Table of Contents

What is Drupal
How far Drupal has come
Where Drupal is used
The community makes Drupal what it is
-How opensource accelerates innovation
-Why get involved in the community?
-How getting involved helps you advance your career
Conclusion: How to get help

Open source as a concept has been on the radar of the software community for many years now, but in many ways it is only just starting to gain steam among the enterprise organizations and business leaders that are seeking new ways to ensure the longevity of the solutions and architectures they build. At its core, open source is about more than just software; it’s about the community that surrounds it. Leveraging and contributing back to open source can yield dividends not only for businesses searching for more robust technologies but also for our own careers and futures.

Several years ago, Michael Meyers (Managing Director at Tag1 Consulting) delivered the keynote at Texas Camp 2016, a regional conference about Drupal and one of countless gatherings around the world. In that presentation, he offered some of the most compelling rationales for adopting open source and for the potential business value that open source provides not only developers and end users but also enterprise organizations. In this two-part blog series, we start by considering the positive impact open source has on individual developers and end users before zooming out to inspect the business opportunities open source can reveal for your own bottom line.

In this first installment, we discuss how Drupal has achieved the runaway success it has rocketed to today by leveraging all of the best tropes of open source. We then focus on the end user experience and the individual developer as characters in the enthralling story of how open source can reinvent careers and lives.

What is Drupal?

Drupal is one of the most commonly used open-source content management systems (CMS) in the world, powering a full two percent of the world’s websites and undergirding some of the most highly trafficked websites, including well-known brands. Today, it is well-known for its large and active community of thousands of contributors as well as the innovative digital experiences it supports beyond the web.

As a longtime member of the Drupal community himself over twelve years, Michael is keenly aware of the many dimensions along which open source provides opportunities. He established, the first venture-backed Drupal company, which demonstrated the value of open source to then-skeptical investors. Subsequently, he launched, the first Top 50 website to run on Drupal and the first Drupal 7 website to launch, well before the major version release. Michael states that what he’s learned during his decade in Drupal is that open source is much more than software; it’s about community.

How far Drupal has come

Often, it can be easy to lose ourselves in the day-to-day problems of software engineering and lose sight of how far we have come as the Drupal community when it comes to demonstrating the incredible value of open source. After all, Drupal has become one of the most notable open-source projects in the world with over one million user accounts and 25,000 people who have created modules that add features to Drupal. Drupal 8, as a case in point, has over 3,500 individual contributors.

To put the robust community that contributes to and advances Drupal in context, even the most pervasive open-source project in the world, Linux, has about 12,000 people who contribute to the Linux project. Admittedly, a core Linux patch is very different from a PHP contribution in Drupal, but this illustrates the stark contrast that Drupal’s vibrant community engenders when it comes to comparisons with other open-source projects.

Where Drupal is used

Drupal also is privileged to have an incredible roster of organizations that utilize Drupal for mission-critical requirements across every industry and sector. In healthcare, for example, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, two of the best-known brands in the space, use Drupal to support over 10,000 websites. Meanwhile, in the financial sector, Voya and Guardian Financial both employ Drupal to power their web experiences. Even in retail, a space where there is substantial competition, Drupal holds sway at organizations like Timex, Whole Foods, and other name brands that everyone knows.

In media and entertainment, Al Jazeera, Fox News, NBC Universal (which standardized on Drupal for over 100 websites), NBC Sports, and The Economist have all adopted Drupal. As far as other eye-opening statistics that may surprise even the deepest-seated skeptics, seven out of eight universities in the United States run Drupal, in addition to many other educational institutions worldwide. And in the public sector, the entire government of Australia and over 33% of United States government websites are using Drupal, along with many local and state governments.

In light of this who’s-who of organizations around the world, it is crucial to remember that Drupal isn’t just for small sites. Though many members of the Drupal community utilize Drupal for personal blogs, it can scale up successfully to Top 100 websites like,, and other web properties that require high performance and robust scalability at heavy loads.

The community makes Drupal what it is

When it comes to open source, managing the community and our relationships with it is much more important than managing a software codebase. With each new release of Drupal, the community introduces cutting-edge features and new functionality, and it is this innovation that drives the growth of the platform. Drupal has consistently been successful in increasing the size of its contributor base as well as the number of people who use Drupal. This trend has continued apace with Drupal 8.

In addition, there are more than five hundred Drupal meetups in cities around the world and local conferences, known at DrupalCamps, that allow for community members to gather to discuss and learn Drupal and other open-source projects. Some of these conferences have hundreds or even thousands of attendees.

How open source accelerates innovation

To illustrate some of the ways in which open source accelerates innovation in unprecedented ways, let’s consider an anecdote from 2011, when Google announced the launch of Google+, its short-lived social network. Within only a few days, Drupal contributor Ryan Szrama released a Drupal module before Google even had an API available for public consumption for Google+. The Google+ Drupal module allowed for basic integration but was an important step that highlighted Drupal’s readiness for emerging ideas.

“Please don’t be shy about posting your ideas,” said Ryan when asked about how new contributors can enter open source. This story illustrates just how open source can serve as a rising tide that lifts all boats, a common analogy used to illustrate the benefits of open-source development. If Drupal is to be successful, it needs the perspectives and ideas of new contributors, and project lead Dries Buytaert gave a talk about this very notion of open-source sustainability at DrupalCon Amsterdam 2014. After all, as Drupal continues to mature, it is also becoming more complex and in need of additional help.

Why get involved in the community?

Drupal contributors get involved in working with the open-source project for a variety of reasons. Some come out of a sense of charity or altruism, but this is often only the beginning of a long journey. In fact, there is tremendous professional value for you as an individual because it can catapult your career to unforeseen heights. Organizations that employ Drupal developers can also benefit hugely from open-source communities like Drupal’s.

For example, events like DrupalCamps and DrupalCons are critical for learning how to contribute to Drupal. At open-source conferences like those in the Drupal ecosystem, there is a separate “track” from regularly scheduled sessions known as the hallway track, where many discussions take place in the hallways between sessions and at lunch. Many Drupal conferences also have birds-of-a-feather (BoF) sessions that foster more unstructured discussion. Though Drupal conferences can frequently be firehoses of information, they can help you keep your finger on the pulse and get to know your local community, all of which offers you tremendous advantage in your professional career.

How getting involved helps you advance your career

If you have a career in technology, it is of utmost importance to continue learning about new and emerging technologies that may impact your day-to-day work. Many Drupal conferences also include free or affordable trainings that introduce new concepts to broaden your knowledge, such as decoupled Drupal (the subject of a book this author wrote and of a yearly conference in New York City), building with Drupal, and testing and debugging. Getting involved can help you take your career to the next level.

All of us started somewhere, and the core contributors who are now some of the most well-known individuals in the Drupal community are no exception. Many of them have been involved for many years and have been working on Drupal 8 for quite some time. Because tens of thousands of organizations have adopted and rely heavily on Drupal 8, getting involved means that you can make an outsized impact on the future of Drupal as well.

Conclusion: How to get help

Open source can offer outstanding outcomes for you and your professional career. That being said, it can be difficult to get involved in open source for a variety of reasons. Many underrepresented groups in technology, including women, LGBTQ+ people, people who live with disabilities, and neuroatypical people all have unique challenges when it comes to finding a place in the Drupal community.

However, the Drupal community has many resources for those who are interested in getting involved but may be facing structural obstacles. As a person of color myself, I highly recommend getting to know some of the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion (DD&I) initiative’s members on the Drupal Slack by joining the #diversity-inclusion channel and by visiting their booth at DrupalCon. It is our responsibility as those already in the community to ensure a welcoming place for new contributors, after all, and many of us won’t hesitate to aid and support you in your own open-source journey.

Special thanks to Michael Meyers for his feedback during the writing process.

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash