Drupal 9 is scheduled for release on June 3, 2020. And as with any highly anticipated release, questions abound: “What will change from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9?” “What do I need to do to prepare before upgrading?” And top-of-mind is the big question: “What will Drupal 9 be like to work with?”
Read on as we share what you’ll need to know … and what might surprise you.
Anybody who’s upgraded from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 recalls the giant chasm between the two systems. Almost 200 new features were launched including an entirely new page editor, a new theme engine, a new text editor, and new field types, to name but a few.
This gap doesn’t exist between Drupal 8 and Drupal 9. In fact, on the surface, there IS no difference: Drupal 9 has the same code, functions, and feature set as Drupal 8.9.
So why release it then? As it turns out, there are differences — they’re just not front-and-center on the interface.Time to Clean House
Throughout its development cycle, Drupal 8 has wound up with a lot of code debt: functions that were created programmatically and used for some time but have been rendered redundant by more efficient functions.
These bits of code clutter up Drupal 8 like your old CDs and DVDs clutter up your bookshelf: There’s nothing wrong with them, but you probably don’t need them anymore now that you have something more efficient.
The result of all this extra code is that programmatically, there might be 10 different ways to do one single thing.
What Drupal has done is marked all of those code items in the backend code base as being “deprecated”. When Drupal 9 comes out, the plan is to remove all the deprecated code on this list, leaving only the latest version of whatever that code’s API is. They’ll also be updating third-party dependencies, such as Symfony and Twig. From Drupal’s site:
“Drupal 9 will be a cleaned-up version of Drupal 8. It will be the same as the last Drupal 8 minor version with our own deprecated code removed and third-party dependencies updated. We are building Drupal 9 in Drupal 8.”Will Drupal 9 Be Better?
Yes, but not without some minor risks.
Jettisoning all this deprecated code will result in a much faster, cleaner, and better-operating version of Drupal. However, if you have legacy programs whose modules use some of that deprecated code, you could find yourself with some broken processes.How to Prepare for Drupal 9
In general, upgrading to Drupal 9 is not an onerous process – it can literally be done via a single command. What will take more time is monitoring and auditing code bases to ensure that none of your functionality is dependent upon deprecated code.
Fortunately, Drupal is well prepared for this, and has indicated that the Drupal 8 branch of the Upgrade Status module can be used to identify and report on any deprecated code:
“This module scans the code of the contributed and custom projects you have installed, and reports on any deprecated code that must be replaced before the next major version. Available project updates are also suggested to keep your site up to date as project will resolve deprecation errors over time.”
In addition, we anticipate that when downloading or updating modules, Drupal will likely advise whether there are compatibility issues due to bad functions. However, that notification system isn’t currently in place (if it indeed happens at all), so your best bet is to work with your development partner, who can audit your code to identify any trouble spots.Marie Kondo-ing Your Infrastructure
Drupal 9 will be a much faster and more streamlined platform, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If the rest of your operational architecture is similarly full of code debt and redundant processes, updating Drupal 9 will be akin to sending a Lamborghini down a pothole-rutted road: That powerful engine is wasted if the route is slowing it down.
So, going to Drupal 9 is an excellent opportunity to look at your legacy systems, audit them as well, and make sure your entire infrastructure is clean, fast, and free of roadblocks.The Bottom Line
In general, upgrading to Drupal 9 should not be a complex or lengthy process. By cleaning out the clutter and performing some common dependencies, Drupal is practicing good development hygiene and providing its customers with a more streamlined system that will be faster … but still familiar.
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