Selected Session

API-first Drupal and the future of the CMS

Preston So
Level of expertise
Session Type
Regular (45 min)
Time Slot

Is the future of content management decoupled? As marketers aim to reach a dizzying and expanding array of content channels and touchpoints, centralization around a single source of truth for content has never been more important. Recently, new tools known as headless CMSes providing content as a service, such as Contentful and Prismic, are challenging the monolithic architecture that has long characterized CMSes like WordPress and Drupal. What role do Drupal and traditional CMSes play in an increasingly API-first playing field and fragmented future?

New architectural techniques such as JavaScript isomorphism and server-side prerendering illustrate the urgency of this question, while new approaches for querying data that aim to supersede strictly RESTful architectures assign the CMS a primarily content-focused role. Some argue that CMSes will simply become content repositories for decoupled front ends to unbridle the front-end developer, while others vehemently defend the advantages and stability of a conventional end-to-end CMS.

With the recent turn toward API-first approaches, what the future holds for longstanding CMSes like Drupal has never been a more pressing, or more intriguing, concern. This session examines the role Drupal and other CMSes occupy amidst a rapidly changing universe. We will consider impacts on markup, performance, security, user experience, accessibility, editorial workflow, content administration, and the ever-changing relationship between the front end and back end against the backdrop of decoupled Drupal and the headless CMS.

Topics include:

  • Imagining the API-first future

  • From experiences to ecosystems

  • The headless CMS

  • API-first Drupal

  • Web services: REST, JSON API, and GraphQL

  • SDKs: Waterwheel

  • The JavaScript renaissance

  • Epilogue: Drupal's API-first future




Preston So has been a web developer and designer since 2001, a creative professional since 2004, and a Drupal developer since 2007. As Development Manager of Acquia Labs at Acquia, Preston leads new open-source and research initiatives. Previously, he managed the Entertainment Weekly website, led its development team at Time Inc., co-founded the Southern Colorado Drupal User Group (est. 2008), and operated an award-winning web and print design studio. Preston has presented at conferences on four continents and in multiple languages about diverse topics such as decoupled Drupal, responsive design, front-end development, and user experience. Most recently, Preston presented the keynotes at DrupalCamp Connecticut 2016 and, in Portuguese, at DrupalCamp Campinas 2016 in Brazil.