That the recent tumult in the Middle East put Al Jazeera, the largest news organisation focused on the region, in the crux of a social media storm is well-known. That Barack Obama leveraged the internet like no other during his 2008 election campaign too, is common knowledge.
What is however unknown, is the fascinating story of Drupal – the free, open source social publishing platform – that enabled the survival of Al Jazeera's website amid the escalating pressure; besides latching global governments onto its services.
“Over 2 per cent of all websites worldwide, from blogs to corporate, political and government sites use Drupal as their back-end system. This includes the United States government's official website, the www.whitehouse.gov,” says Dries Buytaert, creator of Drupal.
A software package that allows you to organise, manage and publish content, with endless customisation; Drupal is used by millions today. And, India is now as much a part of this online revolution. Various government organisations, including the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, have adopted Drupal as their communication platform over the past year.
“Drupal can be downloaded for free and innumerable new features can be added to it. While over 1.5 million users visit our official website, www.drupal.org, nearly one-third of the traffic is from India. The interest for Drupal and the quality of developers here is overwhelming. There is escalating demand for the software in the Indian market,” says Dries, who is in the country on a tour of educational institutions in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.
With a name that is Dutch for ‘village', the ‘Drupal' advantage lies in its community aspect. While over thousands of developers maintain the software, ‘tens of thousands' of community volunteers across the world continuously add new features, called modules, to the license-free software.
While there are over 11,000 modules today that can be used to customise Drupal's behaviour and appearance, there is a steep increase in the demand for trained Drupal developers in the country, who can create websites across industries using the appropriate modules.
With numerous such functions, it has specialised distribution across several sectors like governance, communication, media, education and publishing websites, among others.
“While hosting a small website using propriety software could cost nearly $400 a month, a similar website would cost merely $5 with Drupal as it free to download. As it is open-source it enables a huge commercial eco-system which allows you to do well, while giving something back to the community,” says Dries.