Drupal 8.1.0 was released on April 20th. (Read the full release notes.) There are a few exciting things about this release. At the top, this is the first time Drupal has done a scheduled feature release using the new semantic versioning and pre-set release schedule. Instead of 8.1, we have 8.1.0, and we got the release out on schedule! (Learn more about the Drupal 8 release schedule and semantic versioning.) This feature release added some CKEditor WYSIWYG enhancements, added some APIs, an improved help page, and two new experimental modules: Migrate Drupal UI and BigPipe.
One of the big advantages to these 6-month feature releases is that we can add new things to Drupal core over time instead of having to wait for the next big version. This means Drupal core will change more over its life than previous versions. One of the downsides of this is that documentation and learning materials may get out of date more quickly. We’re excited about the possibilities of Drupal 8 releases and we’re dedicated to having the most up-to-date and accurate tutorials you can find. To keep on top of things, we are reviewing all of the Drupal 8 releases to see where our tutorials need to be updated, and we’re making sure we stay involved in the core issues and processes so we are aware of big changes that may be coming. This is the most exciting release cycle Drupal has ever had, and we’re loving the energy and the challenge of keeping up with it toe-to-toe. So without further ado, here is a brief summary of the big changes in 8.1.0 and a look ahead at some things that might be coming down the road.
The Drupal 8 BigPipe module provides an advanced implementation of Facebook's BigPipe page rendering strategy, leading to greatly improved perceived performance for pages with dynamic, personalized, or un-cacheable content. This is a huge win for Drupal 8, and will make your sites load super fast. You can see the difference it makes in a short demo video on the BigPipe documentation page. The work on this has been happening for over a year and while it didn’t get into the initial 8.0.0 release, it’s very exciting to see this in Drupal core now. For an in-depth look at BigPipe in Drupal, watch the DrupalCon New Orleans BigPipe session video.
The other big feature in Drupal 8.1.0 is improvements to the migration system, which is how we handle upgrades now. There is now a user interface for running migrations, which was a sorely missing feature. (Though, do keep in mind that more migration improvements need to be made.) There has been a lot of work in this space and we’ve been working on upgrade/migration tutorials for a few months. Part of our delay was the tricky space that the migration in core was in, which made it difficult to ensure we had the most accurate tutorials for coming versions of Drupal core. With the 8.1.0 release knocking we decided to push things along by funding Mike Ryan (creator of Migrate module) to make migrations more solid for 8.1.0, and dedicating some of our own Will Hetherington’s time to assist in the effort.
Specifically, we had Mike spend his time making sure the final core migrate issues for 8.1.0 got guided in, and working to get the Migrate Tools and Migrate Plus contributed modules working well with the new release. This is particularly important since not having these two projects functional would severely limit the usefulness of the Migrate work in core.
Aside from the actual code work that Mike cranked out, we also go 2 great blog posts; one by Mike, Migration update for Drupal 8.1, and the other by Will, Custom Drupal-to-Drupal Migrations with Migrate Tools.
You can also see the fruits of our labor on the Migrate front with the first of several parts for our new Drupal 8 Migration Guide, led by Will.
We had our first successful feature release, and 8.2.0 is scheduled for October 2016. It remains to be seen what lands in that release, but we are keeping an eye on important developments. Of course, there is also still room for more improvements to Migrate and so we plan to keep working in the migration space over the coming months. One of the new, interesting things to watch is a project to simplify the theme and render system by using a component library. It's still very much in the planning phase, so we have no idea if it can even possibly make it in to the next version yet. (Here is the main issue on Drupal.org if you want to follow along.) We’re particularly interested here at Drupalize.Me because we have an extensive Theming Guide published and this would definitely be something where we’d need to update our previously published tutorials. Rest assured we’re keeping our finger on the pulse.