Drupal forked - is that a big deal in the CMS world?

  • 18-Sep-2013

When certain males hit midlife crisis, they supposedly buy red convertibles. When certain Drupalers rise against the core, they fork.

One such Drupaler, Nathan Haug ‪(@quicksketch), proclaimed when he announced the fork: “#Backdrop needs to exist to *preserve* the ‪#Drupal community and market.” He seems to want to preserve the “simplicity” of the last good version of Drupal standing. And by “simplicity” here I mean the legacy core that is Symfony-free. Or as Haug describes: “ease of use and ease of learning over architectural flexibility.”

Symfony is an open source web framework making its way into the upcoming v8 version of Drupal. Symfony applies more modern, object-oriented programming principles, yet requires more advanced developer skills. In theory, architectural elegance should make lives easier for designers and developers easier. Some folks clearly disagree.

Backdrop the fork doesn’t have many tines yet, aside from a starter project on GitHub. The project description – “Backdrop is a fully-featured content management system that allows non-technical users to manage a wide-variety of content. It can be used to create blogs, forums, image galleries, social networks, intranets, and more.” – sounds rather ambiguous. Every CMS claims to do what Backdrop is embarking to do. On the surface, it seems like Backdrop is little more than the founders’ desire to stand athwart Drupal history and shout "Stop!"

With the enormous developer following around Drupal today, perhaps it's inevitable that some community members get uneasy about the drastically changing core of their favorite CMS. Change is always tough.

Otherwise, no big deal here, yet – aside from some clearly evident disruption in the Drupal community and one more indication of how difficult and complex this CMS can be. It's also potentially a quite useful warning about how difficult the v8 upgrade may prove to be.

The history of the Web CMS marketplace has seen very few examples of viable forks (Mambo/Joomla! being one exception). Backdrop will have to work really hard to differentiate itself from Drupal to become viable. For now, my advice is: do not hold your breath and do not panic. If Drupal works for you today (and as our CMS Report readers know, it doesn't work for everyone), then keep Drupaling and carry on.

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