For some, Drupal is a powerful content management system; for others,
it’s a development framework.

With more than 2m downloads and
high-profile users like MTV UK, Estee Lauder, Fox News, and The
Economist, however, there’s no disputing the fact that Drupal is a great example
of a successful open source project.

But all may not be well in the Drupal community.

A post published last month by Drupal contributor Daniel F. Kudwien has sparked a debate about Drupal’s future.

Some worry that Drupal is becoming bloated, while others lament that Drupal has never truly decided what it is (eg. a framework or a product).

The influence of Acquia, a company formed by Drupal creator and project lead Dries Buytaert, is being called into question and to top it off, it appears some contributors are simply burning out.

All of this begs the question: is Drupal experiencing growing pains, or could it potentially be on the brink of decline?

Only time will tell, but in either case, the ‘crisis‘ some see today demonstrates that even mature open-source projects are not insulated from issues that threaten their stability and progress.

At some point, those with divergent interests can pull a project in a direction that may be unpopular and undesirable to a majority or significant minority of other participants.

Additionally, influential commercial entities can emerge even late in the game, throwing into question whether the interests of the project or the interests of the commercial entity are being put first.

All of these things can create great risk and discomfort for those who have previously adopted. In a best case scenario, an open source project becomes stronger through advertisty. In a worst case scenario, however, the situation gets so intolerable that adopting another solution becomes necessary.

Of course, it should be pointed out that commercial solutions aren’t immune from similar issues, but, in my experience, many businesses and organizations have different due diligence standards for commercial solutions and open source solutions.

While the latter should be just as rigorous, oftentimes they’re not. Due diligence is often left at “it’s mature and there’s a great, active community,” and as a result many risks are underestimated.

None of this is a knock on open-source. Open-source is fantastic, and in many product categories, open-source solutions are often far superior to their commercial competitors. But Drupal’s bumps in the road are a reminder that there are never any guarantees.