It’s been a little more than a year since the RC1 (or release candidate one) of Drupal 8 was released. With the ongoing stabilization and feature improves that have been released since the official launch, Drupal 8 has been fairly well received. While there are potentially still some contributed modules which you might need or want for your project that are still in alpha state or not ready for official use, by and large Drupal 8 is being adopted at a steady rate.
Quite fairly though, one of the comments we hear from our clients when we’re discussing migrating their websites to Drupal 8 from either Drupal 6 or 7, is a question about how long Drupal 8 will be the main version until there is then a Drupal 9.
Post Upgrade Stress Syndrome
This is a fair question to ask, since Drupal 8 brought with it some very extensive changes to the underlying Drupal framework, and as such a custom migration for Drupal 8 isn’t a trivial undertaking. Converting your Drupal website to version 8 can be a significant (but very worthwhile) investment, so it makes sense to wonder what the timeframe will be where that work will remain viable.
There has been a debate within the Drupal community over the past several months as to whether there will be a Drupal 9 release in the works anytime soon. This debate has been precipitated somewhat by the change in the Drupal release cycle format that was started coinciding with Drupal 8. Whereas in the past there might be many tiny updates to a major version over its lifetime, and more significant additions or changes only coming with the very infrequent major upgrades, now there will be several “medium” updates through the year which will add new features.
Differing Opinions On Drupal 9
One argument for the eventual release of a Drupal 9 major version is that it will be needed to removing the last vestiges of deprecated features and API’s from Drupal 8 through the course of its gradual medium updates. The result would be only the good, new ways of doing things being left.
An alternative view is that a Drupal 9 major version upgrade will be a long time coming, if at all, not only because of the utility of the regular medium-sized updates but also because of the sheer enormity of effort that went into making Drupal 8 in the first place. It took almost five years of work by hundreds maybe even thousands of people to make Drupal 8 a reality, so it seems reasonable to assume that a much-needed break is desired.
So, again, the big question is, after having invested so much in Drupal 8 for your company or organization do you need to be concerned about it becoming obsolete in the near future?
The work towards normalizing the release schedule and making major upgrades less of a nightmare would suggest to me that Drupal 9 won't be particularly soon but also won't be really far off on the calendar either. I believe that when the next major version of Drupal is released it won't be nearly as stressful or time-consuming to prepare for as the move to the last one was. In truth, I suspect it won't be that big of a deal at all. We'll see!