Neos CMS: from successor to competitor

TYPO3 is a free content management system that is based on the script language PHP and was developed by the TYPO3 Association. The developers offer no official support for the open source software; however, there are service providers that specialise in TYPO3. There are over 5,000 extensions available for TYPO3, which are all free and allow you to add shop systems, picture galleries, and forums to the framework. There has only been one team of developers (independent of the TYPO3 Association) since 2015 that looks after the former joint project, TYPO3 Neos.

FromTYPO3 5.0 (Phoenix) to TYPO3 Neos

TYPO3 released its first version (3.0) in 2001, which was then optimised by numerous updates. A project then began in 2006 that had the aim of completely overhauling the former 4.x version. For this purpose the core had to be reconstructed and numerous new features and standards were implemented. The result was then presented as the future-orientated TYPO3 5.0. During the process, it quickly became clear to the developers that they had to separate from the TYPO3 code base in order to implement the plans. The project was therefore originally named “TYPO3 Phoenix”, but when the Alpha version was presented in October 2012 the name “TYPO3 Neos” was decided upon. At the same time, the current TYPO3 CMS stemmed from the release branch TYPO3 4.x. Instead of continuing with version 5.0 as planned, this version was skipped, and in 2012 TYPO3 CMS 6.0 followed as the direct successor.

Sharing many similarities to TYPO3 Neos, TYPO 3 under the name FLOW3 as early on as 2011.   It serves primarily as a foundation for TYPO3 Neos, but is suitable for the general development of applications in PHP.

Differences lead to separation

In 2015 the teams of TYPO3 Neos and TYPO3 CMS developers confirmed that they were going their separate ways. The official reason: two products with major differences emerged from the long and tedious development period. The different ideas on what constitutes a CMS were a reason for the separation as well as the various system demands. This consequently resulted in different target groups: while the TYPO3 CMS developers prefer the classic separation of the back end and front end, Neos targets an innovative concept that should facilitate the operation for the web editors. Both parties decided on the separation so as not to hinder the development of the new system. Since the TYPO3 Association has been working exclusively on the development of the original TYPO3 CMS since then, it means that the Neos team is now on its own and no longer supports the developer network. The Neos developers gave notice of the following general product changes after the split:

  • The open source CMS experiences an additional change of name as the prefix TYPO3 was completely deleted and only the name Neos remains
  • gets its own project website: neos.io
  • switchover to the developer platform GitHub
  • switchover to MIT License

The biggest difference between Neos and TYPO3 CMS is the structure of the front end and back end. While TYPO3 CMS has the same classic, strict separation of both areas, Neos users view content directly in the front end, which is superimposed over the back end element. All changes are therefore visible straightaway, which basically makes the Neos operation more intuitive. Incorporating it into the modern content management system, however, should not be underestimated. In the Neos project, there is not the same known extension manager for integrating extensions as seen with TYPO3 CMS. These have to be installed in Neos with the help of a packet manager.

Consequences for users

The future development and success of Neos and TYPO3 CMS are difficult to predict. We have to wait and see whether Neos gains acceptance and whether TYPO3 CMS can keep a solid foundation. The separation wasn’t just a bold step for the team of developers, but also led to big changes for the user. Web developers, editors, agencies, and customers suddenly have to make a decision without being able to predict which system they can plan long-term with. But what are the concrete changes for individual user groups?

Developers & editors

After the separation of Neos and TYPO3 CMS, web developers now face a challenge: to master the programming of two content management systems that are progressively being developed in different directions. Although part and parcel of a developer’s daily routine, constantly having to switch between different CMSs presents a cumbersome situation that offers poor long-term planning prospects. Should Neos become an established system like TYPO3 CMS, then the web developers competent in both applications will end up holding all the aces. The situation looks considerably more relaxed for editors: if the employer or assigned developer decides to switch to Neos, it is definitely beneficial to the writer. They will need to get used to a new user interface, though this proves a lot more intuitive and easier to use than TYPO3 CMS. Editors can see directly what their changes to the website look like in the front end of Neos.

Agencies & customers

Agencies that undertake the programming and maintenance of web applications for their customers are faced with diverse challenges due to the separation of Neos and TYPO3 CMS. They have to finance further training or hire Neos experts, even though it's unclear whether the system has a future. Employing specialised personnel long-term for Neos and TYPO3 CMS is a financial balancing act for small agencies. Additionally, there is also the lack of planning security. Agencies should therefore consider whether offering both content management systems is profitable in the long term.

Nothing theoretically changes for agency customers since they do not come into contact with the programming and maintenance of the system. However, if the agency changes its business profile due to the TYPO3 systems split, the customer will be affected in the end. Negative scenarios such as price increases are possible. If a customer plans to switch to Neos and their agency doesn’t offer this possibility, they will be forced to change to a different agency.   


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