Right now, the Drupal Apps module is open source software development at its very best -- collaborative, smart people, solving their problems by building a great tool set together to solve real problems. And we couldn't be more excited by what people are doing.
When we created the Apps module for OpenPublic in early 2011, we were trying to solve a very specific problem: we wanted to make it easier for distribution users and site builders to add functionality to their OpenPublic sites, without bloating the distribution with functionality that only some users would want.
LevelTen has taken this strategy with their distribution, Open Enterprise, with great success. Knowing that their distribution's users have varying needs around things like blogs, FAQs, events, or image handling, they built these features in Open Enterprise as Apps, making installing, enabling, or disabling this functionality simple. But then they took it a step further, and contributed a great solution to Apps, allowing users to choose their apps upon distribution installation. Big win for Apps, big win for distributions.
So now, we're seeing an exciting evolution of the Apps and Appserver modules -- more and more, distribution owners are creating simple, clean "base distributions," and then utilizing Apps to "specialize" the distribution upon installation -- and we think it's pretty freakin smart. Pantheon's "Panopoly" is a Panels-powered base distribution. You can install the Panopoly apps (shown here), or, if you're a university, you can install Chapter Three's Open Academy set of apps on top of Panopoly and have a "University web site in a box."
And across the pond, Node One is employing the same concept -- and the Apps module -- with Nodestream. As the product's notes explain, "NodeStream Core is the base platform and NodeStream products are great add on features that can be turned on or off to target your project for things like intranets, newspapers, or enterprise websites."
What began as a simple solution to one distribution's challenges has grown to become a solution set for many of the challenges facing distribution owners and maintainers, and we're excited to see that. Finally, we can stop arguing about apps, because whether they’re accused of being “modules for dummies" or an evil vehicle for code-selling and community-destroying, it’s not productive. Instead, companies are seeing the module for what it is -- a way to make distributions lighter, more modular, and easier to use to solve more problems for site builders. Many thanks to those who have committed patches and contributed code to this project – we’re really excited to see where it goes next.