It’s an interesting time to be building things for the web. It’s matured to a place where much of our day to day lives is conducted through sites that we access online. I personally buy books on paper, diapers, any piece to repair a broken appliance. I search for clues on how to do my job. I read up on the latest state of th technology scene. Every one of these places I go has largely the same stuff on it - some kind of login, some kind of way to get to “my stuff”, some kind of way to make sure that others can’t get to my stuff.

Building this stuff is not exactly easy, and to do it in a way that makes it a lot harder for other people to break (or break into) is downright terrifying. So what do we do? We team up. How do we do it? Well, in this day and age it’s called “open source software”.

Drupal is just such a piece of software. Right out of the box it comes with all that standard stuff - user accounts, a mechanism for posting stuff online - either publicly or privately, and mechanisms for doing many of the other things that you could think of. Lots of folks use Drupal and have been using Drupal for many years now, which means that for the vast majority of things that you want your site to do someone else has wanted their site to do that too. Even better, they’ve already solved the problem and given the solution back to us all, so you don’t have to go solve it again. This is the essence of open source - folks all over the world working together, and a huge part of why I use Drupal.

What about Tool X?

To be sure, Tool X is excellent. It has a great user community and many of these same problems have been solved in a different way inside it, but it actually requires you to write code, which Drupal doesn’t require for you to get started.

Tool W is another project much like Drupal, but it isn’t nearly as flexible as Drupal, it stays within a smaller set of lines. It does what it does within those lines excellently, so definitely evaluate if you can solve your case with Tool W before coming to Drupal, as Drupal is a bigger piece of machinery with a steeper learning curve.

Who uses Drupal?

Lots of folks. Right now the best use case for Drupal is for sites that have a lot of content. These include publishers and their sites, government agencies and their sites, and educational insitutions and their sites. Lots of times these folks have specific needs for how they present their content to the world and how they allow the world to access it, and Drupal fits that use case like a glove.

Turns out that most things that go on the web aren’t that far away from this specific use case, so extending Drupal to get there is often a pretty straightforward and well trodden path. This series hopes to make it even more straightforward for newcomers.

Why not Drupal?

Drupal is not good at everything, however. Don’t use it to ingest real time trade data from the NYSE, for example. You’ll want a leaner and more purpose built system for that, but chances are if you’re building something like that you already know this.

Now, on to installing Drupal.