“Drupal 9 is Drupal 8 “stripped off” all deprecated functionality, with all its dependencies upgraded.” “It's actually no bigger deal than a new Drupal 8 minor release.” Or: "Drupal 9 is just a... small update to Drupal 8.” You must have already read all these reassuring posts on the release of Drupal 9, so you can't help wondering: can we even talk about a Drupal 9 vs Drupal 8 comparison?
Are there any new features in Drupal 9? Any new major differences at all, between these 2 major releases?
If not, why bother releasing a major version at all?
What will be its impact on you, the Drupal developer? Will your current experience working with Drupal 8 remain relevant?
And what about all those contributed modules that you've used to power most of your projects with? Will they still work in Drupal 9?
Now, let's dig up some answers:
1. Is There a Need for Releasing Drupal 9... At All?
Since, we've already been having Drupal 8 minor releases, carrying “fresh new” features, every six months?
With Drupal 8 relying on third-party dependencies like Twig, Guzzle and Symfony, there's only a matter of time till they reach their own security support cycles.
Take for instance, Symfony 3, the version that Drupal 8's currently using. It will no longer get security fixes after November 2021.
And where do you add that any major update to these dependencies calls for major changes in Drupal core.
In other words: for new major Drupal releases.
2. Drupal 9 vs Drupal 8: What Are the Differences... If Any at All?
The only major difference is actually a... mind shift:
Drupal 9 will no longer come out as a new groundbreaking Drupal release. As a technological... breakthrough, that we're both looking forward to and that sends shivers down our spines at the same time.
For we never know how those new features would impact the familiar “status quo”.
In other words: Drupal 9 is not going to be a totally new CMS that only “accidentally” carries the same name, like it was the case with Drupal 8 when compared to Drupal 7.
Instead, it will be:
- built within Drupal 8 (no separate codebase); new functionality is already being added, gradually, to Drupal 8, as backward-compatible code
- it will seamlessly accommodate all current Drupal 8 contributed modules (even custom ones!), as long as they don't rely on deprecated APIs
Once all the newly added features grow from experimental to stable and all deprecated code and APIs gets removed... Drupal 8 turns into Drupal 9.
As natural that. Drupal 8, stripped off its unnecessary cruft...
There will be no cumbersome, lengthy upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9...
As for the “new” Drupal 9 features:
Expect no backward-compatibility breaking ones. Just the needed dependency updates.
3. What Does Drupal 9 Mean For You, the Drupal Developer?
- there's no brand new core involved
- the contributed modules will continue to work seamlessly in Drupal 9, as long as they don't rely on deprecated APIs
… your Drupal 8 know-how is future-proofed.
Furthermore, with new experimental features being added to Drupal 8, getting it prepared for growing into Drupal 9, you can already start working on compatibility with D9.
You can update your media modules and leverage the new media library before Drupal 8 officially “passes on the torch” to its successor.
No big deal, no big differences.