One-month retrospective on Backdrop CMS

Exactly one month ago, we made the final release tag on Backdrop CMS 1.0.0. Backdrop has been the effort of more than 50 contributors over the span of 16 months, and I am positively thrilled with the product that we've delivered. Now that things have calmed down a little bit, I'd like to recap and check on the progress we've made.

Backdrop is an easy step from Drupal

The decision to fork Drupal was brewing over months of deliberation. It was born from frustration with the difficulty and complexity we were experiencing while working on Drupal 8. The Drupal community was then, and is now, working as hard as possible to make the transition from Drupal 7 easier, including great tools like the Drupal Console and the Drupal Module Upgrader. But tools do not reduce the overall complexity, and I think that ultimately all developers will need to invest a significant amount of time adapting to the architecture in Drupal 8... or not, which is where Backdrop comes in.

Backdrop provides functionality similar to Drupal 8 while maintaining the fundamental architecture of Drupal. If you've done any amount of Drupal development, shifting that knowledge to Backdrop is trivial. Although there are a number of changes from Drupal 7, they are all fairly easy to understand replacements. Backdrop also provides an upgrade path from Drupal 7, which runs surprisingly quick. Even with sites that have thousands of nodes, terms, and comments, the upgrade through update.php runs in seconds. Even the views that are stored in the database are upgraded to the built-in version provided by Backdrop.

Backdrop has great momentum

When Backdrop 1.0.0 was released, we had a total of 3 projects in the Backdrop Contributed Project Repository. Now we have over 45! That's an amazing rate of conversion. Although only a few of these projects are completely ready for production, I find it exciting that most of the authors that joined the contrib group didn't even use Backdrop before its release. That means that developers have been able to pick up the fundamental changes from Drupal 7 and port their modules in a startlingly short amount of time.

Infrastructure is building up

Backdrop has been using GitHub for issue and code management, but that's only a
small part of the infrastructure necessary to support such a large project. The infrastructure at drupal.org has been developing semi-organically for more than a decade; so while it may take a while for Backdrop to provide all the services Drupal developers expect, we're making a lot of progress:

  • Documentation: Backdrop launched an all-new API Website that is building up a steady stream of new documentation.
  • Update Status and Servers: Backdrop already includes an Update Status module (same as Drupal 7), but the update server to which it connects hasn't been completed yet. After the main BackdropCMS.org site itself gets upgraded, existing sites will start being notified of updates.
  • Contrib Repository: Although it's great having so many contributed projects, browsing them on GitHub has already become difficult. Repositories are sorted by
    activity, there's no categorization, and different types of projects (themes, modules, and layouts) are all mixed together in one big list. Within the next few months, we'll see the completion of a full project directory on the main site that lists all contributed projects in a way that it is easier to search and navigate.
  • Drush Support: Many Drupal developers would have a hard time maintaining their site without Drush, and though Drush does not yet work with Backdrop, upcoming changes in the Drush architecture should allow Backdrop to integrate with Drush to provide compatibility and specialized commands to integrate with Backdrop's new sub-systems.

Collaboration is crucial

Although Backdrop doesn't share the same name as Drupal, we still have the same roots and a lot of the same code. This means that when we find areas that can improve Backdrop, we're finding opportunities to improve Drupal at the same time. For example, I recently filed an issue to improve the parsing of .info files that turned up while profiling Backdrop, but clearly applied to Drupal as well. And although security releases are rarely a cause for celebration, last week we saw the first joint-release to fix problems in both systems at the same time, including Drupal's SA-CONTRIB-2015-039 and Backdrop's SA-CORE-2015-001. Each new release of Drupal that comes out, the Backdrop team re-reviews and re-applies the same patches, sometimes resulting in finding issues that slipped through into Drupal. It's a great opportunity to make the software better for everyone.

And gosh darn it...

People seem to really like Backdrop. The snappy page loads, the new layout system, configuration management tools, the administrative toolbar, updated libraries, trimmed down core... there is a lot to like. Check out the Top 6 Reasons to Use Backdrop on the project homepage. If you haven't tried it out, you can spin up an instance on Pantheon in just a few minutes, or just download and set it up on any PHP 5.3+ server.

Comments

Thanks for the update! BTW, the post contains an erratum: "crutial"

Thanks! Fixed. :)

Madam / Sir, I can't thank you enough for creating Backdrop. When time allows I'm going to set up a local Backdrop site. (Right now I even feel tempted to set up a website for a small company in financial dire straits with Backdrop, but I'm still scared that I won't be able to convert the necessary Drupal-7 modules and themes.) And there is something that strikes me as being incongruent: The source code of your website "quicksketch.org" shows that it's (still) done in Drupal 7: content="Drupal 7...". Shouldn't you be the first adopters of your own product? But never mind: Go Backdrop, go! And thank you again for all your efforts! (And yet: it is hard to leave Drupal for good ...) Best regards, Georg Huber

Backdrop has now been out for just 2 months. We actually only converted the flagship site https://backdropcms.org/ from Drupal 7 last week. And besides, Drupal 7 is in Backdrop's blood, so I wouldn't really consider it unusual. It's just like running one-behind the current version of Backdrop. :)

But in any case, yes I'll be updating my own site when I get the chance. So far my experience in upgrading sites is that it takes a simple site like this one around 10 to 20 hours to do the full upgrade of all the custom code (usually in the theme) and run the upgrade path.

Thanks for the update and best of luck with this project! I hope it is a success for there are many people in the Drupal Community who will probably not choose to take on Drupal 8 for whatever reason. However, having an alternative that is within their skill set is welcome. (also, "so while it make take a while for Backdrop" make should be may)

Thanks, fixed the typo. :)

Sir, there are now 91 modules and themes for Backdrop CMS. This is great news!. If this rate is keeping up then Backdrop is within a year a well-rounded, generally applicable CMS. And if the documentation is keeping pace with the published versions of Backdrop then the odds are getting better that a non-expert-PHP coder like me may be able to start modules of their own (with Drupal 7 I can do some simple modules even so I don't grasp the internal workings of Drupal 7 - sometimes it seems to be as complex as the motor of a big ocean liner). But I like what can be done with Drupal 7). If the threshold for reaching a feel for the workings of Backdrop isn't set to too high, I even would feel encouraged to puplish a module. Right now I never utilized GitHub so this might be another obstacle, but times might change. Therefore the temptation to start a website with Backdrop increases. What I didn't get: Is there a responsive menu system out-of-the-box or is the adaption of nice_menus working responsively? But be that as it may: Thank you and Jennifer Lea Lampton and all the team members for creating "Drupal 7 Mark II".

I can do some simple modules even so I don't grasp the internal workings of Drupal 7 I can do some simple modules even though I don't grasp the internal workings of Drupal 7 Embarrassing, but it has happened now.

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