CiviCRM Standalone aims to make CiviCRM work without a content management system (CMS), such as Drupal or WordPress, making it easier to use by a wider audience.
Though CiviCRM has evolved, with its extensions, themes, and its own developer tooling (from cv, civix to SearchKit and FormBuilder), so too have content management systems, and the organizations using CiviCRM. As a result of this trend, there is a growing demand for a version of CiviCRM that simply does not require a CMS. The requirement on integrating with a CMS was initially to lower the barrier to entry for organizations, however for many maintaining such an integration is now seen as a technical hurdle or unnecessary burden.
To address the elephant in the room: CiviCRM did have a standalone version a long time ago, that was removed in 2010 (version 3.2):
- CiviCRM Extensions didn't exist at the time, most customizations where in Drupal modules.
- Theming relied on the CMS. Today we have a few extensions that provide theming, and some Bootstrap support in CiviCRM Core.
- User management options in Standalone were limited.
- The developer culture was very Drupal-oriented, and while CMSes today still play an important role, most CiviCRM developers tend to focus mainly on CiviCRM.
Having CMS integrations will always be one of the features that makes CiviCRM standout compared to other solutions, so that is not going away any time soon. However, CiviCRM must be a good fit for small organizations with limited technical and financial means, and also be a good fit as we help those organizations grow.
Please note that while there are developer previews available for CiviCRM Standalone, there is still a lot of work left to do for the product to be usable in production.