What does Drupal have to do with the Apple App Store (and iPhone)?

So there's no question that the Apple iPhone has revolutionized the traditional phone and really brought the concept of the little personal data assistant (PDA) into the main stream connected with the phone. The thing is that there have been lots of PDA's and even "smartphones" over the years that never quite gained acceptance. Some people contend it's the user interface that makes the iPhone so cool. There's no doubt in my head that the iPhone interface (like all Apple interfaces) is an actually joyful experience. But I don't buy it as the reason everyone started using it. The reason for the rise of the iPhone is the App Store. The fact that you can a) find thousands of apps that you could be interested in, b) see what other people have to say about them and c) install them seamlessly is what sets apart the iPhone from predecessors. Simply stated, "it's the apps stupid."

What does this have to do with Drupal? Drupal is a great content management system but what really makes it shine are the modules. They're sort of like the apps on an iPhone and they all can be found at http://drupal.org. Some of the great advantages to this include:

  • We don't have to go googling the entire Internet to find a decent module. Every module we use is housed right there on the project website.
  • All of the modules are listed in the same format which makes it easy to find documentation, search to see if anyone has the same issue with a module we're having and even contact the maintainer of the module with a question.
  • We're better able to judge if a module should be considered for our standard Drupal implementation. With more than 6,000 modules available, that's a really important need. The site shows how many sites have implemented each individual module. We can see how many bugs are in the issue queue and also tell if the module is actively maintained.
  • All of the revisions of that module are stored and we can see what changed in the code from version to version. We can even automagically pull the latest version using a utility called Drush.
  • Perhaps the best part? They're all free. The Drupal site requires that every module on there be governed by the GNU Public License (GPL). That basically means it's free for us to use, distribute and extend so long as we also keep it under the GPL. That is a HUGE difference from our days using Joomla where it seemed that every new module (called a "component" in Joomla jargon) wanted to get into us for more money and no ability to extend. In short, Drupal is a great software to update your own website but there are lots of great software packages for doing that (including Joomla). One thing that sets Drupal apart is the "app store" of modules maintained on the drupal.org website which makes it easy to find, evaluate and contribute to free modules that extend your website in literally thousand of ways. Thank you Dries.

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