What is Acquia? How does Acquia Relate to Drupal?

Definition:

Drupal is a free CMS. Acquia is a company that offers paid Drupal services, and also freely contributes important code to the Drupal community.

The confusion arises because the same man, Dries Buytaert, started both projects. But the story is actually pretty simple. In 2001, Buytaert released Drupal as open-source software. Since then, he and thousands of others have worked to craft Drupal into one of the top CMSs on the planet.

You can download, use, and modify Drupal, and thousands of Drupal modules, entirely for free.

In 2007, after several years of leading Drupal development in his spare time, Buytaert announced that he was launching a Drupal company: Acquia. He was nearing the end of his PhD studies, and he decided to make his passion for Drupal into a livelihood:

So what is missing? It's two things: (i) a company that supports me in providing leadership to the Drupal community ... and (ii) a company that is to Drupal what Ubuntu or RedHat are to Linux. If we want Drupal to grow by at least a factor of 10, keeping Drupal a hobby project as it is today, and taking a regular programming job at a big Belgian bank is clearly not going to cut it.

Today, Acquia provides a mix of Drupal services. Critically, Acquia has not locked up Drupal into proprietary software. As Buytaert says:

Acquia is not going to fork or close-source Drupal.

Instead, Acquia offers paid Drupal services, like specialized Drupal hosting, migration into Drupal, support, and training.

Naturally, Acquia employs some of the rock stars in the Drupal world. These are the kinds of people who helped move the White House or the Economist onto Drupal websites.

But Acquia also invests in general Drupal developmentĀ and releases this work back into the community.

For instance, you can freely download their Acquia Dev Desktop and run private Drupal sites on your personal Windows or Mac computer. Many free modules on drupal.org are maintained by Acquia. They're also behind several quality Drupal distributions, such as (yes) Acquia Drupal.

So when you see "Acquia Drupal", it doesn't mean that Acquia is claiming to "own" Drupal, or that they've forked some special version of Drupal that you have to worry about. Instead, you can vicariously enjoy Buytaert's success in both leading development on a free, open source project, and making a good living at it too.