Finally Time to Upgrade to Drupal 6
It's a week into the new year, and many of us are nearly finished breaking the last of our resolutions. However, there is one resolution you should not break if you're still running a Drupal 5 site. You've put it off long enough and it is finally time to upgrade to Drupal 6. If you're not convinced I'm going to tell you why you should.
First, a bit of background and a brief look to the future. It used to be that the world could expect a new Drupal release every 12 months or so. Drupal 5.0 was released about a year after Drupal 4.7. Drupal 6.0 was released February 13, 2008, 13 months after Drupal 5. And, you may have noticed that it is now January 2009 so you might expect that there is a Drupal 7 release on the horizon.
I wouldn't blame you for thinking this, but a funny thing happened on the way to a Drupal 7 release.
First of all, it took a long time for contributed modules to catch up to Drupal 6. While core was ready a year ago, some essential contributed modules only became available as late as November 2008 (2 months ago). The other funny thing that happened along the way is the Drupal 7 ballooned into a massive release that depends on several major architectural changes. If that weren't enough, there has been a herculean undertaking in the works to provide 100% automated test coverage for Drupal core.
There has been amazing progress on Drupal 7, but there have been a few late additions to the Drupal 7 release that are going to delay it. Drupal is finally going to bring a few key contributed modules into the fold and release them as part of the core distribution. The largest of these modules is CCK (Content Construction Kit - which lets you create content types as needed for your site).
So, what does this all have to do upgrading the Drupal 6 now?
When Drupal 7 was expected in Q1 of 2009 many people considered skipping Drupal 6 and upgrading to Drupal 7. At the best of times a two release upgrade is taxing enough. However, in a Drupal world where the philosophy is to eject legacy rather than maintain backwards compatibility it is even more difficult to tackle a double upgrade. And that doesn't take into consideration all the contributed modules that your site likely uses. The longer you wait, the more difficult the upgrade path will be. All those contributed modules aren't standing still and many are going through their own massive re-writes (ejecting the past and looking to the future).
Still, if Drupal 7 were coming in Q1 2009 you may have been willing to take on the double upgrade some time in Q3 2009 when contributed modules had caught up. But if you're thinking of waiting for D7 it looks like Q2 2010 would be the earliest realistic upgrade time frame. Can you really wait another year to take advantage of all the amazing features Drupal has to offer now?
In case you missed all that has been written about Drupal 6 a few of my favorite highlights are:
- any number of performance improvements (where uses/visitors are primarily logged in)
- theming is easier (way easier)
- multi-language support is wonderful
- plus many more
And if the improvements in the core Drupal distribution weren't enough I cannot say enough good things about the improvements found in the Views 2.x and CCK 2.x contributed modules. These are night and day improvements compared to their Drupal 5 counterparts. With these modules now officially released after lengthy beta testing, they are more than production ready and will put a smile on your face.
For all of these reasons, as well as a promise to myself to upgrade at the start of the new year, this site just made the move to Drupal 6. And, I'm not the only one contemplating the change now as several recent Twitter messages have shown. Upgrade isn't only on my mind, but on the minds of several Drupal veterans.
So what are you waiting for? You're running out of excuses. Tomorrow I'll even share how I upgraded this site to help you plan for potential 'gotchas'. After that you won't have a single excuse. Upgrade now and feel good. With each Drupal upgrade another kitten will get its wings (or something like that).