The Drupal 7 news was a relief for editors, website administrators, IT Managers and all involved in website maintenance last week when the Drupal project announced they are extending the end of life for Drupal 7 platform for a further year.
Launched in 2011, Drupal 7 captured a huge market share of charities, businesses and independents that continue to represent over 550,000 websites running on the framework. Having already delayed the original end of life date in November 2020, and then November 2021 due to strains on business during the pandemic, the latest date agencies and users were working towards was November 2022. But that all changed in late February.
No need to panic!
Whilst Drupal 9 (and soon 10!) offer a great CMS experience and gain the benefit of adopting new features, security and contributed modules, it doesn’t mean Drupal 7 technically stops working and makes the sites running on the platform crippled.
“The teams that built and still maintain these legacy Drupal installations, and the end-users they serve, are important constituents of the Drupal community. Although these users should still plan their upgrade to a newer version of Drupal, if they are unable to upgrade before the currently announced end-of-life, it would not be responsible of us to leave them vulnerable.”
With the 550,000 sites in mind, the decision was made amongst the Drupal Security Team and Drupal Association to announce that moving forward, the scheduled Drupal 7 End-of-Life date will be re-evaluated annually.
How long do we have left?
The evaluation and decision to extend community security support for an additional year is published by July each year - July 2023 being the next. Factors that are considered in this decision are community support, Drupal 7 usage, and active Drupal 7 volunteer maintainers.
What happened to Drupal Extended Support?
Once the official Drupal support comes to an end the plan is to hand over the security maintenance duties to a small group of independent agencies who have clients still depending on complex Drupal 7 builds. This is known as the D7 Extended Support (D7ES) vendor program.
It is also possible that a new approach or model is developed based on input from the Drupal community. Whatever is decided, at least 6 months' notice will be given before any new deadline goes into force.
So what happens now?
Everything continues as-is with monthly security releases of Drupal 7 core and, where interest still exists, contributed module maintenance will carry on. However, as we’ve seen over the years module developers have abandoned their old code in favour of Drupal 9 implementations.
If you have an in-house development team you can request ownership of old modules to provide support, security and enhancements and contribute back to the community.
With minimal security update maintenance from the community for Drupal 7 it’s still important to be considering an upgrade migration from the Drupal 7 codebase to something with a future such as Drupal 9 or 10 (August 2022).
Your next step
The currently supported version of Drupal is version 9 - which is supported until November 2023 alongside Drupal 7. There’s a current date of August 2022 pencil in for the Drupal 10 release which may be worth considering as a plan for upgrading from 7 to 10 instead.
Just because you’ve got another year to breathe doesn’t mean you should not be planning for the future of your websites. Use this time extension wisely and get in touch with your favourite Drupal agency to talk about upgrade options sooner rather than later.