As almost all the amazing projects start with just some cool ideas in a garage, dorm or a friendly chat, Drupal did too. It began as a small forum for a few friends to monitor their shared internet connection, which was expensive back then. Who knew that a forum like that would become one of the leading free, open-source Content Management Systems out there? Today, it is competing with powerhouses like WordPress and Joomla.
Drupal provides a back-end framework for almost 2.2% of the websites available on the internet. But to establish itself to what it is now, Drupal overcame a long and painful path. If you are want to know about their interesting history, then keep on reading as we take you through the early beginning and tell you how everything started.
The Mystery Behind the Name “Drupal”
Dries Buytaert, the founder and lead developer of the Drupal Content Management System, turned a mistake into an opportunity. He, along with his friends, made a small news site on which they posted notes about the status of their internet network, talk about where they had their dinner, shared interesting news, and more. In short, they created a small content framework for having communications with each other.
For a while, the software they built was nameless as they didn’t want to publicize it. Later, when Dries graduated and left the dorm, they all needed a way to stay in touch with each other. So, they decided to put the nameless site online. While brainstorming the right name for the site, Dries considered “Dorp.org” – “Dorp” is a Dutch word for “Village”, which fit the small community they wanted to start.
When checking the domain name online, Dries mistyped “Dorp” as “Drop” and ended up making “Drop.org”. Once the site was live, its audience changed, and more and more people started joining the platform. They started discussing the latest web technologies, moderation, syndication, distributed authentication, rating, etc. Drop.org gradually turned into a personal experimentation environment, driven by users who shared the ever-changing flow of ideas.
These genius ideas became methods and features in the software running drop.org.
In January 2001, Dries released the software that was running drop.org, free of cost to the public. He did this to allow other people to use and extend the experimentation platform so even more users could explore new and better paths for web development. He named the software “Drupal”. It is pronounced as “droo-puhl”. This word is derived from the English pronunciation of the Dutch word Drupal which also means drop.
As you have already learned how Dries and Hans Snijder, the students of the University of Antwerp, started Drupal from just a small web board. Now, let’s talk about the idea behind their symbol and get to know the history of their versions.
Kristjan Jansen and Steven Wittens designed the symbol for Drupal. They stylized a Druplicon with eyes, having a curved nose and a mischievous smile.
The first version of Drupal was based on Scoop and Slash, a modular Content Management System. It included 18 core modules. There was no menu router, and everything was accessed through PHP files. Each module had seven hooks, and the code had to be input into one of those seven hooks in the modules. The admin module was the only one which could be used only by the administrators. If anyone wanted to modify the database, they had to import an SQL file.
Themes were already in the core, and this version had only 15 tables. The themes were very basic, simple, and flexible. If anyone wanted a customized theme for themselves, they could create one easily as they were able to control colors, mark-up, layout, and block positioning. V1.0’s features included story submissions, comments, RDF headlines, diary, accounts, search, and a calendar. Any user could become a contributor by introducing a modification to the platform.
Drupal 2.0 was released back on 15 March 2001. It offered one major improvement over the previous version, which was a translation feature. As the Drupal’s user base was from all around the world, they all wanted to interact with the platform in their own language rather than just English. So, Drupal allowed users to either create or overwrite their website in their own language.
To enable this feature, the Drupal team had to edit the configuration files and SQL database manually. In addition to that, this version also offered other add-ons, such as user ratings, sections for stories, the ability to rewrite a comment, and a user permission system.
In Drupal the third, everything was based on nodes. These nodes became the primary unit for the content – be it a book, story, forum, diary, or blog. All these types of content existed as nodes on the system and were managed by the node module. However, the only content that wasn’t a node was comments. Comments were only connected to different nodes. The team made this early decision to focus Drupal on nodes instead of different pages.
It wasn’t until ten years later when nodes became the basics for the mobile web.
In 2002, a popular tech news site KernelTrap.org migrated to Drupal 3.0.2, which signaled Drupal’s rise in the world of technology. The member of KernelTrap.org Jeremy Andrews himself wrote the Throttle module for the platform, which was later included into Drupal Core. This module detected surges in web traffic and then provided congestion control.
The fourth version of Drupal introduced a new module, called the Taxonomy module. It replaced Meta tags and attributes. This core taxonomy module was one of the most important features in terms of classification and organization, which is still a core Drupal feature today.
This version allowed users to create vocabularies based on keywords, create, assign, and modify content types, and assign different types of content to the keywords that were based on vocabularies.
Drupal 4.1 to 4.7
These minor updates from version 4.1 to 4.7 included tons of modifications and improvements, including the first e-commerce module (introduced in version 4.4). Various features/modifications that were introduced in these versions included a profile module, configurable menus, a theme template, translation improvements, and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) support.
Overall, Drupal Content Management System became more accessible to a wider audience. Version 4.2 included support for the Microsoft SQL Server. In 2003, a presidential candidate Howard Dean also used Drupal for his site DeanSpace. This move helped lead to a 300% increase in the usage on Drupal.org.
Drupal 5.0 featured the popular JQuery, which made HTML scripting easier. Drupal was one of the first ones to jump on this, and now it has become a web standard. Another feature that the fifth version introduced was the support for distributions of pre-created Drupal packages. With the help of these packages, people could customize their site to their liking. Modules moved to their own directory in this update, and it became easier to install and uninstall them. Site load times were also improved.
The most significant thing ever to happen with Drupal, especially Drupal 6.0, was that Whitehouse.gov adopted it as its Content Management System. In the sixth version, the menu system was rewritten from scratch, making it easier for users to use and navigate it. Admins were able to drag and drop a number of features, such as blocks, taxonomy vocabularies and terms, and menu items. The system supported right-to-left languages, and overall the platform was adjusted to make non-English usage more efficient.
The team also paid attention to the installer as they added a new form that provided site information during installation. Security improvements were also made in this update.
Drupal 7.0 was released three years after the release of version 6.0. This newer update improved on core and usability features. Unlike before, nodes were now no longer dependent on a specific module as all the modules could interact with any node at runtime. This way, everything on this latest version was an independent identity – be it content types, users, taxonomy, or custom entity types.
To process long-running or multiple tasks within the system, Drupal 7.0 added a queue API.
This is the present-day Drupal running in most of the systems.
Version 6.0 and 7.0 offered great features and improvements, and 8.0 goes even further. Several core APIs now have a plugin system. Drupal incorporated a concept from Facebook, BigPipe, in their version 8.1 that helps pages load much faster than before.
Final Words – The Future of Drupal
From just a platform for a few friends to one of the biggest Content Management Systems on the internet, Drupal has come a long way. The community has helped take it from a specialist’s CMS to an amazing site-builder anyone can easily use. With such improvements we have seen since the Drupal 1.0, we expect to see continued flexibility as this Content Management System continues to evolve.