As explained on Drupal.org today, Drupal 7.0 Alpha 1 has been released, and it incorporates (among other things) a revamped user interface, custom fields (CCK) in core, image handling in core, an update manager, and a ton of 'under the hood' improvements.
This is going to be the best Drupal release to date, for two reasons:
- Drupal has reached critical mass: WhiteHouse.gov, Intel, The Grammy Awards, and heck, even Monty Python are running on Drupal. So is your cousin's Internet startup. Drupal's seen a couple years of great press, and it still hasn't hit the ceiling in potential or mindshare!
- Theming has gotten a whole lot easier: Disregarding the poor english in that description, it will be easier for themers (like me) to crack into designing for Drupal, which means more small businesses and individuals will use Drupal as an out-of-the-box website building solution. Expect a few people who've outgrown WordPress or Joomla to cross the pond... (link is to a placeholder page for now).
Besides these two points, the administration side of Drupal is much improved, and a lot of ridiculous bugs and weird elements from years past have finally been fixed. A few things will have to wait 'till Drupal 8, but for the next few years, I predict Drupal 7 is going to get a lot of traction, especially with the D7CX pledge. (I'm going to have to update my Drupal 6 theme, Airy Blue... ugh).
Why don't you go download Drupal 7 now, and kick the tires a little. It'll be a nice experience, minus the few critical bugs remaining. Once you're finished testing, dive into the issue queue and help change Drupal 7 from alpha to beta, and soon to release!
I'm going to be writing up a post on Building a Theme for Drupal 7 once I get a little time... it'll be on my other site, jeffgeerling.com.