Drupal is a secure and flexible CMS that is ideal for large and small websites with special needs. This includes above all multilingualism through translations, data representation through views and easy extensibility through thousands of free open source modules.
However, the different Drupal versions that are currently still supported are confusing. Here we will bring clarity into the version jungle for you.
Everything important at a glance:
- The latest version is Drupal 10 and was released in December 2022.
- Drupal 9 is still supported until November 2023, but we recommend a timely upgrade.
- Drupal 8 was supported until November 2021. Drupal 7 is supported until November 2023.
- An upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 is complex. That's why there are still a lot of Drupal 7 sites.
- An upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 or from Drupal 9 to 10 on the other hand, is relatively uncomplicated.
- A version upgrade should nevertheless never be rushed as there could be incompatibilities in modules.
Update (as of July 20, 2024)
The Drupal security team recently announced in a post about the end of life of Drupal 7 that support will be extended until 2025. This means that Drupal 7 will not receive any more security updates from January 5, 2023 instead of November 2022. This is the final extension.
Why was Drupal 7 support extended? Since Drupal 7 has been around for more than 10 years, many large sites are still running on this version. Due to the effort involved, many organizations have not yet migrated their sites to the latest version. The Drupal Association has decided to give sites more time to migrate to the latest version.
Why should you still update as soon as possible? Drupal 7 will still be supported, but it will not receive any major new features. In the medium term, there will also be no more security updates. To ensure the security of the website in the long term, we still recommend switching to Drupal 10.
To understand Drupal versions, you should first understand the semantics of version numbers and the difference between an update and an upgrade.
There are major Drupal versions (so-called major versions), like Drupal 8.
Within these major versions there are minor versions (so-called minor versions) such as Drupal 8.1.
The last gradation are called patches, which contain small security updates within small (minor) versions. So the last 1 in 8.1.1 means patch 1 of the minor version 8.1.
What is the difference between an upgrade and an update?
Upgrading a website from one major version to another, such as from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, is called an Upgrade.
Moving from one minor version to another within a major version, for example from Drupal 8.1.1 to 8.1.2 or from 8.1.0 to 8.2.0, is called an Update.
As a rule of thumb, the smaller the version jump, the easier the update. A new patch should be applied as soon as possible for the security of the website. However, you should also not wait too long before updating to higher minor versions.
Which versions are up to date?
There are currently 3 major Drupal versions still receiving security updates:
- Drupal 7 until November 2023
- Drupal 9 until November 2023
- Drupal 10 is the latest version
The support of Drupal 8 expired in November 2021, although upgrading to Drupal 9 or 10 is comparatively straightforward.
As soon as a major version has expired, an upgrade to the latest version should generally be carried out immediately.
Why were Drupal 7, Drupal 8, and Drupal 9 supported at the same time?
The major version Drupal 7, released in 2011, was and still is popular, especially for large sites with high security requirements.Seventy percent of all Drupal sites - including the NASA website - are still running on Drupal 7.
Because of this and other important websites running on this version, security updates for Drupal 7 will continue to be released until November 2023.
WhatCMS.org detects that nasa.gov is still using Drupal 7.
Why are large websites still using Drupal 7?
An Upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 or 10 is a complex and difficult process. From Drupal 8 on, the PHP framework Symfony is used as the basis of the CMS.
This brought a paradigm shift from procedural to object-oriented programming and many other improvements. For example, it introduced a more secure and robust core, the use of Twig as a template engine instead of PHP code, and easier management of translations.
However, this paradigm shift makes it very difficult to migrate Drupal 7 code to Drupal 8. Many so-called "contrib" modules (freely available open source modules) are currently still only available in buggy variants or have never even been adapted to Drupal 8 or 10.
Why use Drupal 10 instead of Drupal 7?
In contrast to Drupal 7, Drupal 10 is more secure and also noticeably faster due to a better caching system. In addition, Drupal 7 will no longer be provided with security updates from November 2023.
The more modern code architecture provided by the Symfony framework is also an important reason to choose Drupal 10 for new websites.
Drupal has no plans for another paradigm shift in the medium term, so upgrading from Drupal 9 to Drupal 10, and later from Drupal 10 to Drupal 11, etc. is much easier than upgrading from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.
What is the difference between Drupal 8 and 9?
Drupal 9 is very similar to Drupal 8 because Drupal 8.9 already includes all the new features of Drupal 9. However, Drupal 9 uses the newer version 4.4 of the Symfony framework, which also uses Twig 2.0 as its template engine, while Drupal 8 still uses Symfony 3 as its framework.
Drupal 8 also has deprecated code that will be removed with an upgrade to Drupal 9. However, this code was used by some modules.
When you're dependent on modules that haven't replaced this outdated code, it's hard to upgrade an entire site from Drupal 8 to 9, especially as a site owner with no programming skills.
What is the difference between Drupal 9 and 10?
Drupal 10 inspires with a nicer default theme, increased accessibility and a better text editor (CKEditor 5 simplifies linking, image uploads and styling).
Under the hood, the framework also changes to Symfony 6 as well as the current PHP version 8.1 as a system requirement.
How does the upgrade to Drupal 10 work?
Drupal 10 is the latest version of Drupal, released in December 2022. The upgrade process is similar to the one from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9.
There will be new features added to both Drupal 9 and Drupal 10 during the transition period until November 2023. The biggest difference will be deprecated code that will be removed with an upgrade to Drupal 10.
How do I prepare for new Drupal versions?
To avoid being surprised by the end of a Drupal version's security updates, you should always keep an eye on the end-of-life dates. It is also a good idea to avoid relying on poorly maintained modules.
If you still need such a module in a new Drupal version, we can help you make your used modules fit for Drupal 10.