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Lego characters with a head missing

The "Next-Drupal" dubbed the "Gatsby Killer," is a headless CMS built on Drupal.

Next-Drupal separates Drupal's user interface from its CMS, making development time shorter.

John Faber, a developer at the online studio Chapter Three, is a huge proponent of their Next-Drupal open-source product. He isn't shy about naming things and giving his honest opinion on them.

He insists that Drupal be developed as a headless content management system. This is precisely what Next-Drupal accomplishes; it creates a frontend for the Drupal CMS by employing Next.js, a popular React framework. According to Faber, this results in a more performing solution with a better developer experience than Drupal alone.

According to him, "the front end of Drupal has always gotten in the way," such that people have never been able to understand Drupal for what it really is: a shining star of a content architecture platform. Chapter Three has been working with Drupal for a long time, but in order to keep up with the times, the team has opted to switch to the more modern and flexible decoupled Next.js framework.

Drupal loses its leader

Acquia, the company behind Drupal, has unveiled a new "open-source, headless starting kit," and The New Stack recently talked with Drupal's developer, Dries Buytaert, about it. Faber commented that Chapter Three built the Acquia Next starting kit on top of Next-Drupal. He also mentioned that since Next-Drupal's release only this month, it has been downloaded an average of 2,000 times each week.

It enables the development of "production-level frontends" on a lightweight React framework, with "immediate access," as Faber put it. Providing "immediate access to data in faraway regions" was a primary design goal of Next.

Having a framework that is not tightly connected might be rather expensive. Despite the prevalence of headless CMS in the market, Faber said that by relying on hosted solutions, businesses risk constructing their content infrastructure on top of locked-in platforms that demand exorbitant fees as they grow.


"If I understand you correctly, they claim ownership of your personal information. This becomes more expensive as you grow," Faber comments. "It's possible for a small blog site to go big and suddenly cost $5,000, $6,000, or $7,000 each month."

He explained that while WordPress is popular with small and medium-sized organisations, Drupal is aimed squarely at enterprises. Businesses are looking for cutting-edge innovations, and Next-Drupal delivers with its headless content management system (CMS) approach. WordPress is more about page construction than Drupal's concentration on organised content and content architecture, he said, but WordPress is easier to use and quicker to deploy.

Gatsby is an alternative open-source choice that works with headless by utilising plugins like Contentful, Ghost, and Prismic; however, Faber has labelled Drupal-Next as a "Gatsby killer," claiming that Next-Drupal can accomplish the same tasks as Gatsby but at a lower cost and in less time.

He conceded that there are many who dislike Drupal, but he said that their dislike stemmed from versions prior to Drupal 8, which made use of Twig. Twig, he added, was difficult and time-consuming to deal with. However, since then, Drupal has been updated such that it can make JSON API calls out of the box.

This is when he brings in WordPress... "For the sake of clarity, [in Drupal 9]... Everything is exposed as an API," he proclaimed. To quote the developers of Drupal: "You put any material into Drupal, and right off the start, you can retrieve it out with a JSON request."

What about Faust.js?

He said that Next-Drupal was similar to Faust.js, which separates the backend and front end of WordPress.

He compared Next-Drupal to Faust.js, saying, "Essentially it accomplishes very similar things.There's a strong desire to move away from WordPress's front end, the admin dashboard. I can assure you that the WordPress interface has always been terrible. What was once ugly becomes stunning once you uncouple it."

According to Faber, the website for California State University, Bakersfield, is one example of a business that has upgraded from Drupal to Next-Drupal in an effort to boost load times. Faber said that by using Next-Drupal, their hosting costs were cut by 33%.

California State University, Bakersfield's Extended Education and Global Outreach is led by Stacey Childress, who serves as the department's director of marketing and systems. In an email to The New Stack, Childress said that the university had considered a headless approach a few years ago, but ultimately decided against it because the technology was "wonky and fraught with technical issues larger than any gains we might have made in terms of speed and overall user experience."

But, according to Childress, their experience with Next.js was quite different.

The Next.js platform and our particular use case has been incredibly seamless for us,” Childress added. With Drupal, "we could modify our back-end experience for our content editors to our satisfaction with essentially no limits," but with the headless/Next.js architecture, "we can give a significantly greater front-end experience for our potential students" (essentially, their users/customers).

Content editors are happy with the content editing experience, and "the speed with which they can develop and test changes," Childress said. Users have also noticed a speed increase.

The public should know, according to Faber, that WordPress isn't the only product addressing the needs of front-end developers. According to Faber, "we are the genuine open-source and truly composable stack."