The Open Source CMS that Revolutionized the World
Acquia HQ and the Mayor of Boston
You may have already heard of Drupal, but for those who don't know, Drupal is an open source Content Management System. However, you might not know the history behind Drupal and the connection that it has with the SaaS company, Acquia. Well, in this blog post, I’m going to tell you the history behind the biggest open source Content Management System and the role it played in the founding of Acquia.
Dries Buytaert in his student days. Photo credit.
It all started in the year 2000 when Dries Buytaert and Hans Snijder, which at the time were students at the University of Antwerp, needed an internet connection, which was quite seldom found back in the days. This resulted in them both building a wireless bridge between their dorms. On top of that, they had a need for a place to also talk. This led Dries Buytaert to start a small news website with a chat board for him and his friends to be able to meet, publish and share the news.
The software that was built in the process remained unnamed until Dries had graduated. However, after his graduation, he put the website online, because he wanted to stay in touch with his friends. He originally wanted to name the domain to dorp.org. The word "dorp" translates to "village" in dutch. However, Dries had misspelled the word "dorp" to "drop" and he chose to leave it like that. After a while, the website began to attract new members that would discuss topics on new technologies and ideas.
In January of 2001, Dries had decided that he wanted to release the software at the core of the website, for other people to be able to use it. So, it started as an open source project. The name of the software was derived from the English pronunciation of the Dutch word “Druppel”, which means “drop”. On top of that, the software was in need of a logo. For this task, Kristjan Jansen and Steven Wittens had stylized a water droplet with eyes, curved nose and a smile.
Video showing one of the earliest Drupal Camps, New York City 2006. Unmute (bottom left) this video to get the full experience.
The first release version was Drupal 1.0, which was built using Slash, a modular CMS, and Scoop. It was released on the 15th of January 2001. At first, there were 18 core modules, which were basically a set of PHP files containing a set of routines. Everything was accessed through PHP files due to the lack of a menu. On top of that, at first, the code had to be put into one of the seven hooks of the modules. The system was built from the beginning to be modular. This lets people adapt their websites to their needs. The system is depending on SQL in order to manage and change layout, themes and content.
Just after two months on the 15th March 2001 Drupal 2.0 was released. This version added a translation feature that made it possible for users to translate their website into another language. On top of that, it also provided a framework that supported multilingual websites. It had 22 core modules and added user ratings and sections for stories.
On 15th September 2001, Drupal 3.0 was released. The primary difference between this version and its predecessors is that it used nodes instead of pages. Meaning that every form of content was managed by a node from the node module. On top of that, this version reached 26 core modules.
Video showing Drupal 4 with the (in)famous book module.
It was released on the 15th of June 2002. At this point, there were already 100 websites that were operating on Drupal. This made Drupal truly an international open source project. A notable addition to this version was the taxonomy module which replaces the attributes and meta tags. On later versions, there were added a lot of new modules including the e-commerce module and the support for a profile module or theme template that facilitated an early version of the What You See Is What You Get. Right now, Drupal was starting to look like a truly enterprise CMS.
The 6.0 version was released on 13th February 2008. One major step for Drupal was that the Whitehouse has adopted Drupal as their website managing CMS. One notable improvement was the rewriting of the menu system from scratch, which makes it a lot easier to use. On top of that, users were now able to drag-and-drop a number of features such a blocks and taxonomy vocabularies and terms. Moreover, the language system was modified so it could handle right-to-left languages. Security was also improved by providing an Update Status module that automatically checks for new updates.
Video showing Drupal 7 and its clear improvements in user experience
It was released on the 5th of January 2011. Drupal was used to build simple blogs and websites of large corporations, essentially becoming trustworthy worldwide. This version of Drupal also had a couple of improvements. First of all, nodes were no longer dependent on modules, as they could interact with any node at runtime, meaning that everything became an independent entity. On top of that, this version added a queue API and an improved jQuery usage. This made it possible for everything to be associated with web apps.
The current version of the CMS was officially released on 15th November 2015. The previous generations did manage to accomplish a big deal, however, this version is sure to bring even bigger changes. Drupal 8 was a complete rewrite of Drupal 7, this time based on a PHP framework called Symfony. Notable new features that were added are enhanced multilingual features, Views in core, a new level of web accessibility, improved theming with Twig, modern PHP, Symfony and OOP (Object Oriented Programming) adoption amongst others. Another notable feature is the new in-line editing. However, not as powerful and intuitive as our own in-line editing tool, Glazed Builder, which is based on Drupal. Here you can try our more elaborate inline editing experience for free!
Glazed Builder: Our Drupal UX add-on solution
While Drupal made strides in improving its core components' user experience, Sooperthemes created a commercial add-on solution that takes Drupal to the next level. With our 10+ years experience in Drupal theming, we decided to concentrate our resources on developing a new Drupal experience for authors, marketers, and site builders. Here is a short demo of what our our Glazed Builder product can add to your Drupal website:
Video showing our Drupal UX solution Glazed Builder. This blog post was also created with Glazed Builder and without our tool we couldn't have created this video-enhanced story-telling experience.
When Drupal was gaining momentum in 2007, Dries Buytaert saw that in order to be able to deliver the best support for large organizations, a dedicated company was needed. However, he was still hesitant, since, at that time, he was dedicated to finishing his Ph.D. This all changes when Jay Batson introduces himself to Dries at the Sunnyvale DrupalCon. Jay dreaming of opening a company that was focused on providing support and supplementary services for open source software such as Drupal and Apache Solr. After Jay persuaded Dries, they dropped Apache Solr from the equation and chose to focus on Drupal. On June 25th 2007, Jay registered the company under the name Acquia.
Although Acquia did not have an official product yet, they still received their Series A funding. This meant that Acquia was to be a significant player in the Drupal communnity, having managed to raise $7 million. For the most part of the remaining year, Acquia worked on their corporate values and products. Finally, In September 2008, Acquia has opened the doors for business. From that moment on, Dries and Jay's vision to build the universal platform for the world’s greatest digital experiences had started to materialize.
Drupal and Acquia both have had humble beginnings. However, with the passage of time, they have become staples for the open source community. Right now, Drupal is the third most popular Content Management System by market share. Moreover, with the ongoing trend in the market for companies to adopt or incorporate open source, Drupal still has potential to grow. In our previous blog post, you can find out why open source is our future.