Even though it’s now been several years since Drupal 8 was released (November 2015), it’s a question many developers find themselves asking. Which version of Drupal is best to build a new website or web application, Drupal 7 or Drupal 8?
It’s been a few years, but it’s a question that’s still being asked. Probably much to anyone’s surprise.
But in fact, the answer to this question is quite easy to answer.
Drupal 7 was and still is, a great piece of software. It’s magnificent, and it was a real game changer for many developers and businesses worldwide.
The software has allowed millions of websites and applications to work in a way that is unparalleled by Drupal’s rival content management systems.
However, Drupal 8 has brought even more power, innovation, and technology to the content management space, beating Drupal 7 in feature availability in nearly every aspect.
For site administrators, the way Drupal 8 behaves is much the same as its predecessor, with essentially nothing new to learn. Nothing that you can’t work out in a matter of minutes, anyway.
But at all other stages beyond basic site administration, at every other stage of the development chain, Drupal 8 has introduced massive changes that affect the production process.
In a vastly positive way, at that.
Drupal 8 is so far, the most powerful open-source content management system ever built. It’s closer than its previous version, Drupal 7, to the technology that Drupal as a framework will continue to provide going forward, with future releases.
Even acknowledging the power that Drupal 7 provided out the box, Drupal 8 is in many ways far superior.
There isn’t really anything that could be accomplished using Drupal 7 that Drupal 8 can’t do better.
One admitted caveat Drupal 8 has suffered, was that at its time of release (late 2015), the availability of contributed modules was quite limited.
With Drupal boasting a freely-distributed, international catalog of thousands of open-source contributed modules, this was one of the key sticking points for developers who were in the process of building new Drupal sites and applications.
However, as of 2019, it’s probably safe to say that development of new (and porting of pre-existing) contributed modules is now at an infinitely better state than it was at Drupal 8’s initial release. I mean, it has been nearly four years by this point.
The modules that have not (yet) received updated compatibility with Drupal 8 can largely be switched-out for a newer alternative — usually, one that has been redeveloped from the ground-up for Drupal 8 specifically.
And in many ways, the fact that many modules have not been ported can serve as a blessing in disguise for Drupal developers and website maintainers.
It’s probably best to be slightly wary of modules whose maintainers haven’t been keen on porting their code yet, as it may hint toward their possible lack of interest in the continued adoption and availability of their module for the wider Drupal community.
In my opinion, that’s probably an indication to opt for an alternative, where the maintainer is regularly providing bug fixes, compatibility updates, and possible security patches.
With future versions of Drupal set to built on the codebase of Drupal 8, rather than the dated code of Drupal 7, it’s probably safe to say that new projects are largely better off taking advantage of Drupal 8 as a software, instead of its predecessor.
Given the greater feature availability and adoption of newer, more innovative technologies in Drupal 8, in addition to the improved state of contributed module availability, there really isn’t much reason to choose Drupal 7 as a development platform for new web solutions in 2019.
In respect to the future, Drupal 8 is bound to allow more flexibility for forward-compatibility, innovation, and development.
Particularly in today’s fickle, fast-paced technology industry, remaining current and forward-thinking is a wise choice.
The only potential use cases for deploying Drupal 7 as the development platform of choice today would be an exclusive need to access Drupal 7’s codebase for a project, above Drupal 8’s. For instance, in a scenario where Drupal 7 fits much neater into a pre-existing application ecosystem might be a swaying factor.
In summary, developing with Drupal 8 is probably the choice that makes the most sense in 2019.
For most new projects, this appears to be the wiser choice.
There are still viable use cases for deploying Drupal 7 for new projects. But if the project can stomach it, Drupal 8 is probably the platform version of choice.