Thunder and Lightning, a pair of Drupal 8 distribution profiles, aim to meet the needs of publishers and content authors. While it sounds like the two go hand-in-hand, they are created and maintained by two separate companies. Thunder was created by German publisher Hubert Burda Media and was designed specifically for professional publishers. Acquia’s Lightning distribution centers on creating great authoring experiences for editorial teams through a lightweight framework that developers can adapt to meet their needs.

One of the main differences between Thunder and Lightning is that Thunder includes custom modules specifically tailored for publishers while Lightning focuses on four functional areas of Drupal: layout, media, workflow and previews. Thunder has added more publisher-centric modules to Drupal 8 core. On the other hand, many of the features in Lightning leverage modules that have already been developed by the community, combining them together to provide an improved development experience.

Acquia positions Lightning as “somewhere in between the framework and the product distributions,” while Thunder is highlighted as an example of an out-of-the-box product distribution for publishers. Acquia began developing Lightning over three years ago, and with the arrival of Drupal 8, it became a full-fledged product. Thunder and Lightning are certainly similar, but they each bring something different to the table. Let's take a look at a high-level overview comparing the two distributions.


In 2016, Hubert Burda Media established the Thunder Coalition which created and maintains the Thunder distribution profile. Thunder is maintained by the Thunder Core Team and partners include Riddle, Valiton, Nexx.tv, Acquia, and Facebook. Like Drupal, Thunder is licensed under the GNU General Public License and is free of any license or maintenance fee. Thunder is currently in public beta and there are over 200 sites using the distribution today.

Benefits of Thunder

Easy to use

Reduces development costs and resources

No licensing fee

Continuously developed, updated, and maintained by the Thunder Coalition

Quick to deploy

Key Features of Thunder

Nexx.tv Video Player

Nexx.tv allows businesses to manage and control their videos across a variety of platforms and devices. It delivers online videos with a flexible, high-performance player that supports technical standards to ensure efficient video distribution.

Responsive Design

Thunder is built with responsive design in mind from both the editor and administrator side to a modern and flexible front-end design for site visitors.

Riddle Interactive Content

Riddle is a tool for creating interactive quizzes, polls, and more interactive content to help drive traffic, increase social sharing, and engage with your users.

Facebook Instant Articles

Instant Articles are a new way for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook. The articles load instantly in News Feed and are 10x faster than standard mobile web articles.

Infinity Theme

The Infinity Theme is developed and provided by InStyle. It allows for infinite scrolling, increasing user engagement by loading relevant content.


Lightning combines Drupal 8’s Layout, Preview, Workflow, and Media into a single distribution to create what they consider to be the new standard for enterprise authoring. The distribution provides a framework to speed up the process of building and authoring experiences for both developers and content authors by maintaining and managing the distribution. Lightning gives developers a pre-selected set of functionalities to cut down on the time it takes choosing modules.

Lightning’s 1.0 GA was released in June, 2016 and there are currently over 600 sites using the distribution. Acquia recommends using Composer to build and maintain your codebase. You can install Lightning with Composer from Drupal.org.

Benefits of Lightning

Accelerate Drupal 8 development projects by using a framework to help developers build sites faster

Speed up module selection and configuration process

Streamline the authoring experience with drag and drop tools and sophisticated workflows

Key Features of Lightning

Drag and Drop Layouts

Drag and Drop tools help non-technical users configure page layouts and digital experiences right in the browser, without the need for help from a developer.

Media Management

Videos, images, social media, and more can be embedded into content and pages, creating richer and more engaging sites.

Flexible Workflows

Users can configure workflows that moves content through review and approval stages.

Experience Preview

Users can preview and modify how content looks on the site before it is published.

Empower Content Authors

Lightning makes it easy for non-technical users to manage content and experiences.

Here at Duo, we’re just getting our feet wet exploring Thunder and Lightning. Once we have implemented either distribution, we’ll be sure to share our experiences on the blog. Interested in trying Thunder or Lightning out for yourself? Download both distributions from Drupal.org.

Show more