February 24, 2022
A blue Drupal logo badly photoshopped onto the head of a zombie coming out of a grave, holding a lantern with the number 7 on it
Image Caption: Thanks, Jeff Hipp.

Drupal 7 Support Extended to 2023: Good News for Nonprofits

By Johanna Bates

Yesterday, the Drupal community released major news about the Drupal 7 project: Drupal 7’s End of Life has been extended again, to at least November 1, 2023. That date will be re-evaluated each year. 

Originally, Drupal 7 was supposed to stop receiving official security updates by November of 2021. Due to the pandemic, Drupal 7 security support was then extended to November of 2022. 

Because there’s no easy upgrade path between Drupal versions 7 and 9, many organizations have been scrambling to rebuild their sites in Drupal 9, or in another system, by autumn of this year. 

But it’s been tough for many nonprofits – between budget, capacity, and ongoing pandemic demands – to meet this deadline.  As it currently stands, the majority of Drupal sites are still running on Drupal 7. And this is why Drupal 7 support has been extended an additional year. 

We’ve already heard from some nonprofit Drupal users that they’re breathing a sigh of relief about this news, while others feel frustrated. Some folks have fought hard to convince stakeholders to rebuild, and it may now be tempting to put it off. 

We’re here to tell you that it’s still wise to move forward with rebuilds if you're already in that process. Consider using this extension to slow down and ensure that you are rebuilding right.

If you haven't started, it’s still smart to plan a rebuild to get off Drupal 7 as soon as you’re able.

What if I’m already in the process of rebuilding my Drupal 7 site in Drupal 9, WordPress, or something else?

That’s great! All this means is that you have some extra time to complete the process. 

Because of the pace of change in the web technology world, and the evolving needs of your site’s users, it’s a good practice to rethink the content, structure, and design of your site at least every 3-5 years. 

If you’re upgrading to Drupal 9, it is well worth the improved authoring experience, new features, modernized codebase, and the more streamlined upgrade process (no more rebuilds required between versions!) from here on out. 

If, in a rush to rebuild by the deadline, you had to forgo rethinking your site’s structure, content, and/or visual design, we encourage you to consider slowing down a bit to include those activities, if budget and capacity allow. Taking time at the start of a project for user research, discovery, and planning work always produces a better website. This is true whether you’re rebuilding in Drupal, WordPress, or any other system.

This is the third time Drupal 7 support has been extended, can I just stay on Drupal 7 forever?

It’s a fair question. There’s no guarantee the date will be extended again. Plus, there are a few problems with staying on Drupal 7 indefinitely. 

  1. Drupal 7 core is not being improved, only maintained for security fixes.
  2. Drupal 7 relies on an older version of PHP, PHP 7, which your web host may stop supporting in November of this year. Drupal 7 compatibility with PHP 8 will depend on the specifics of your site (contributed modules, custom code).
  3. Fewer developers want to work on Drupal 7, which makes it more difficult to find support.
  4. Most contributed modules are not actively maintained for Drupal 7. Few Drupal 7 modules are being improved. At best they’re maintained for security fixes, but some module maintainers aren’t even doing that.
  5. Drupal 9’s admin and content editing interface is easier to use, more secure, more feature-rich, and actively improving.

We recommend playing it safe and treating November 2023 as the final end-of-life date.

Last time I got a quote for rebuilding my Drupal 7 in Drupal 9, it was expensive. Has that changed?

The Drupal 9 project is now mature and stable. The tools for migrating a site from Drupal 7 to 9 have evolved, and the number of contributed modules with stable Drupal 9 releases is higher than ever. Collectively, Drupal developers have more experience migrating Drupal 7 sites to Drupal 9. All of these factors may help bring down the cost of a rebuild, but the process is still significant. If it’s been over a year since you’ve gotten an estimate, it’s worth another look.

I’ve got more questions. Where can I get advice?

Decisions of this magnitude can feel daunting. Luckily there’s a large and friendly Drupal nonprofit community ready to answer your questions. The best ways to reach out are - 

A big thank you to DevCollab-ers Clayton Dewey, Steven DuBois, Erin Fogel, Jeff Hipp, and Allie Thorpe, as well as to Nathan Gasser and the wider Drupal nonprofit community for their thoughts on this topic.