What Drupal Isn't

Zack Rosen


August 25, 2009 - 6:06am

First things first, Drupal just isn't a very good product. I've spent the better part of the last five years working on Drupal. Not on the core patches (I'm no good at those) but on the other side of the technology, the part the people use. And I'll tell you for certain, while people very much want websites, they don't want just Drupal. Even if they thought they did, they won't soon after they log in for the first time with UID 1.

Wordpress and Joomla solve real-world problems, they make blogging and simple content management relatively easy. The code may be relatively brittle, the API unworkable, but when you turn them on they do something obviously useful. Can we say that about Drupal?

Of course, this failing hasn't mattered much to Drupal's growth so far. The fundamental metrics of Drupal's health as an open source project -- core patches, community members, deployed sites -- are still on an unbelievable exponential growth curve. For Drupal firms, it is still sellers market, there are more demand for Drupal services than qualified supply. Can Wordpress and Joomla say that? Not exactly.

The internet is comprised of more than more than two hundred million websites with the top 50 sites claiming 40% of the total internet traffic and the long tail of sites are scattered across thousands of commodity hosting service providers. Most of these websites are rather complex, all of them are unique.

I don't know if a Joomla, or a Wordpress, or Drupal will ever run a significant percentage of the internet's websites, but I do know that most websites require functionality beyond blogging and simple content management. A website can serve any digital purpose, that's the beauty of the web's organic and distributed invention. But this freedom brings inherit complexity for technology projects endeavoring to power a great many websites. This is a hard problem. It's the kind of problem that requires thousands of engineers working collaboratively for a number of years to solve.

While Drupal's success as a product so far is limited, it's success as a tool web developers use to build websites is remarkable.


Can we compare it to Typo, Plone, properietry somtime? I think thats far more intresting than wordpress or joomla.

You can run the same queries with those products. In terms of interest, you see Drupal clearly taking the lead in overall interest in 2005, and then outpacing those (updated to use typo3):

Not a real competition. On the job front, it's also interesting to look at drupal vs ruby:

drupal,ruby on rails Job Trends

drupal jobs - ruby on rails jobs

As for "some proprietary thing..." well, that's the great wide open. Lots of people running not-so-hot tools that cost an arm and a leg because that's what they've been sold.

Small correction, isn't UID 0 the anonymous user? Probably should be UID 1 :)

FYI - I re-ran this search using "typo3" instead of just "typo" as you suggested. It slightly changes the data, but the conclusion? Hardly... http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=drupal%2Cplone%2Ctypo3&cmpt=q

What I see still shows typo3 on a steady decline in interest since around mid-2007...

Nice article. But it has a flaw which causes some of your conclusion to be incorrect. You used Typo as a name of a competitive system. The correct name is TYPO3. When you change that, you see that the results will change. And so should your conclusion.

Kind regards,

Ric van Westhreenen

alterNET The Netherlands

I'm not sure about these Indeed.com reports. If you search for "drupal,wordpress" Drupal has over 0.04% of matching job postings after Jan 09. Then if you search "drupal,typo3" Drupal has nearly zero matching job postings after Jan 09. If the Drupal graph is reporting (Drupal jobs) / (total jobs), then the graph should not change. If it's reporting Drupal jobs / (total Drupal + Wordpress jobs) then the graph will change, but the Y-axis percentages are incorrect.

Also, if someone could explain the "relative" graph to me that would be great. I can't seem to make any sense of it at all.

Corrected image with Typo3 here

This makes it look a little stronger.

ah no links allowed - understandably. Maybe you can replace it in the article.

Hello webmaster can I use some of the information from this post if I provide a link back to your site?

every day i see that Drupal isn't about being able to install it in 5 minutes. Drupal is about installing it, and then being able to customise *every* *single* aspect of it's functionality and look and feel in a matter of days, *without* having to rewrite large chunks of the cms.

Post a comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Let us know you're human by typing in this code. The code is case sensitive.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.