The History and Evolution of Drupal

A Homebrew Experiment

Drupal began as a homebrew collaborative newsboard designed to help creators Dries Buytaert and Hans Snijder, as well as a small group of their friends, keep in touch and share ideas, announcements, and news between their student dorms at the University of Antwerp. After graduation, Buytaert and Snijder wanted to keep their collaborative system going, so they put it online and registered it under the name drop.org -- a typo of dorpje, which means village in Dutch. Buytaert explains that he typed "drop" when trying to register the domain name dorpje.com and was so charmed by the name "drop" that he decided to keep it.

Drupal Develops a Community

Over time, the informal system developed by Buytaert and Snijder began to attract a larger audience, and it was this synthesis of ideas born from drop.com's burgeoning community that resulted in the development of new ideas for the website, including systems for syndication, moderation, and authentication. At this stage, Drupal already had many of the features it does today, including the ability to create RSS feeds, moderation, user modes, forums, and blogs.

At this point in the history of Drupal, Buytaert and few select others were doing all the modification and coding themselves. Over time, of course, the requests for new features from the community began to become overwhelming, which led Buytaert to release his software, now renamed "drupal" (a variant of "druppel", which is Dutch for "drop") as open-source so it could be accessed and modified by anyone. In essence, the entire drop.com community was handed the source code and given permission to play with it as they wished.

The Open Source Revolution

Buytaert hoped that making Drupal open-source would simply cut down on his work, but he could not have forseen the rapid evolution of Drupal that would be sparked by community development. Soon, a number of sites across the internet began to be converted to Drupal, starting with kernaltrap.org, which was owned by Jeremy Andrews, a friend of Buytaert. During the conversion process, Andrews ended up writing a number of new modules for Drupal which were later distributed and used by others. A similar process began to happen all over the world as others converted their sites to Drupal or designed new Drupal sites from scratch.

During the next few years, due to the growth of its vibrant open-source community and the evolution of web technology in general, Drupal changed rapidly and went through several versions (v. 1.0 to 4.7). An enormous number of new modules were added by the community to extend Drupal's basic functionality for a variety of purposes. Some of the new features that evolved in this era included content versioning, refactoring, menu systems, and form handling.

Drupal 5 and Beyond

Drupal 5.0 was released in 2007 to considerable fanfare. 5.0 included a number of new features and refinements, including more JavaScript, PHP, Form API, and CSS features for developers, as well as enhanced theming, user management, module administration, and performance tuning. In addition, a new, customizable web-based installer was released for the first time, making Drupal even easier to distribute and use than ever before.

The newest version of Drupal, v. 6.0, was released in February of 2008. In general, 6.0 was designed to be more user-friendly than its predecessors with the addition of an easy-to-use installer, drag-and-drop interface, and intuitive user controls. In addition, Drupal 6.0 includes enhanced Multilanguage features, support for the authentication project OpenID, a host of new security features, and more developer packages for theme creation and management. A new separately downloadable theme developer module makes creating, customizing, and sharing unique themes a breeze in Drupal 6.0. Whether in plain HTML or CSS-only, themes can now be created without any coding or advanced programming skills. In general, the focus in the development of Drupal 6 has been on increasing accessibility to attract an even wider segment of web developers and non-programmers.

It's unknown what the future holds for Drupal, but as the platform continues to gain in popularity and is adopted to create more and more high-profile websites, it is certain that it will continue its unchecked expanse. New innovations on the horizon for Drupal 7 include the semantic web, more accessibility enhancement, and digital identity technology.