Backdrop CMS, a content management system that is a fork of the Drupal 7 code, celebrates its sixth birthday today.
The CMS’ story starts at a DrupalCon — basically, a conference for members of the Drupal community. It was there that a group of developers discussed their concerns about the direction that Drupal was going after D7.
With the release of Drupal 8, it seemed clear to some Drupal developers that the move out of D7 would be time consuming and take a lot of effort because Drupal would now be built on Symfony instead of Drupal’s own framework. This move to Drupal 8 would be especially difficult for non-profits or companies with smaller budgets.
“I just saw this as being inevitable that we were going to have to rewrite every Drupal website in existence because of this drastic amount of change that was occurring,” says Nate Lampton, one of the founders of Backdrop CMS, “it was going to be an absolutely enormous cost for every Drupal website out there.”
So, Nate Lampton and a few other developers forked the Drupal 7 code. Basically, they made a copy of Drupal 7 and sent it down a different path than the one Drupal was going down.
This is totally legal, by the way, because Drupal is an Open Source project, the code is free to use and modify as long as it remains free.
That forked code ended up on GitHub, where it was discovered by some other developers, and so the people behind Backdrop CMS got together, set some principles, like valuing backwards compatibility and prioritizing accessibility for people who aren’t developers, and released the code as Backdrop CMS.
This was January 15, 2015, the same day that Drupal version 1.0 was released more than a decade earlier.
Well, yes. At least according to one of Backdrop’s founders, Jen Lampton.
“We had planned to release it on Jan 1st,” she says, “but Luke McCormic [another founder of Backdrop CMS] said that would be a poor choice because everyone would be distracted by New Year’s day, so we postponed till mid-month.”
For Jen Lampton, the value of Backdrop CMS was immediately clear. She runs her own development shop and works with smaller businesses and local government agencies who may not have the budget to move to Drupal 8.
Another selling point aside from cost is that Backdrop CMS prioritizes accessibility.
“It’s for average people,” says Jen Lampton. “So, it has a graphical user interface for everything, you never need to use the command line if you don’t want to, you don’t need to get into the code if you don’t need to, you don’t even need to visit BackdropCMS.org. Everything you can do can be done from inside the application itself.”
Though, Drupal has a much larger community of contributors and people patching bugs. Backdrop CMS has around 200 active contributors.
“In the Open Source scheme of things, having 200 plus contributors to your Open Source project is an enormous achievement,” says Nate Lampton.
Backdrop CMS also just released Backdrop version 1.19 — they’ve been on their first major release, version 1.0, since their founding in 2015.