BackDrop, Helping The Drupal Community Or One in The Eye For Drupal8

Drupal Fork Backdrop

I've listened to the recent chat on TalkingDrupal about the BackDrop project, a fork of Drupal which is causing much controversy in the community.

Having read the BackDrop website and also read various blog posts there's lots of things to get excited about if you're a D7 enthusiast and some not so great things if you're a Drupal evangelist!

Some people are scared of what it might do to the community, some are overjoyed at its concept but before I cast my opinion here's some of what I've gleaned so far.

We're happy with Drupal 7, we know what it can do but we also know its limitations

We all know Drupal 7 isn't perfect, it's made good strides since Drupal 6 but you might feel Drupal 8 is more of a leap! if you're happy with Drupal 7 and you're already hiding behind your chair having read about what's changing in Drupal 8 then BackDrop could be for you.

They are going to incorporate most, if not all, the Drupal 8 goodness but on a Drupal 7 framework

Worried BackDrop is going to get left behind when Drupal 8 comes out then think again. The idea is to take most, if not all of the new functionality built into the new Drupal 8, such as the built in WYSIWYG, migration module*(see Nate's comment, sorry my mistake, not included at this time), inline editing etc and port them to BackDrop!

Drupal 7 modules will be 90-95% compatible with BackDrop meaning only minor code changes are required

As BackDrop is only a side step away from Drupal 7 all D7 modules will only need minor modifications to become compatible. This is interesting stuff for module developers who can port their module to BackDrop quickly whilst rebuilding it for Drupal 8 at the same time!

BackDrop 1.0 will be released at a similar time to Drupal 8

The idea is to release BackDrop at the same tme as Drupal 8 so you won't feel left behind! If the thought of migrating your site to D8 doesn't appeal then BackDrop could be the way forward for you. Releasing BackDrop at the same time sings to me of competition but competition is healthy right?!

Issue queues will be cross linked

There's already mentions of BackDrop in the Drupal issue queues and this will only increase but they say that solutions in either issue queue can only help, not hinder.

It's not a breakout, more an expansion or sidestep

Only time will tell if BackDrop causes a split in the community but the idea is to keep more people using Drupal, or BackDrop (a version of Drupal) instead of losing them to Wordpress or alike. The founders, feeling turned off by Drupal 8, turned to forking Drupal to stay within the community rather than start over again learning a new system.

BackDrop graph
Estimated and hypothetical post-D8 growth chart of Drupal audience over time.

Upgrading is dead, migration will be the way forward for Drupal 8 and BackDrop

Upgrading Drupal has never been a straight forward process and the decision has been taken to incorporate in core the migrate module. This will be the same for BackDrop, so whether you try D8 and want to move to BackDrop or vice versa you will be able to do this.

An Eco system will be promoted to match that of Drupal

Just the same as is currently available to Drupal developers the BackDrop team are looking to create a thriving Eco system.

The right tool for the job

I'm excited about Drupal 8 and the direction it's going in and am fully behind the project, as you can read in my blog post Cliff Edge or Path To The Summit.

Some of my larger clients will utilise all the D8 functionality and I'll certainly be using it going forward but is it the right framework for every job, no. Should I migrate all my Drupal 5, 6 and 7 sites to it, or more importantly do my clients have the budget to do this, in some cases no.

Drupal 7 will be around for years to come which gives us plenty of time to learn the new ways of Drupal 8. If you're a site builder then D8 will make it even easier for you to build great sites but if you're a module developer or themer then it's going to take you time to get to grips with the new way of working. Do you have the time or the ability to learn what might feel like a whole new system?

For me BackDrop is a good idea as it will give those people who are more than happy with Drupal 7 the chance to stay in the community for many years to come, before Drupal 9 comes along and security updates are halted on D7.

The learning curve for new users of Drupal has always been steep and Drupal 8 could turn off those who have recently joined the community. BackDrop could give them an out.

Could BackDrop be the answer to those that say Wordpress is a sinch to get started with for non-techies but Drupal isn't?

The notion that BackDrop is a bad idea and one that could spilt the community are founded but it should be a catalyst for improvement in Drupal itself.

BackDrop could help the community make both systems even more popular and spread the word that Drupal is a great framework, or it could be one in the eye for Drupal 8 and we could see many moving across to the forked version. What do you think?

Listen to some great interviews with the founders of BackDrop via the Lullabot podcast, Modules Unraveled and TalkingDrupal

Update Dec 2014: The first release of BackDrop is due out on the 15th January 2015! Take a look at the latest documentation or download a preview now.


Frank Church's picture

Backdrop may free Drupal from further Drupal 7 fixes

If Backdrop is good it may free from further maintenance of Drupal 7 after Drupal 8 picks off and before Drupal 9 is finished. The Backdrop developers should communicate their vision clearly and if it is a good upgrade for Drupal 7 it should get official support from the main Drupal organisation.

That way they can free Drupal 8 and its successors from any unwanted Drupal 7 legacies.They should see it as an opportunity to start Drupal 9 earlier when the pain points of Drupal 8 become obvious.

They have developed a reputation for going on to a shiny new thing that never gets finished properly whilst neglecting the current product that is also not finished properly but will be easier to fix or retrofit. They need to straighten out that flaw in their character

Richard Dewick's picture

Some interesting points

Some interesting points Frank, BackDrop could be an upgrade for D7 but I'm not sure about the reputation that Drupal never quite gets finished, I've not heard that before.

Nate Haug's picture

Clarification on Migrate for Backdrop

Thanks for the post! It sounds like you enjoyed the podcast.

It sounds like you may have misinterpreted our discussion on Migrate. *Drupal 8* has decided to use Migrate and build it into core. That's a decision that was just made recently.

*Backdrop* does not yet have plans to incorporate Migrate as part of core.

Considering the scope of API changes from D7 is going to be less for Backdrop than it is for Drupal 8, the traditional update.php process may not be as painful for Backdrop as it would be for D8.

So just clarifying, we don't have plans currently to include Migrate in Backdrop. We were talking about Migrate from the perspective that D8 decided to use it.

For a (somewhat rough outline still), see

Richard Dewick's picture

Thanks for the clarification

Thanks for the clarification Nate and duly noted.

RdeBoer's picture

Core may be the heart, but contrib is the lifeblood

Neither D8 core, nor Backdrop core will be an instant success if contrib modules aren't coming out soon and in big numbers.

At this stage I know of 237 out of 7457 D7 modules being ported to D8 (i.e. a 3% fraction), see the live info-graphic on

I have no numbers on D7 modules being ported to Backdrop.

Core, whether it's D8 core or Backdrop core, may be the heart of the Drupal system you end up choosing. But whichever you choose, a core only turns into a usable website when the contributed modules you need are available.

And when will that be?

The sad thing is that the confusion created by the D8/Backdrop core controversy is causing more fence-sitting, more delay in moving on from D7 and more strain on businesses that rely on Drupal.

Until the community as a whole moves away from the expectation that "contrib will just happen, all we have to do is supply manuals", neither of the two will be a practical, measurable success.

Despite all the work that goes into it, a core is not a website. Help contrib maintainers turn it into one!

Anonymous's picture

"They should see it as an

"They should see it as an opportunity to start Drupal 9 earlier when the pain points of Drupal 8 become obvious." && "developed a reputation for going on to a shiny new thing that never gets finished properly ... They need to straighten out that flaw in their character"

That's a pretty big contradiction between paragraphs.

rlmumford's picture

The diagram is completely made up!

"It's not a breakout, more an expansion or sidestep"

The diagram in this section is a complete fabrication, there is no evidence that the Amateur use of Drupal 8 will drop off. For those with little or no need to write code the increased functionality will draw them to Drupal 8. For those who are new to PHP but with some programming experience, Drupal 8 will be MUCH easier to code for - everyone with any training has been trained to program in OOP. For those with no coding experience at all Drupal 8 will be easier to code for because of the improved documentation and use of external libraries (Doctrine, Guzzle and Symphony).

There is no evidence at all the Drupal 8 is leaving amateurs behind - one of the people I work with is an amateur and just last week he ported a module to Drupal 8. He prefers Drupal 8 to Drupal 7.

rlmumford's picture


"Could BackDrop be the answer to those that say Wordpress is a sinch to get started with for non-techies but Drupal isn't?"

The reasons people think WordPress is a cinch to get started with aren't talking about code, or architecture. They're talking about the following:
- Better backend user interface and sensible default configuration (coming in Drupal 8 and Spark)
- A wide variety of themes available to download and install easily (hopefully this will improve with Twig in Drupal 8)

Richard Dewick's picture

@RdeBoer "core only turns

@RdeBoer "core only turns into a usable website when the contributed modules you need are available." that was definitely true for Drupal 6 and 7 but I'd presume Drupal 8 is less reliant on contributed modules on a basic level. Not everything can go into core though so as you say it's still reliant on the community upgrading their modules to D8.

@rlmunford The diagram is BackDrop's hypothesis on what they see as the projection for D8 and BackDrop's growth which can be taken with a pinch of salt until both systems are out in the wild and being used. BackDrop do feel strongly about their ideas and have had good feedback so there must be something in it.

Rob's picture

I took a good look at your

I took a good look at your post on Backdrop and much of the surrounding discussion, blogs, and podcasts. It’s all very interesting.

I take it as a slap in the face to D8 and as dissent in the ranks due to decisions in D8 that are not to the Backdrop duo’s liking and such a view may be a common thread in the community – I don’t have a measure of the numbers.

Within D8 there is a threat to Drupal advocate numbers because of the decisions that have been made. It’s a risk Dries is taking in the direction for D8.

I foresee a potential move towards more layers of abstraction at the cost of performance and that may become a gripe for me if it happens. e.g. Twig. To me this just shifts complexity from one place to another. i.e. theming may be more flexible, but now I have to learn Twig and then possibly Velocity in order to have a perfomant site! Twig really only solves the issue around providing front-end designers an easier tool to use than PHP, i.e. larger teams. So D8 moves more corporate – fine. And Backdrop intends to fill the lower end gap that’s exposed, well maybe. One might as well consider Wordpress for that since clients love its simplicity and it has come on in strides. Right tool for the job argument. But, open mind - I won’t be making up mine before trying D8 as it also tackles some of the great issues: OOP,configuration management, multilingual, web services, etc. that I’m looking forward to using.