Drupal 6 on deathbed: “I’ll leave hundreds of UK websites orphaned”

drupal 6

With version 8 of Drupal getting an official release in November 2015 it was only a matter of time before its forebear, Drupal 6, would stop receiving support and updates from the Drupal community. According to Drupal.org, D6 will reach end-of-life on February 24th, with Acquia (the dedicated Drupal hosting platform) ending their support on the same date in 2017. What does this mean for anyone with a website on Drupal 6?

Upgrade, or face the consequences

Because of the way that Drupal is developed, upgrading to a new major version of the content management system is a bit more complicated than simply downloading and installing an update. (You can read more about this in our Guide to Drupal.) Upgrading from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 or Drupal 8 will more than likely require a significant rebuild project.

That’s more than enough motivation to put it off until a later date but unfortunately it’s not one of those things you can put off indefinitely. One of the crucial functions for the Drupal community when supporting an existing version is to identify security issues and publish patches to deal with them. As Drupal 6 shuffles off its mortal coil there’s real potential for it to become vulnerable to all kinds of security issues.

How many sites are affected?


According to the latest usage statistics on Drupal.org we can see that at least 114,493 websites are built using version 6.x. (This number is likely to be higher since Drupal only collects data from websites with the Update Status module installed.) That’s about 9.6% of all the known Drupal websites.

Looking to independent sources, W3Techs estimates that 2.2% of all the websites in the world are built with Drupal. But they also estimate that 21.9% of all Drupal websites use version 6.x – which is wildly different to Drupal’s own numbers.

Also dramatically different are BuiltWith’s Drupal stats which say that only 0.2% of all websites worldwide are built with Drupal.

Which means the only conclusion we can come to is that somewhere between 0.02% and 0.2% of the world’s websites are affected.

Looking closer to home, BuiltWith reports that there are 6,001 businesses located in the UK with Drupal websites, which, combined with Drupal.org’s numbers, would suggest that around 574 are in need of an upgrade from Drupal 6.

I’ll readily admit that that number is highly unlikely to be accurate but it’s probably fair to assume that there are hundreds of UK websites still using Drupal 6.

What if you can’t upgrade?

If it’s impossible for you to upgrade before February 24th (i.e. you haven’t started the process yet) there are vendors from whom you can purchase paid support for your Drupal 6 site. The aforementioned Acquia is one of them and there’s a full list on the Drupal site.

Which version should you upgrade to?

With the onset of Drupal 8, most drupal developers I know of are investing a lot of time and effort into learning Symfony (a PHP framework that D8 heavily relies on), which means that developers skilled with the D7 API might be an even scarcer resource in the future. You can read more about the architectural change to the Drupal system in version 8  in our Guide to Drupal or, if you’re more technical, in Gabriele’s posts from DrupalCon Europe.

At Manifesto we’re Drupal specialists and have worked on Drupal website builds for great organisations like Frieze and Diabetes UK. If you’d like to discuss your Drupal 6 upgrade options, please do get in touch.


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