What is DrupalCon North America?

Celebrating the open-source Drupal content management system, DrupalCon North America is a highly anticipated annual event that brings thousands of Drupal developers and users together to network, learn, collaborate, and create improvements to the Drupal platform. While targeted primarily towards cutting-edge learning for developers, DrupalCon offers something for everyone to ensure that no one leaves the event without a new perspective.

This year, the conference went virtual and included an exhibition hall, live sessions, booth open hours, and the famed Driesnote. In addition to its focus on education, DrupalCon offered various virtual events including trivia, and our own Northern virtual hockey game — bringing the Drupal community together.

Why we attend DrupalCon as an agency that builds digital experiences with Drupal

Last year, Northern Commerce merged with Drupal development agency, Digital Echidna, who had a long-standing history of attending Drupal events — with DrupalCon being the most elaborate and anticipated event of the year. Digital Echidna has been deeply involved in the Drupal community through its developer contributions to Drupal’s core code, updates to outdated modules, the creation of new modules, and its participation in multiple expert presentations at Drupal events across North America.

This year, as a combined agency with Digital Echidna, Northern contributed as a 2021 DrupalCon Gold-Level Sponsor to further its efforts and ongoing commitment to the Drupal Association. Several of our team members from various departments attended the conference virtually — for some, this was their first time diving into the Drupal community.

As many of our team members attended DrupalCon to learn, many also attended to teach. This year, our team presented on various topics, some highly technical and others related to mentorship, digital marketing, and writing for the web.

What's new in Drupal this year?

Drupal 9 launched nearly a year ago, and since then many Drupal contributors have been working on upgrading modules, creating new themes, and updating companion programs. In the Driesnote at DrupalCon, founder Dries Buytaert mentioned some of the recent achievements and provided an overview of what the community is currently working on:

  • The Claro admin theme and the Olivero front-end theme have been added to beta.
  • PHP 8, Symfony 5, Composer 2, and Upgrade Status are ready for Drupal 9, with Symfony 6, CKEditor 5, and jQuery UI removal already in progress.

What's next for Drupal?

Although the conference-gone-virtual may have looked a little different this year, there remains a strong enthusiasm for the community that continues to move the content management system forward. Drupal has always been about developing better and more robust solutions that facilitate incredible experiences, and our team looks forward to making transformational digital experiences with Drupal 9 and 10.

  • Drupal 8 end of life will occur in Q4 of 2021, as the upgrade from 8 to 9 is much easier than previous version upgrades due to backward compatibility.
  • The Automatic Updates module is a Strategic Initiative by the Drupal Project, which is in process for Drupal 9; this will include a readiness check API and a more secure signature verification tool.
  • A larger focus on the site builder role. Site builders can install and configure modules, primarily through the Drupal administrative interface. They are less technical folk and love Drupal because they can create ambitious solutions with minimal code.
  • Dries’ Project Browser solution seeks “to enable new site builders to discover and install modules from within Drupal. It would allow for instant, seamless discovery and experimentation,” in just a few clicks.
  • The Drupal 10 timeline: It’s anticipated that Drupal 10 will be ready for release in mid-2022. For many, it may seem like a very quick major release window, given previous version releases were four or five years apart. For example, Drupal 8 was released in 2015 and Drupal 9 was released in 2020. Work is starting on Drupal 9.3, and now is the best time for developers to start working on improvements for Drupal 10.