Many production websites out there are still happily running on Drupal 7, whilst newer ones have been started on Drupal 8, but the question keeps coming up - should we wait for Drupal 9, and if so, when is it due for release?
What is Drupal 9?
Drupal 9 will be, from a code perspective, a cleaned-up version of Drupal 8. It will be the same as the last Drupal 8.9 version with the deprecated code removed and third-party dependencies updated. Drupal 9 is mostly already built in Drupal 8.
Why does Drupal 9 exist?
Since version 8 of Drupal, the CMS has benefited from being built on top of a common PHP framework known as Symfony. As a CMS user, you don’t need to know or care about this as far as publishing content and changing settings goes.
However, the underlying framework is now reaching the end of life and as such will not receive support and security coverage - resulting in Drupal 8 also becoming vulnerable to any Symfony exploits in the future.
Drupal 8 uses Symfony 3 which goes end of life in November 2021. Therefore Drupal 8 will also need to go end of life.
With this impending date in mind Drupal 9 has been scheduled for release to move the codebase to the new Symfony 4 framework and at the same time remove some of the older no longer needed Drupal 7 code from the CMS.
The big deal about Drupal 9 is … that it should not be a big deal.
Upgrading and Planning
The window between Drupal 8 being unsupported and Drupal 9 being released is over a year - so plenty of time to plan and update your existing website if necessary. But it’s also worth noting that the move from version 8 to 9 is a much simpler and hassle-free journey for developers - resulting in a speedy process and much less time and cost for website owners.
It's worth planning and executing a move from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 now - with an eye on the quick succession to Drupal 9 when ready. The removal of technical debt and analysis of your Drupal 7 site features is something you should be planning to execute soon.
Because Drupal 9 will be basically Drupal 8 streamlined, trying to skip the upgrade will not bring any benefits. It simply means you have less time to execute the upgrade and therefore more risk in your project.
Doing the upgrade to Drupal 8 with an eye to Drupal 9 is the best approach. You can already benefit from all the functionality in Drupal 8 with an easier upgrade path going forward.
The Summer is coming...
The release date for Drupal 9 has been set to June 3rd 2020, so not long at all. As with all new major releases, there’s always the case for incomplete or non-functioning features to creep in. What is different about Drupal 9 is that it’s mostly just a quick evolution of the Drupal 8 codebase and features - meaning a lot of the modules will instantly be compatible without major re-architecting of the codebase.