time. I don't think you can get "stuck" in Drupal. You might get "stuck" in a specific job, working with specific clients or use cases if you don't feel like you get the opportunity to learn new things, techniques, etc. That doesn't mean that you should "move up" or anything like that, it means that you should keep yourself challenged enough in your day job.

I agree that adoption of a software slows down as long as a new version is announced. But the Google Trends graph shows a steady decline since 2009. If what you and Dries mentioned is correct, then I should be able to see increase in Google Trends immediately after Drupal 7 released. Unfortunately, I am not seeing that.

By David Corbacho (not verified) Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 17:43 Permalink

It's a bit alarming to see people choosing frameworks based on Google Trends.

Drupal used to be more a site-builder friendly tool.. and it has shift to be an enterprise framework. It's normal that the global number of searches went down, since Drupal 7.

Whatsapp is based on Earlang.
Check its popularity on search.

nodejs is built with JavaScript, according to Google Trends, JavaScript has been dying for long time. Are you sure you want to base your development in a non-trendy language?…

See what I mean?

If you want to see if Drupal is used out there, check the "usage" graphs:

It's funny that Ruby was the hipster language + framework that was going to kill Drupal some years ago. Now is nodejs, what's next ? I don't care. I love JavaScript, and I'm always open to new frameworks. But Drupal is a stable secure framework that delivers solutions today. It's incredible the people behind the community, and we are always willing to adapt to whatever the market demands. Drupal hosting is better than ever (try to find nodejs hosting), etc..

By Pedro Rocha (not verified) Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 18:03 Permalink

We are in the middle of a called "php renaissance", when PHP, that already powers a huge part of the web, has been improving in a large pace for quite some time, with many improvements to come(PHP 7).

Drupal 8 is coming as an out-of-box solution for API based content management, the decoupled systems, a trend much bigger than Drupal and PHP, being present in minds of any team that needs to develop complex systems with multiple client interfaces(mobile, web, TV, mashups, etc). Having deployed a Drupal 8 migration and maintaining a site on it now, after years of experience with Drupal 6 and 7, i'm surprised of how much great stuff is available for developers on the 8 version, specially about we getting off the island now, opening huge possibilities with Composer and all PHP packages out there.

In summary... a language in exponential growth, PHP, with more good developers(as the language becomes better, more people can rely on it for projects that demands software development best practices like design patterns, etc), with a content management framework that is ahead of it's competitors when it comes to match web development trends(while keeping itself as a platform, not a language or base framework like NodeJS, Rails, etc - they are not a platform), that also have a huge community with awesome developers. If this is what you mean by dying, so probably it is.

By Jamie (not verified) Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 08:13 Permalink

One of the things I would caution against with Google Trends is that it also factors in other things, like news-worthyness. Look at the really big hump in that timeframe. That's the time that moved to Drupal, as well as a lot of other government sites in the US as well as around the world. It became the time when Drupal really started getting a lot more attention. If you check actual trackers, like BuiltWith, Drupal has seen a decent uptick over the past year.

I believe once Drupal 8 is out there for a bit we might get another uptick. WYSIWYG being in core will be a big help. People doing that Fantastico style installers will find it easier to install and start writing stuff right away. Still, Drupal is a far way off for the average person just starting out to really be able to expand and use it. The learning curve will always be steep given the sheer power of Drupal, and that will keep Drupal more on the enterprise end of things. I honestly have no problem with that, as that is my bread and butter.

For other technologies, like NodeJS, I really don't see it replacing a CMS like Drupal. But as someone who has done enterprise level NodeJS development for clients, I will call it an amazing accompaniment to Drupal. If you got a high usage site that needs to track things like article views, screw using Drupal's module. You can handle something more robust with minimal coding in Node and have a performance boost like you never seen. It's one of those situations where you use the proper tool for the job.

Thank you for your comments. I had no idea that Google Trends shows news-worthiness in addition to the number of online searches. So that does make the uptick in 2009 understandable but then why is it going down steadily, especially if you are seeing increase in the number using BuiltWith?

By Julia (not verified) Monday, October 5, 2015 - 21:06 Permalink

I cannot agree that Drupal i dying, though, there are deffinately alternative online solutions worth giving them a try more than this one.. I recently migrated from Drupal to WordPress and totally satisfied with this move. I ued the cms2cmss converter, so that the switch was completely automated and quick. The thing that left for spending time and money is the deign, had to make it from scratch.

By hackYa (not verified) Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 04:02 Permalink

This is so sad. I hope Drupal is not dying. But honestly, I see more & more developers dealing with SMBs switching over to WordPress.

I can't even fathom how I would build SPA's for SMBs using Drupal without having to spend 6 months building the app.

With WordPress, you can be half asleep and build any mobile app. Not in a mood to develop one? Just buy one. Dime a dozen.

Angular.js, node.js, react.js, ionic framework, whatever integration you need, WordPress has it all, cheap.

If you are still in Drupal camp, it won't be easy to switch over. It wasn't easy when I made the move 5 years ago. IMHO, you are certainly better off staying with Drupal now.

This is why I feel so sad. I hope Drupal remains a viable CMS in the future; at least long enough to support Drupal developers until they retire.

However, the way things are going with Drupal these days, I am highly pessimistic. Drupal is like a dinosaur not nimble enough to adopt to rapidly changing environment.

So sad indeed.

By Drupal User (not verified) Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 00:36 Permalink

After that we have everything working under Drupal 7, Drupal 8 is coming with all the OOP complexity in every corner. Sorry, I will wait 2 years until others make the learning, write sample codes, develop contrib modules and then I might switch to it, under the condition that it becomes faster (currently monster CODENAME 8 is 3x times slower than Drupal 7).

Yesterday I examined some Drupal 8 code .. reading blah blah :: (UserInterface $user) :: -> ridiculous complexity.

I personally think Drupal had it's days.

I remember when Drupal was quite popular and was the in-thing. WordPress was so so simple back then and Drupal was 'the' complete solution. Years went by a WordPress transformed to an all-in-one solution, whilst Drupal maintained it's elite complexity. Naturally WordPress exploided in popularity as people wanted simplicity.

As a web designer, I felt Drupal was too complex and even the support was limited. I won't get started on the Drupal community. Nothing was simple, and I felt I needed quite a bit of work to do the simplest of things. In the end I gave up like millions of others. I read 3 books, went to the DrupalCon in Paris and then I discovered WordPress and it was like a breath of fresh air.

The first mistake Drupal made was using names like node.js or taxonamies. It's not user friendly and the CMS simply isn't made to be understood easily. I wouldn't dream of giving it another chance. Drupal in my opinion is dead or at least dying. I can't imagine 'small' to 'mid' size businesses asking for a Drupal site anymore. I would imagine it would only be the very big corporations, and the work would be limited.

By Anonymous Coward (not verified) Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 23:33 Permalink

I have been to every DrupalCon since SF and when I got involved, the sated goal was to power as much as the web with Drupal as possible. This emphases has clearly shifted to focusing on the enterprise. This obviously grants medium and larger shops access to projects with large budgets. Unfortunately, it leaves many, many qualified Drupal developers out in the cold. There is simply not as much work as there used to be. There is no way a small team; even when they possess superior Drupal knowledge could manage a multi-million dollar build, even if they could win the contact.

I gave Drupal everything I had for eight years and I kinda felt like it sailed away leaving me in the cold. I could join a large shop and probably be quite happy (and well paid), or I can learn a new framework. Neither of which I am excited about doing. It's what we did to the folks who could write their own CMS and now it's come full circle.

The drop is always moving; and it has moved away from the many folks, like myself, who want to work independently building quality small- to medium-sized sites.

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