While this article focuses primarily on the state of Drupal “contrib” (modules and themes which are not part of the “core” Drupal download), it also takes a look at the greater “State of Drupal” in terms of sites known to be running on some version of Drupal, comparisons of the rate of uptake after Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 release, and a small case study involving attempting to perform a “major upgrade” from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 on a site using a significant number of contributed modules.
The recent history of Drupal core usage
As a starting point, I think it is helpful to look at the recent history of Drupal core usage and compare the uptake of Drupal 6, after its release, with the uptake of Drupal 7. On June 22nd, 2008, when Drupal 6.0 was released, there were already significantly more sites using Drupal 6 than Drupal 5 (almost 32,000 on Drupal 6 vs almost 17,000 on Drupal 5). Both core versions of Drupal steadily gained users for a time, with Drupal 5 reaching a peak of about 24,000 sites about 7 months later, but by that time Drupal 6 was running on more than 100,000 sites. By late July 2009 (a similar point to now in terms of months after the major version release), Drupal 5 usage had dropped to about 20,000 sites and Drupal 6 was running on more than 160,000 sites; more than eight times as many installations. Since then, Drupal 5 usage has tapered to about 7,000 sites; a bit more than 1% of total Drupal usage (please note: it’s likely that many of the existing Drupal 5 sites do not report usage back to Drupal.org).
Now let’s look at the usage of Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 since the time of Drupal 7’s release. Drupal 6 peaked with about 355,000 sites, shortly after Drupal 7’s release in January 2011. At that time Drupal 7 was running on about 24,000 sites, a fraction of Drupal 6 usage at that time. Since then, while sites running on Drupal 7 have steadily increased to their present values, about 280,000 sites, Drupal 6 has hovered around the same value, drifting between about 320,000 and 350,000 sites, but not yet significantly dropping. Almost 13 months after Drupal 7’s official release, we still have more sites running Drupal 6 than Drupal 7 (and I suspect that a significant percentage of the Drupal 7 sites are in development rather than production). But what does this really say? Let’s look a bit closer at the numbers and trends:
Note: I banged this graph out in Excel since the Google chart of Drupal usage, normally displayed on project pages, seems to fail as “too large to process” for “core” usage statistics.
Drupal usage has grown by leaps and bounds since Drupal 6’s release. In June 2008, there were fewer than 50,000 sites using Drupal 5 and 6 combined. Now, a bit more than three-and-a-half years later, there are more than 615,000 sites running on some version of Drupal — more than a 12-fold increase in that time period! A year ago, this figure was less than 400,000, so Drupal 7 sites make up a large proportion of the more-than-200,000 Drupal sites added since then. The growth was steeper after Drupal 6’s release, but we still did not have 200,000 sites, total, by July 2009. In any case, it’s safe to say that for most use cases, we have the modules necessary to build a good site based on Drupal 7, so if you are hesitant to use it, don’t be. There are many great advantages to Drupal 7 and with the continual improvement of the contributed modules, we should probably build new sites on Drupal 6, only if modules critical to the use case are lacking for Drupal 7 (or if the “new” site is another site in an existing Drupal 6 “multi-sites” installation). Even if a “critical” module exists for Drupal 6 and not yet for Drupal 7, it may still be worth building the site on Drupal 7 if you have the coding experience to port the Drupal 6 module to Drupal 7, which would help alleviate the current issue that many significant modules are not yet available for Drupal 7.
State of Drupal 7 contrib (modules)
Good news: Almost all “Top 100” Drupal 6 Modules are ported to Drupal 7
The good news, especially for site builders creating a new Drupal 7 site, is that most of the top 100 modules are ready for use on Drupal 7. Nine of them are redundant (now included in “core”), 43 have “stable” releases, 23 have beta or RC, 11 have an alpha release, and 9 are in “dev” status, while a couple others recommend using another module which performs similarly.