In conversation with Acquia’s Dries Buytaert, inventor of Drupal


See the original story in Japanese.

Acquia Labs’ establishment was announced just last week, while Dries Buytaert, the man in the spotlight, visited Tokyo. The purpose of his trip was to attend “Young Global Leaders” – a branch community of World Economic Forum for business leaders under the age of 40, which was held at Roppongi Hills – in addition to Drupal Summit Tokyo which was hosted by digital business consulting firm CI&T, known for its utilization of Drupal.

Before leaving for San Francisco, Buytaert was interviewed by The Bridge together with David Peterson, in charge of the Asia-Pacific region. He spoke passionately about the future outlook and what he hopes to accomplish through Drupal and the newly established Acquia Labs.

Acquia upholds the phrase “moving beyond the page” to surpass conventional web technologies and show its determination to attain the next stage. The New York subway system has adopted Drupal as a backend to collect all kinds of information regarding train operations and to provide these via open API, to produce over 80 native apps. It uses Drupal for the display system in the subway station-yard based on information acquired from sensors onboard trains and beacons inside stations. Tesla adopted Drupal for its e-commerce website, dashboards or mobile apps. Nike plans a new experience with smart shoes, although it is still a prototype; by linking with sensors embedded in the soles, users can buy new shoes simply by swiping the smartphone screen after running a certain distance and their shoes start wearing out. Nike’s backend uses Drupal too.

It indeed seems a new attempt beyond the original Drupal CMS (content management system) coverage, but the abovementioned examples can be realized by scratch development using conventional technologies. According to Buytaert, Acquia Labs is considering more complicated concepts to differentiate Drupal, and one of its ultimate purposes is “contextual experiences” which is to provide experiences optimized according to content.

Buytaert says,

For instance, imagine a situation where I visit an airline company’s website. Generally, airline companies seek to sell tickets to visitors. But if I just have lost my baggage or have missed a connecting flight, I am not looking to reserve another flight then. I want them to help me. So, I have to say that current websites are still uncontextual.

He continued:

We provide a product called Acquia Lift for the publishing industry. By learning about the website visitors and their behaviors, it creates profiles for each user based on inflows from cross channels: re:read/not read, which channels they came from… other websites, mailing lists or push notification. It understands user preferences, for example if one is interested in startups but not in politics, and provides better experiences after the next visit.

There are some cooperative cases with Amazon Echo which is lately much discussed. On a website of the grocery chain Gourmet Market, users can enjoy an interactive purchase experience. Although this chain store doesn’t actually exist and is just there for demonstration, a technology to realize interactions between the website and Amazon Echo with only a few lines of code has already been brought forth.

Hints for information provision via web that differs from conventional ones are scattered all over daily life. In case a grocery chain publishes 2,000 cooking recipes on its website, most accesses to the website are not from users at home but from those visiting retailers. That was unexpected even for the grocery chain; most consumers do not purchase ingredients after checking recipes but searches recipes while checking ingredients at retailers. After realizing this, the grocery chain set beacons at the food section of retailers linked with the web, and then became able to provide better experiences to visitors.

Buytaert says:

35,000 users actively contribute to the Drupal community. A very large community. I am sure that they will quickly adapt to new products, and I want them to get excited with new things.

Drupal Summit Tokyo 2016 held at Shibuya Dots, on October 21
Image credit: CI&T

Drupal’s local events like this one held in Tokyo have gathered from 100 to 2,000 visitors in several places the world over almost every weekend, resulting in about 100 events being held annually. Through collaboration with developers such as CI&T which invited Buytaert and Peterson to Tokyo this time, Drupal has strengthened ties with local communities all over the world and seeks cooperative relationships with large enterprises or startups under the Acquia Lab scheme which has commenced anew.

It is an interesting concept under which developers who have been participating in the CMS community can “automatically adapt” to advanced technologies including AI (artificial intelligence), interactive UI (user experience) or IoT (Internet of Things) due to the evolution of core platforms. A few years later, the expression of “web developer” might disappear as a type of engineer occupation for job offers on recruitment websites.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Acquia/Drupal and CI&T teams
From the left: Hiroaki Kawabuchi (Marketing & Communications, CI&T), Alencar Koga (Operation Director, CI&T), Dries Buytaert (Founder, Drupal / Co-founder, Acquia Labs), Yoshiyuki Ueda (General Manager, CI&T), and David Peterson (Solution Architect, Acquia Asia-Pacific)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda