Introducing Drupal Starshot and Charting a New Course for the Future

A Driesnote to aim for the stars and to bring the Open Web for all!
Introducing Drupal Starshot and Charting a New Course for the Future

DrupalCon Portland 2024 kicked off with enthusiastic energy, emphasizing inclusivity and connection among attendees. Whether participants traveled thousands of miles or just a short distance, the event is framed as a welcoming space for everyone. 

DrupalCon Portland 2024 offers a series of sessions but the most-anticipated talk is the Driesnote, where Dries Buytaert, the alpha of Drupal gives one of his engaging keynotes about the state of the Drupal project. While Driesnote at DrupalCon Lille 2023 took the aid of a humble backdrop such that of a fairytale, this time Dries has aimed for the stars and hopes to bring the Open Web for all.

In Portland, Dries Buytaert announced the introduction of "Drupal Starshot", a new version of Drupal with a great out-of-box experience hoping to be launched by the end of 2024. This initiative will incorporate over 50,000 modules into a streamlined out-of-the-box system. Drupal Starshot, distinct from traditional Drupal Core, will focus on swift innovation and user customization directly from browsers. This approach reflects Drupal's strategic shift to expand its user base and maintain its leadership in the open web.

Driesnote, lasting an hour incorporated the major milestones of a 23-year-old CMS that has stood the test of time and is ready to charge forward with innovations.

Drupal is Pretty Old!

Dries began by noting that DrupalCon Portland 2024 marked his 39th DrupalCon and inevitably his 39th Driesnote. But as the year passes the presentation doesn't seem to get any easier for Dries. If asked, what is Driesnote, it can be explained as a two-fold session. One, Driesnote is a marketing presentation; secondly it's like an all-hands meeting in an organization where the challenges are highlighted very often. 

"But only in Drupal, it is public!"

This format is designed to maintain transparency, offering a comprehensive view of both successes and areas for improvement within the Drupal ecosystem. Finding the right balance in presenting this information to the public, however, poses a distinct challenge.

Drupal has been around for 23 years now.

"That's a very long time in web years, Drupal pre-dated Safari and Firefox and Myspace and WordPress and YouTube and Facebook and Instagram, so, Drupal is pretty old."

said Dries, he also humorously showed his cellphone he used to use at the time Drupal was born.

Defenders of the Open Web

Over the years, Drupal has been at the forefront of web technology innovations. It was among the first CMSs to integrate OpenAI shortly after its release and is recognized as one of the most accessible CMSs globally. Drupal has excelled in multilingual capabilities from its inception (which can be credited to its birth in Belgium), supporting complex sites like the main website for Europe, available in over 25 languages. Additionally, Drupal has pioneered in headless CMS technology and low/no-code solutions. Its architecture supports extensive modularity and composability, with over 50,000 contributed modules, many for integrations, making it highly adaptable and powerful in caching technologies.

Dries explained the importance of Drupal's features through the example of the Sydney Opera House, which utilizes Drupal for its accessibility and integrations to make arts and culture more accessible. The Opera House, equipped with a team of engineers, contributes back to the Drupal community, enhancing the platform for other arts organizations. He also highlighted Drupal's global impact, noting that one in 40 websites worldwide runs on Drupal, with a significant presence in the enterprise sector. He also previewed the upcoming Drupal 11, emphasizing the platform's commitment to innovation and the open web.

Drupal 11

Is Drupal Falling Behind?

As the project lead of Drupal, Dries understands that his job is not only to number the greatest achievements of Drupal but to be accountable for its fallbacks and fix the things that have to be fixed.

"Are we falling behind?"

This has been a question pestering the Drupal community and Drupalers worldwide and certainly Dries is not an alien to this thought as well. To address and analyze the state of Drupal, Dries Buytaert resorted to a real-life story this time. One that resonates much with Drupal and Open Web.

In the late 1950s, the United States was perceived as a global leader with a booming economy, symbolized by advancements like newer cars and suburban homes. However, this perception of superiority was challenged when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and later Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space in 1961. These events shocked America, prompting President Kennedy to inspire a renewed focus on space leadership, emphasizing a commitment to leading the space age and achieving space exploration goals.

Dries notes, "Drupal has found itself in a race that is similar to that of the space race of the 1960s."

"Some people feel like we're falling behind, and no one wants our competitors to win because they aim to colonize a web that's less open, more closed, less creative, maybe more expensive, less accessible, and more proprietary. We truly want the web to be open, and just like the Space Race, the web is going to move forward with or without Drupal, and it's up to us to decide if we want to be part of it."

Dries says if Drupal needs to stay relevant, it needs to have its moonshot moment. For someone who has been preparing for months for this keynote, often listening to the JFK speech, Dries hasn't shown up unprepared.

JFK quote

Kennedy's speech inspired a generation to reach for the stars. It might be Apollo 11 that took the men to the moon but it began with Apollo 1 which cost the life of 3 astronauts in a fire and several failed attempts over the years. Dries Buytaert draws an analogy between Drupal's challenges and the Apollo missions, emphasizing the necessity of learning from setbacks. He points out Drupal's advanced technology, likening it to a powerful, yet underutilized rocket, hindered by a complex interface that limits its accessibility to specialists.

Drupal is a powerful rocket

Dries discusses the need for simplification of interface to enhance accessibility and usability. He highlights a study showing that user perception of Drupal improves with experience, contrary to other CMS platforms. This indicates Drupal's potential if it becomes more user-friendly initially. 

Drupal vs Other CMSs

Driesnote mentions ongoing efforts and future plans to improve the interface and usability for new users, especially targeting non-expert and junior developers. He also emphasizes a strategic shift in focus towards adoption, user satisfaction, and innovation, aimed at making Drupal more competitive and relevant.

Metrics for success

Introducing Drupal Starshot

Drupal Starshot is envisioned as a parallel version to Drupal Core, focusing on delivering a superior initial user experience. Unlike incremental updates to Drupal, Starshot is designed to be a radical improvement that focuses intensely on user interface and experience enhancements. The initiative was born out of extensive discussions and reflects a strategic direction to make Drupal more accessible and appealing to a broader audience. Drupal Starshot is the moonshot Drupal needed!

Introducing Drupal StarShot

The initiative aims to make the user experience so intuitive that documentation becomes almost unnecessary. However, where documentation is still required, it will be greatly enhanced. This approach aligns with broader trends in software development where ease of use and user experience are paramount.

Mission Statement and Goals

The mission statement for Drupal Starshot emphasizes rapid development cycles with frequent releases, possibly independent of Drupal Core's release schedule. Key goals include:

  • Making the setup of new Drupal sites easier.
  • Extending the core with prepackaged "recipes" that incorporate contributed modules, configurations, and default content.
  • Allowing users to perform much of the site construction and customization directly from a browser, enhancing accessibility and ease of use.
Drupal Stardust

Drupal Starshot is set to introduce several technical innovations aimed at enhancing the platform's usability and functionality. Among these is an upgrade to the Layout Builder, which will incorporate user feedback to improve its effectiveness in site design, making it more versatile and user-friendly. Complementing this is the introduction of the Experience Builder, a next-generation tool that builds on the successes and lessons learned from the Layout Builder. This new tool will focus on in-browser theming and component-based design, enabling users to create more tailored and dynamic websites directly from their web browser. 

Additionally, Starshot will introduce "recipes," a novel feature within the Drupal ecosystem. Recipes are designed to allow users to quickly implement complex site-building features without being confined to a full distribution setup. These recipes will enable the dynamic inclusion of various modules and configurations, providing users with the flexibility to customize their sites to meet specific needs efficiently.

What is in Drupal Starshot

Most interestingly, Drupal Starshot has moved from concept to prototype to test the feasibility and refine the scope of the project. Early prototypes include advanced features like an experimental navigation module, enhanced content linking through the Coffee module, and modern administration themes.

"I will say we don't know for sure yet what modules we will ship with Starshot it's a prototype um but hopefully gives you an idea of our progress and what we're thinking conceptually also is the first time I think that we showed recipes in action something that we've been talking about for a couple of Dreisnotes."

said Dries.


Moving on, Starshot is seen as a way to incorporate technologies like responsible AI into the Drupal ecosystem, potentially through features similar to AI co-pilots used in other industries. This could significantly lower the barriers to entry for new users and enhance the capabilities of existing builders.

"Getting to the Moon actually took eight years but we don't have eight years, driven by this sense of urgency we need to get something in the Market something launched in eight months basically by the end of this year, and doesn't have to be the final version it's going to be an initial version uh available on the download page on"

Rebranding and Marketing

Driesnote touched upon efforts to update the Drupal brand, characterized by a brand audit that led to enhancements in the design system. The main goal of this update was to create a more consistent visual language and a modern expression of the Drupal brand, targeting a more fun, vibrant, and accessible design. The result of these efforts was presented in a video showcasing the new brand elements, making them available immediately for download and use. Drupalers are encouraged to start using these newly available brand elements, marking the soft launch of the updated brand.

3 parts of a rocket

In discussing the branding and promotion of Drupal, Dries outlines a three-stage approach, likened to a rocket, to enhance the platform's usability and appeal. First, the commitment is to make Drupal easier to use right out of the box with Drupal Starshot. Second, the development process will be collaborative, leveraging the contributions of both those present and the broader community. Finally, the promotion of Drupal will commence before the first release of this new version. This proactive promotion strategy aims to modernize how Drupal is perceived globally, ensuring that it meets current technological standards and positions itself as a forward-thinking, accessible tool for web development.

New Drupal Branding Panel


Furthermore, the new URL serves as a hub for accessing the brand guidelines, along with providing resources for messaging, positioning for different personas, pitch decks, and more. The call for involvement was underscored, highlighting the need for larger commitments from agency leaders, designers, and marketers to support the promotion of Drupal, drawing a parallel to the marketing strategies employed by NASA.

Marketing Summary

Dries also emphasized the importance of community contributions and outlined plans to sustain the momentum by participating in additional conferences and events such as Web Summit Lisbon 2023. Driesnote also featured a short video from Baddy Sonja Breidert about her session and its reception at the Summit.

Drupal at Web Summit

Community Support

During the Driesnote Dries requested the attendees to identify where they could contribute by writing it on a sticker and displaying it visibly. Those willing to share their commitment were invited to come to the microphone and announce how they intend to contribute, whether it be assisting with documentation, enhancing the trial experience, working on design aspects, or any other area where their skills and expertise could benefit the Drupal community.

Where can you help?

Among the many that came forward, The DropTimes founder, Anoop John, said he would love to contribute more in working closely with the community and taking the good news around Drupal to the larger audience with TDT.

Drupal community members who are interested in contributing to the development of Drupal Starshot can submit their interest via this interest form or join Dries at several Birds of a Feather sessions happening during DrupalCon Portland.

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Here are a few ideas where you can pledge your help.

We need to

In the conclusion of Driesnote at DrupalCon Portland 2024, Dries highlights the potential negative consequences of not progressing with the proposed improvements to Drupal. He emphasizes that failing to evolve could lead to a web that is less open, more expensive, less creative, less accessible, and more bloated. Dries stresses the significant influence of Drupal, underlining the importance of not allowing the web to regress. 

 "I want my kids to grow up with an Open Web that prioritizes privacy, inclusion, and safety." - Dries Buytaert

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