Acquia Expands Beta Testing of Commercial Drupal

At the Drupalcon Boston conference back in March, Acquia, the Andover, MA, startup formed as a commercial home for the open-source Drupal social publishing system, showed off a demonstration version of its nascent product, code named “Carbon.” A select group of beta users have been testing Carbon for some time, and today Acquia vice president of marketing Jeff Whatcott announced via the company’s blog that Acquia is expanding its beta program.

The company is starting by handing out 100 beta invitations to readers of TechCrunch, and will also give beta accounts to attendees of Drupalcon Szeged 2008, a Drupal community conference that began today in Szeged, Hungary. Thereafter, the company will register “hundreds of people each week” for the Carbon beta test and will eventually add everyone who has requested access to the software through Acquia’s website.

Whatcott explained that the company is rationing access to Carbon because it doesn’t have enough support staff to provide “high quality responsive support” to an unlimited group of beta testers. He said the company is on schedule to release the full version of Carbon “this fall.”

Drupal is the content management system behind thousands of websites, including the sites of major publications such as Linux Journal and The Onion. Many Web publishers prefer it to competing open source publishing systems such as WordPress and Joomla because users have written thousands of free plug-in modules that handle both basic features such as commenting and RSS feeds and advanced feature such as shopping carts and multimedia hosting.

Carbon is a version of the Drupal 6 core software, including selected user-contributed modules, that comes with access to Spokes, Acquia’s Web-based support and update notification system. There’s moderate excitement around Carbon and Spokes because commercial support for Drupal could make it easier for corporate organizations to adopt the publishing system for their websites, similar to the way that many enterprises choose Red Hat’s version of Linux or Sun’s version of MySQL over free, non-commercial distributions.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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