18 July 2007

Drupal

Drupal is an open-source content management software (CMS) used to create blogs, wikis, or news sites. It was developed in Belgium as "Drop" (from dorp, for village), and later incorporated features from the GNU Project. It is written in PHP, a programming language very commonly used for CGI web applications; and it uses a database structure (in which content and template settings are stored in tables as a backend).

Other CMS applications, such as bitweaver, have the same technical features of Drupal listed above: open source, PHP, CGI, database storage, and multi-draft storage. However, Drupal is much more commonly used; for example, the Air America Radio and Onion websites are powered by Drupal. In fact, typically Drupal sites tend to be associated with community activism, non-profits, or political campaigns. Partly this is because Drupal is free software, but is well-suited to professional implementation. It's somewhat difficult to install and modify, which precludes non-IT people from tinkering with it, but for those seeking employment as web designers, it can be readily used to create an attractive and dynamic site. Drupal is scalable to include e-commerce and multi-function websites; for example, a news site that sells promotional material (mugs, tickets, etc.) but also includes lengthy archives of past articles, and a comment section. Drupal sites can be very large, i.e., with a very large number of pages and editors; and it can be very robust.

Part of the great strength of Drupal is the good choice of technology used: PHP has overtaken Perl as the preferred language of CMS applications (Perl applications often face severe installation problems on web hosts running Apache [*]). While there are many CMS applications written in PHP, the majority generate static pages, because that's the easy way to go; it's only when a dynamic website is mature and the organization discovers it needs more features, that it realizes it needs to switch to the database format. And finally, it's object-oriented, which means that an installation of Drupal can be enhanced by plug-ins.
ADDITIONAL READING & SOURCES: Lewis-Bowen, Evanchick, & Weitzman, "Getting started with Drupal" (2006);

Drupal blog (many contributors—deals with responses to problems, issues, & questions);

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