I admit it. When looking at the calendar my eyes have been focused on November 19, 2015. This is the date that Drupal 8, under development since 2011, is expected to be released. But for Drupal 6 users, the beginning of Drupal 8 also marks the beginning of the end for Drupal 6 support. Announced on Drupal.org, Michael Hess writes that Drupal 6 will reach end-of-life on February 24 2016.
As announced in the Drupal 6 extended support policy, 3 months after Drupal 8 comes out, Drupal 6 will be end-of-life (EOL).
On February 24th 2016, Drupal 6 will reach end of life and no longer be supported.
What this means for you:
- Drupal 6 will no longer be supported by the community at large. The community at large will no longer be creating new projects, fixing bugs in existing projects, writing documentation, etc. around Drupal 6.
- There will be no more core commits on Drupal 6.x to the official tree. (see What if I have a Drupal 6 site still)
- The security team will no longer provide support or Security Advisories for Drupal 6
All Drupal 6 releases on project pages will be flagged as not supported.
- At some point in the future update status may stop working for Drupal 6 sites.
The policy of the Drupal community is to support only the current and previous stable versions. (When Drupal 8 is released, Drupal 7 will continue to be maintained but Drupal 6 be marked unsupported.) This policy was created to prevent Drupal's core and module maintainers from having to maintain more than two active major versions of Drupal.
If you currently run a Drupal 6 site, you have the choice of upgrading to Drupal 7 or Drupal 8. Something new to Drupal core, Drupal 8 will be providing a migration path from Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 using either a user interface or Drush. This Migrate feature will be fully supported in a later minor release of Drupal 8. Drupal 7 remains fully supported, so Drupal 6 sites can also update to Drupal 7 using the traditional "update" option. Unless there is a change in Drupal's versioning practice, Drupal 7 is expected to be supported until Drupal 9 is released.
As any website administrator experienced with Drupal well-knows, most obstacles to updating a Drupal site often does not come from Drupal "core" but instead third-party contributed modules, themes, and customized code. While major versions of Drupal are usually good at providing some type of update path from previous versions of Drupal, it's the non-baseline features that can be difficult to bring into the new version. If the third-party code isn't available, users here still have options. Although Drupal 6 will no longer be supported, Drupal 6 sites will still be capable of running "as-is" well after February 24, 2016. The only negative here is new found Drupal 6 security vulnerabilities will unlikely be addressed by core developers.
For those that are uncomfortable with running a Drupal 6 without official support but are unable to upgrade to Drupal 7 or Drupal 8, you may want to consider working with vendors who are willing to provide paid support for Drupal 6 sites beyond February 24, 2016. I'm already aware of such companies announcing this option all the way from bigger players such as Acquia down to the smaller vendors such as myDropWizard. Potential customers will want to stay tuned when a vetted list of vendors are provided by Drupal.