Drupal 9 - What Changes Did It Bring?

Denis Peszka
Author: Denis PeszkaTech Lead

At the beginning of June 2020, Drupal 9 was released. Even though you may remember the migration to Drupal 8, it’s high time to get familiar with changes in the CMS ecosystem. What is new in Drupal 9? Is it revolutionary, or maybe it introduces just a little cosmetic change? Let’s find out.

Drupal 9

Drupal 9 Roadmap

Drupal 8 introduced a new, six months release cycle (two minor releases per year). Symfony – the PHP framework that vastly influences Drupal functioning – uses a similar release schedule. Unfortunately, Drupal was released 1-2 months before Symfony, which forced the community to wait six more months for compatibility between the newest software versions. To adapt to Symfony’s release cycle, Drupal minor releases were rescheduled to June and December. Thus, the latest Symfony updates can be adopted within a month in Drupal. The same release cycle applies to all minor Drupal 9 updates.

Easier Drupal Updates

For years lack of fast and smooth updates to the latest Drupal version has been its Achilles heel. It concerns Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 updates and the most common ones – from Drupal 7 to 8. When it comes to highly extended websites, it’s monotonous and time-consuming work.

Changes in CMS structure are so extensive that the automatic update is just a programmer’s dream. For instance, the migration of Drupal 7 to 8 demands long hours of code rewriting and adaptation to object-oriented programming. If that wasn’t enough, all themes have to be compliant with the new themes engine Twig (the previous ones were written in PHP).

Don’t worry – all of those issues don’t concern Drupal 9. Instead of one-time, massive changes, in Drupal 8 amendments, key patches, etc., were introduced along with minor releases. For this reason, the Drupal 8.9 to Drupal 9.0 update is as easy as the Drupal 8.0 to Drupal 8.1 update. Just a few clicks and the work is done. Of course, that scenario applies only if the website is in good hands. After giant changes that came with Drupal 8, now the CMS is a powerful tool that takes advantage of all PHP possibilities, and there are no signs that revolutionary changes will be needed in the nearest future.

Drupal 9 – A Small Turn Into The New Direction

Drupal 9 release is proof of the direction changes’ in the system’s further development. Previously, each Drupal version was a separate entity compared to its predecessor. It means no guarantee of backward compatibility. Certainly, there were a few pros of such a solution. However, in the long-term, the lack of compatibility caused massive problems, e.g., with the platform’s updates, especially in the case of customized solutions.

Drupal’s core update is just the tip of an iceberg. Most Drupal-based websites use multiple dedicated modules and themes which needed an update to be in line with the latest version requirements. Many of them were the key features – the functioning of the entire website depended on them. So the only solution was a monotonous code rewriting, which could take days, weeks, or even months of backbreaking work.

Luckily, the new approach adopted in Drupal 9 caused that scheduling and preparing updates is significantly easier. Drupal developers who work with the eighth version have the possibility to become familiar with almost all Drupal 9 core functionalities. Those who use the latest themes and modules that are fully compatible with Drupal 8, won’t have any problems with the Drupal 9 update.

Code Transparency In Drupal 9

One of the main goals of Drupal 9 was code clearance. Drupal 8 introduced the abovementioned new update cycle where minor updates were released every 6 months. That accelerated the number of functions added to Drupal and simultaneously forced regular code updates. As a result, code deprecated at a fast pace however, it was non-removable to provide backward compatibility. Drupal 9 release gives a unique possibility to clear the code and rid of the deprecated parts.

The Same, Well-Know Features

Drupal 9.0 has the same core functions as the last Drupal 8 release. Similar to Drupal 8, Drupal 9.1, 9.2, etc., will add new functionalities with backward compatibility to Drupal 9 every six months. The key pro of Drupal 9 against Drupal 8 is the full support coverage after November 2021.

In brief, Drupal 9 is Drupal 8.9 except for the deprecated code and third-party dependencies updates, e.g., Symfony or Twig.

Drupal 8 vs Drupal 9

PHP Requirements For Drupal 9

Drupal 8 works on all PHP 7 versions. However, Drupal 9 demands at least PHP 7.3 to set up. The most frequently recommended option, for now, is PHP 7.4 – it is not required for installation, but it is worth to bet on it. Currently, PHP 8 is not yet supported by Drupal 9, but the works are in progress.

Drupal 9 Functionalities – Summary

So that’s it. Drupal 9 get rid of the deprecated code and didn’t introduce revolutionary direction-changing solutions. Remember to oversee if Drupal 8 developers use only the Drupal 9 supported functions and modules. Then the update will be pure pleasure, and you will surely avoid long hours spent on modules’ code rewriting.

One more time Drupal proves how good, and above all, how mature platform it is. In Drupal 9 all the cons of previous versions were successfully removed, and some enhancements were added too. Lack of rules-changing solutions and easy Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 update are the main advantages of the new release.

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