Drupal: Content Management Made Easy
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Content management systems have made it easy for even novices to set up intricate web sites, complete with many interactive features. One of the most popular open source CMSes is Drupal. This article will take a look at why it is so popular, and what features it offers the prospective user.
There was a time, not so long ago, when web sites were built from scratch by hand. But with the increasing popularity of Web 2.0, the rise of the content management system (CMS) has changed the web development landscape beyond recognition. A CMS allows anyone, regardless of their level of technical know-how, to get a complex, fully featured and interactive site up and running quickly and easily.
More than this, it removes virtually all the programming from site management, allowing non-coders to maintain their own content through user interfaces that are no more difficult to learn and use than a regular word processor. A CMS also allows a novice to add complex features such as forums and chat rooms, workflow management and powerful security controls that would previously have had to be custom-built. It's easy to see why the popularity of the CMS has grown almost exponentially, to the point where around 200 open source CMS projects are listed on the CMS comparison site CMS Matrix, and that's before considering the many commercial solutions that are available.
One of the most popular of the open source systems is Drupal. Now at major version 6, Drupal - like much open source software - began life as the college project of Belgian computer science student Dries Buytaert, who back in 1998 was attempting to develop a simple LAN-based message board. Buytaert decided to port the resulting software to the web a couple of years later, after graduating. At that time the CMS was little more than a fledgling concept, but in response to an increasing number of user requests, Buytaert began adding features to the system.
By 2001 the volume of requests had grown to the point where Buytaert took the logical step of releasing the code - now named Drupal - under the GNU General Public License This was intended to encourage broader community involvement in the project's development, but even Buytaert couldn't have predicted the success that would follow. Thanks to its longevity, along with the its technical robustness, Drupal is now at the center of a flourishing online community with around 350,000 members.
But what is it about Drupal that makes it so much more popular than almost any other open source CMS? A clue is offered on the drupal.org mission page, which is headed with the words Don't Panic in friendly italic letters. This message -- a quote from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - is at the heart of the Drupal philosophy of flexibility, simplicity and utility. As far as it is possible to make an advanced software system straightforward to set up and use, Drupal does so. It also boasts an extensive feature list, over 5,000 community-developed modules that improve and extend the system's functionality, and powerful performance thanks to the lean code and advanced caching mechanism.
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