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What is Drupal 9? Who is it for?

2020-09-21

Drupal 9 is set to be released on June 3 of 2020. This new release is definitely exciting, but it’s also a little bittersweet, as it signals the fact that end-of-life (or EOL) is near for Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. Both are scheduled for EOL in November of 2021.

Are you ready for this new update, or are you unsure of whether or not you need to worry about updating? Either way, read on to learn everything you need to know about Drupal 9, as well as how to get ready for its release.

What Is Drupal 9?

According to the official Drupal website (Drupal.org), Drupal 9 will, at its core, be a slightly better, cleaned-up version of Drupal 8. It will be similar to the latest Drupal 8 minor version, but with deprecated code removed and some updates to third-party dependencies.

The newest version of Drupal might not seem particularly groundbreaking at first. It is still interesting, though, as this release is the first time that a large part of the platform hasn’t been reinvented in a major way.

The release of Drupal 9 is the first iteration of a new release model for the Drupal development team. Instead of being a significant reinvention of the platform, Drupal 9 is going to be built upon the existing architecture.

After the initial release in June, minor updates will be rolled out every six months. The first iteration of Drupal 9 plus its planned updates are all geared toward making the CMS easier to use (after users get over the initial learning curve, of course).

What Is the Difference Between Drupal 8 and 9?

You know already that Drupal 8 and 9 are going to be similar to each other. That doesn’t mean that there’s no need to update to Drupal 9, though, as there are some important distinctions between them.

The following are some of the most noteworthy differences you ought to keep in mind to prepare for the introduction of Drupal 9:

Backward Compatibility

In the past, whenever a new version of Drupal was launched, there was a significant amount of disruption throughout the community. This had to do, in part, with the fact that new versions of Drupal didn’t come with a guarantee of backward compatibility with the previous version.

As a result, updating was very inconvenient. It came with the need to use a migration module to help move data and content over from the old version to the new one. You also had to check that all of your modules were supported by the new update and go through source files to track down deprecated code that required updating. It was a long process and a lot to deal with, and many developers found themselves dreading the release of new Drupal versions as a result.

One of the best things about Drupal 9 is that it takes a lot of the irritating parts of an update out of the equation. You won’t have to worry so much this time about modules becoming outdated or lagging behind for a long time.

This is because of the fact that the main draw of Drupal 9 is its backward compatibility. From day one, it will work with Drupal 8. All Drupal 8 components will continue to work with Drupal 9. You won’t have to dedicate tons of time to updating modules or worry about other aspects of your website (or your clients’ websites) failing to work properly.

The lack of functionality changes right out of the gate might seem a bit anticlimactic at first. This really is a sign of a major revolution in the Drupal sphere, though. The fact that the release of a new version doesn’t create chaos and allows for a smoother transition is definitely worth celebrating.

The Arrival of Symfony 4/5 and Twig 2.0

There are plenty of other noteworthy differences between Drupal 8 and 9, too. For example, Drupal 9 will ship with support for the newer versions of PHP libraries. This includes Symfony and Twig.

You’ll see updates to these libraries when you switch to Drupal 8 and 9, but the transition will be a smooth one. The older versions of Symfony and Twig are set to go end-of-life in the near future, so it makes sense that Drupal will need to roll out some new and improved options.

Compatibility of Contributed Modules

With the release of Drupal 9, the experts say that contributed modules will be compatible with both Drupal 8 and 9 at the same time.

Historically, one of the biggest roadblocks that developers have to face when updating to the newest version of Drupal is dealing with a lack of compatibility between these models. You won’t have to worry about this with Drupal 9, though.

As long as you stick to your current update routine and make sure to remove deprecated code, you won’t have any trouble with the update to Drupal 9. Both contributed and custom modules from Drupal 8 will continue to be compatible with Drupal 9.

No Deprecated Code

Upon first hearing that Drupal 9 will be very similar to Drupal 8, just without the deprecated code, some developers might roll their eyes or find themselves wondering what the big deal is about the launch. It’s important to note, though, that this is a major advantage, even if it’s not the flashiest of updates.

As you likely noticed with Drupal 8’s model of continuous innovation, the new features kept piling up faster than many developers could handle them. As a result, certain code automatically deprecated and was left behind to slow things down and have the potential to cause other problems.

With Drupal 9, all of this deprecated code will be cleaned up. This, in turn, will lead to better overall performance and a more efficient CMS.

Updated Third-Party Dependencies

Finally, Drupal 9 will make use of updated third-party dependencies. This, like the removal of deprecated code, will allow for a more efficient CMS and better overall website performance.

Who Should Update to Drupal 9?

The short answer to this question is “everyone.” Basically, there’s no reason not to go ahead and upgrade from Drupal 8 (or whichever version of Drupal you’re currently using) to Drupal 9. The most recent Drupal 8 release will be supported with security updates for a little while longer (until November of 2021), so you don’t have to rush to update the day Drupal 9 is released. The sooner you do it, though, the better.

The release of Drupal 9 is different from other Drupal releases, in part, because of the lack of an LTS (Long Term Support) program. You may remember that when Drupal 6 reached its EOL, the LTS program allowed people to continue using it. An LTS program for Drupal 7 is in the works, but there are no plans for such a program for Drupal 8. This has to do, in part, with the fact that they upgrade path from version 8 to version 9 is so much easier than it has been in the past.

So, what happens if you don’t update to Drupal 9? You’ll be on your own to figure out security updates, maintenance issues, and bug fixes for your website’s Drupal 8 code. At first, you might assume that you’re up for the challenge. Think about how time-consuming and expensive it’ll be the longer it goes on, though. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to just go ahead and do the upgrade?

Should You Switch from WordPress to Drupal 9?

If you’re currently using WordPress as your CMS of choice but have been interested in switching over to Drupal, June of this year might be a good time to do so, as it will allow you to take advantage of the latest version.

It’s important to note that moving over to Drupal from WordPress will provide something of a culture shock right out of the gate. After all, WordPress is known for being more user-friendly than Drupal and a better fit for new developers.

If you really want to level up your development knowledge, though, it’s in your best interest to learn to use Drupal rather than sticking with WordPress long-term. Drupal provides more opportunities for customization than WordPress as well as better security features.

Changing to Drupal when the release of version 9 comes out, though, can be a good option for folks using WordPress. This is because, moving forward, the update process for Drupal will be a lot like the update process for WordPress. As a result, it’ll be easier for developers to handle, and they won’t have to do quite as much heavy lifting in the future.

How to Prepare for Drupal 9

Because Drupal 9 is not going to look that different from Drupal 8 (or another version of Drupal), it might be tempting to assume that you don’t need to do any prep work to get ready for it. There are still some steps you ought to take to prepare for this new release, though.

It’s true that both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 will offer support until 2021. You don’t have to rush to get ready for version 9. You shouldn’t wait until the last minute, either, though. This is especially true if you’re using Drupal 7 and need to update to Drupal 8 so you can eventually be ready for version 9.

As we’ve mentioned already, previous Drupal updates took a lot of time and effort. Switching from 7 to 8 will be time-consuming, so it’s beneficial to give yourself plenty of space to get it done without feeling like you have to rush to get ready for version 9.

If you’re already using Drupal 8, you don’t have to do as much work to get ready for the update. You should take the following steps, though, to ensure you have the smoothest transition possible:

  • Update to the most recent minor version of Drupal
  • Keep up with additional minor updates as they’re released
  • Keep all of your modules updated
  • Check your website (or websites) on a regular basis for deprecated code

There are lots of tools you can use to handle this last step. Drupal-check is a popular one that does a good job of detecting errors with deprecated code, classes, and other elements of your CMS.

How to Update to Drupal 9

Once you’ve taken all the steps outlined above, the process of updating to Drupal 9 will be a lot easier. This will especially be the case if you’re going to be updating from Drupal 8.8 or an even later version.

If this is the case, you’ll want to update all of your modules and themes. You should double-check the compatibility of all your projects, too, using a tool like Upgrade Status.

Cooperate with module maintainers during this phase and offer to help wherever you can to make sure all your updates happen on time and in the proper way. It’s a good idea to check each module’s project pages for Drupal 9 plans, too. Most key modules have provided them.

If you have any custom code or themes for your website, check that none of the code for them has deprecated. If it has, take care of it before updating to Drupal 9. This will make the update much smoother.

When you’ve determined that every other component of your website is compatible with Drupal 9, all you’ll have to do is update the core codebase and then run update.php.

Update to Drupal 9 Today

Now that you know more about Drupal 9 and what to expect when it’s released, it’s time to start preparing for an update. Keep the information outlined above in mind so you can make the update process as simple as possible and start enjoying Drupal 9 sooner.

Do you want to learn more about Drupal or any other web development news? If so, check out some of the other resources on our site today.