Drupal 9 is not a revolution but an evolution

25 June 2020 - by Amandine Buisson
Amandine Buisson
Illustration de Drupal 9 - Inovae

A popular open-source content management system (CMS), Drupal is renowned for its flexibility and high-security standards, Drupal released at the beginning of June its new version named Drupal 9. It represents more than 4 years of steady work since Drupal 8 was released and it is the culmination of the collaboration of thousands of contributors around the globe, all part of the amazing Drupal community.

Rather than a single cycle of new features added all at once, features have been released steadily since Drupal 8.0. Now, all those features are already tested, stable, and ready-to-use.

According to Dries Buytaert, founder and lead developer of Drupal:
“The big deal about Drupal 9 is that…it should not be a big deal! Instead of working on Drupal 9 in a separate codebase, we built Drupal 9 in Drupal 8. This means that we are adding new functionality as backwards-compatible code and experimental features. Once the code becomes stable, we deprecate any old functionality.’’


A smooth passage 

Don't worry if you found the transition to Drupal 8 painful, the primary selling point for Drupal 9 is its backward compatibility with version 8 from day one. It is mostly an organisational adjustment more than a revolution in technical layers as was the case for the two previous version changes. This means all of your Drupal 8 components will still work with this new version. If any of your site’s key features depend on modules, you can breathe easy and update to Drupal 9. What’s more, Drupal 9 is shipped with support for newer PHP libraries, including the latest versions of Symfony and Twig

🡪 the migration to Drupal 9 should remain fairly painless, as long as you have followed up on all versions of Drupal 8.

For sites that have remained on Drupal 7 (even 6… we know at least one case ...), the work involved will obviously be higher and support from a specialised agency is probably recommended.


Drupal-Symfony connections

ymfony is a PHP framework which includes several components that work together to provide the foundation for building a PHP project. Symfony therefore provides adaptable functionalities, which the Drupal community uses to facilitate the development of the core and the contributed modules. The Symfony framework has been used since version 8 of Drupal.

Getting closer to the Symfony publishing cycle.

As announced about two years ago, Drupal has adopted a biannual publication cycle (March / April + Sep / Oct) just like Symfony (May + November). Before, the timelapse between a Symfony and Drupal update was therefore relatively large, since it used to take around 5-6 months before Drupal could adopt Symfony updates. For this reason, Drupal decided to adjust its calendar, placing an update about 1 month after the new Symfony versions.

Symfony 3 is the version on which Drupal 8 is based. It has an end-of-life estimated at November 2021 and support, including security bugs, will no longer be maintained after. This date therefore represents the deadline for Drupal to switch to Symfony 4 and therefore implies the launch of Drupal 9. Contrary to the principle according to which the penultimate version of Drupal remains supported, with the cessation of support on Symfony 3, Drupal 8 can no longer be supported from this date. To summarise, by November 2021, everyone should be on Drupal 9. 


What’s new?

Since November, 2015, there have been 8 feature releases for Drupal 8 that progressively and steadily satisfy more and more requirements for ambitious web projects. Features like Media and Layout Builder have been fully integrated into an already rich content model. For those who upgrade to Drupal 9, continuous improvements will continue to be added in the same way. This first release of Drupal 9 represents an upgrade to the underlying technology, but there's no radical change to how Drupal works. Upgrading is important because it means that you can keep benefiting from the innovation, while staying secure and stable.

What impacts whom?

For content publishers
The change is virtually invisible with no fundamental changes to the editing interfaces.

For Drupal developers
They will have to update the core and the modules; anticipate the impact of obsolete functions on their site and opt for the most suitable replacement solution in their context.

For Drupal site owners
A budget is to be expected but without common measure with the migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 for instance.


How to prepare your website for Drupal 9?

Previously, Drupal 7's end-of-life was scheduled for November 2021. Given the
impact of COVID-19 on budgets and businesses, Drupal decided to extend the end
of life until November 28, 2022. For Drupal 8, as we saw above, the version being linked to Symfony 3, the date cannot be extended and support will be provided until November 2021.
If you’re already using Drupal 8, the upgrade should be quite simple and to keep it smooth, here are our tips:

  • Update to the latest minor versions of Drupal as they release
  • Keep your modules up to date
  • Check your website for deprecated code. We recommend ‘drupal-check’ which allows you to run a standalone PHP executable from the command line and get a report of any deprecated code used.


🡪 Drupal 9 is "quite simply" the latest version of Drupal 8
🡪Drupal 9 code changes have already been tested on Drupal 8, and therefore are robust from launch
🡪Drupal 9 is an update of the technical base, following the transition from Symfony 3 to Symfony 4
🡪If you are already a Drupal 8 user, you do not have to rebuild your site. Drupal 9 is therefore a formality (given that you tried to avoid deprecated coding), the technology itself becomes more standardised, and with its large community, Drupal becomes stronger in the future.

Dive into Drupal 9! 

You will find at the following link the video shared by Dries Buytaert on Youtube on 2020, June 3rd, the day of Drupal 9 launch


Amandine Buisson
Amandine Buisson
Communication & Marketing manager

Spécialiste en communication, les forces d'Amandine sont la compréhension des besoins du client et le développement de stratégies marketing créatives.

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