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wordlog.com » MovableType: 3 Years Too Late?

A weblog authored by Carthik about the latest in the WordPress world.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

MovableType: 3 Years Too Late?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carthik @ 11:43 am

Movable Type is going open source. Yup. MovableType 4 Beta has been announced and the plans are to make it a fully GPL-ed, open source product. The announcement says:

…we wanted to explain why we’ve made this massive investment in Movable Type and its community. The truth is, Movable Type is how Six Apart got started, and one of those ideas that motivated us from the very beginning is that we’ve got a mission.

And then the rest of the post does nothing to explain clearly why they’ve made this massive investment. The rest of post explains how blogging empowers ordinary people, and that their mission is to get blogging to the masses. It also explains the role of Vox, LiveJournal and TypePad in the Six Apart world. A free version of MT was always available for personal use. So why make it open source? That’s the answer I was looking for, and did not find.

I still clearly remember the day Mena announced the new pricing structure for MovableType. A day later, I wrote up a post on how to move from Movable Type to WordPress. Then, the exodus began – with famous users, like Mark Pilgrim, Molly, and so many others shifting to WordPress. Those were busy days on the #wordpress IRC channel. The number of opinion-leading bloggers who used MT started declining, and most of the new bloggers who came after chose WordPress. While there is no reliable count of the number of WordPress Vs. Movable Type users, I dare say more folks use WordPress than MT.

At the time of the announcement of the new pricing structure, the rationale was:

In preventing web hosts from offering Movable Type for a fee, we had to put a pretty strict blanket clause on our licenses to cover all cases when compensation was earned. Buying a commercial license to perform services was a bit backwards, but at the time, it was the only way we felt we could control the situation.

So the new pricing structure intended to let personal users continue to use MT while stifling other commercial entities from “profiting” from their product. How has this changed today? Today, not many commercial entities offer MT installations, I suppose. There is no evident mass-interest, and so they probably are no longer a significant threat.

Some answers can be found at the Movable Type open source page. They say the reason for an open source release is as simple as that the users asked for it. They asked for it en-masse just about 3 years ago. So though it sounds like a valid reason, I suspect that is not all there is to it. Whatever the reasons behind the change of mind, I welcome it. WordPress needs competition. I just wish the MT 4 Beta announcement wasn’t so wishy-washy. Did they make a mistake in announcing their pricing structure earlier? Did they realize that releasing their flagship product as an open source product will revitalize their mind share? Did they do this for business reasons – if so, what is the rationale behind that move? The MT back-and-forth would make for a very interesting case study of open source products vs. products with a variable price structure. It’s a case study in the making, and I can’t wait for the results. Time will tell which worked better for them – I hope Six Apart will share the numbers and the experience in a transparent fashion.


  1. I abandoned MT years ago. Their problem is that they got too full of themelves, and got stuck in stasis.

    WP felt more like home to me, and it has continued to keep working to improve and advance their product, and hasn’t fallen into the trap of getting full of itself.

    Comment by Mary — 6/6/2007 @ 11:51 am

  2. I abandoned MT years ago. Their problem is that they got too full of themelves…

    I’m curious about this — how do you feel we’ve gotten too full of ourselves? I’m not agreeing or disagreeing, just want to know where the feeling comes from.

    Comment by Anil — 6/6/2007 @ 12:03 pm

  3. 3 years on, and Anil is still always plugged in, and ready to respond to user comments, regardless of where they are posted. Hats off to you, Anil – I am yet to see someone as responsive and available as you :) .

    Good luck with MT – heck, that’s how I got started!

    Comment by Carthik — 6/6/2007 @ 12:32 pm

  4. I Couldn’t agree more with you. I don’t expect MT to compete with Worpdress on any level not for the next 2-3 years

    Comment by Arpit Jacob — 6/6/2007 @ 12:56 pm

  5. I’ve never been all that fond of MovableType. I’ve tried it several times, and each time, it just couldn’t perform fast enough on a shared server that I’m on to justify its usage.

    When I heard that they were changing their pricing structure, I groaned inwardly at the suggestion, and wondered why it wasn’t even Open Source (which I was big on at the time; I find that I don’t care as much now).

    I went to WordPress at its birth from the ashes of b2. I haven’t really looked back, though I’ve been tempted to look to either side as of late, just to see what’s left out there.
    WP has performed fast enough for me, even on the shared server I’m on, to keep its spot. I wouldn’t mind faster performance, but I know that it’d take the server I’m on being upgraded some more, or even better, me getting onto my own box somewhere.

    I saw the announcement that MT was going Open Source with their latest version roll across my dashboard, and honestly, I started laughing here in the transitional housing center I’m in. It was strangely amusing on several levels, knowing that they’re finally going to answer the “We Want Open Source!” call put out nearly a third of a decade ago. :)

    Comment by Xial — 6/6/2007 @ 1:12 pm

  6. [...] wrote: MovableType: 3 Years Too Late? – “They say the reason for an open source release is as simple as that the users asked for [...]

    Pingback by SixApart Creates Buzz — Lisa Sabin-Wilson — 6/6/2007 @ 1:12 pm

  7. [...] An interesting post on this announcement by Carthik Sharma from the WordPress perspective (WordPress is Movable [...]

    Pingback by Null is Love » Blog Archive » Movable Type as Open Source — 6/6/2007 @ 1:13 pm

  8. [...] MovableType: 3 Years Too Late? [...]

    Pingback by Movable Type is going open source — 6/6/2007 @ 2:17 pm

  9. [...] izlasīt šī autora viedokli. Man tas ir tuvāks. And then the rest of the post does nothing to explain clearly why they’ve [...]

    Pingback by Movable Type kļūst par atvÄ“rtā koda produktu » Latvijas interneta pods — 6/6/2007 @ 4:08 pm

  10. WP is the way to go. I did the MT thing long ago, and would NEVER go back. WP is the king of “user friendly” If your not using WP, then you are not “blogging”…

    Comment by Guy R. Vestal — 6/6/2007 @ 4:34 pm

  11. When I started in 2002 I used GreyMatter. Switched a year later to MT and loved it at the time even though I found the installation user-unfriendly. But they lost me last summer when I just couldn’t get the kind of functionality I wanted from a FREE platform. It did not take me long to decide on Wordpress and I’ve never been happier. I’ve learned more about web design code in the past year being with WordPress than I did in the 3+ years I was with MT.

    Comment by Jaynee — 6/6/2007 @ 4:44 pm

  12. MovableType: 3 Years Too Late?

    I read this and other news near as often as new software releases poped up. releases comes and goes. The most people didn’t really know more than one system in the deep and there will be so many different reasons to switch. so what, everybody choose his own solution. no system is the right one for everybody.

    your headline is a nice read, not more.

    Comment by Joerg, einfach-persoenlich — 6/6/2007 @ 5:00 pm

  13. A lot of the comments have to do with personal experiences with MT – when I started blogging and used MT, what I loved most was the sense of community – of being part of something unique and refreshing.

    Of course, the reason I switched to WordPress was that the feeling of community was MUCH stronger, being the small close-knit community it was back then, before the MT pricing announcement.

    This is why it might be important to attract and hold good users in the beginning. Having lost some of those opinion leaders, it will be an uphill task for MT to gain momentum.

    Comment by Carthik — 6/6/2007 @ 5:01 pm

  14. Maybe Six Apart didn’t spell it out clearly, but they don’t really have to. Open Source is the right way to build software, both free and commercial.

    Going open source means that Moveable Type isn’t just a competitor to WordPress, but also a collaborator.

    For Six Apart, this means that they benefit from users, not just paid developers, contributing patches, fixing bugs, and adding features. And it means MT can copy features and code straight out of WordPress and other backends.

    This also means that WordPress can copy code out of MT, and benefit from the work that Six Apart is paying people to do full time. What’s not to love?

    Comment by rajbot — 6/6/2007 @ 7:40 pm

  15. [...] you have to wonder, as do quite a few other folks around the Net, why open source and why now? As Carthik pointed out, the SixApart blog sheds little or no light on the reasoning. Perhaps we’ll just have to meet [...]

    Pingback by SixApart’s Latest Curveball: MovableType’s Open Source Project | Pixelita Design Blog — 6/6/2007 @ 10:11 pm

  16. [...] tal vez lo más interesante es que SixApart decidió lanzar una versión Open Source del CMS ¿que llegan 3 años tarde? Seguro, pero al menos no se resignan y no me parece mal que intenten volver al mercado [...]

    Pingback by Movable Type 4 : SixApart no se resigna | Denken Ãœber — 6/7/2007 @ 12:05 am

  17. I almost purchased MT, as it was the first blogging software I really dug into using. It was your article about switching to Wordpress that made me get rid of MT and turn to WP. As much as I loved MT back then, this latest development, for me, is too little, too late. I love WP and it’s going to take a lot for me to abandon it.

    Comment by jayne d'Arcy — 6/7/2007 @ 5:37 am

  18. Anil,

    Jeezz, Carthik writes up a big long detailed post stuffed full of questions he (and many of us) would love to hear answers to (new pricing structure, etc), and all you can do is question Mary about her comments about MT staff being “too full of themselves”?

    Do you not see the irony here?

    Comment by Greg Farries — 6/7/2007 @ 1:57 pm

  19. [...] Carthik’s Wordlog where the title is MovableType: 3 Years Too Late?: I still clearly remember the day Mena announced the new pricing structure for MovableType. A day [...]

    Pingback by   Movable Type 4 by Blogging Pro — 6/7/2007 @ 4:35 pm

  20. Yes,
    it is too late!

    Comment by Justin — 6/7/2007 @ 7:32 pm

  21. MT was really good when I started out blogging, however when the pricing structure came along and the licensing, I was one of the ones who moved to Wordpress. And so I’m glad MT did do that as I found Wordpress so much easier to use, customise etc. I’m curious to see how MT might have changed over the years, but I am also very happy with WP. Yay for WP! ;)

    Comment by Goddess Carlie — 6/7/2007 @ 8:39 pm

  22. First off, I was an MT user dating back to 2001 that switched to Wordpress. I’m not sour on MT or 6A.

    Why would anyone question a decision to move a product under GPL? If there’s an ulterior motive, it is that they want (or should want) community support to reemerge as a force. They need it now that the template system and innards are so difficult to fiddle with.

    One of the wheels that fell off 6A’s wagon (in my personal opinion) is community infighting. I don’t think 6A are “full of themselves”, but I do think that can be said of some of the (Pronet) community. Before anyone gets excited, the exact same can be said for many in WP land.

    WP needs to respect and learn from what MT has gone through. If 6A made a mistake, it was overestimating the ability/desire of their users to accept a monetized view of MT’s future. Let’s face it — WP wouldn’t exist if MT didn’t blaze the trail.

    …And I can’t believe that people are still bitter about Mena’s price structure email from so long ago. Time to let that one go.

    Comment by dennis — 6/8/2007 @ 12:41 am

  23. They need to call the open source project should-of could-of wish-we-would-of, or Move2WP for short which is what I did also after asking them to make the project open source after reviewing their guidelines 4 months after their project was started.

    Well I guess at the end of the day their having a good time with all the money they made.

    Sorry MT/6A I wish you luck, but using your beta OS product now is a bit like washing your feet with your socks on it just doesn’t work for me, besides I’ve got enough baggage to deal without bringing you back into my life.


    Comment by Steve — 6/8/2007 @ 1:31 am

  24. [...] track to regain ground, yet with all that said Wordpress is already there, and has been there for quite awhile. Lets see what happens.. who know I may be the next one one on MT [...]

    Pingback by Little or No Relevance | Movable Type is now Open Source — 6/8/2007 @ 6:54 am

  25. I think 6A’s mistake was that they lost focus.

    They had to worry about Livejournal, Vox, Typepad outages, and who knows what else so the core MT blogging product stalled and eventually Word Press surpassed them in features and community development.

    Comment by Nathan Bowers — 6/8/2007 @ 8:52 pm

  26. [...] is of course three years too late.  As Amit (one of the Wordpress coders) said: I still clearly remember the day Mena announced the new pricing [...]

    Pingback by NixGuy.com » Movable Type vs. Wordpress — 6/8/2007 @ 9:20 pm

  27. Unless the open sourcery means the performance issues that drove me away from MT years ago are addressed, why would anyone use it?

    My opinion at the time was that 6A didn’t deserve the loyalty it was getting. Maybe they’ll finally repay that.

    Comment by paul — 6/8/2007 @ 11:15 pm

  28. indeed…..

    Comment by i.am.Ben — 6/9/2007 @ 12:23 am

  29. My first blog was MT (well actually there was a very short stint with blogger before that). I thought it worked well, but the license was too restrictive as my goals expanded. As I started looking towards openly licensed options I found that WP was not quite ready for what I wanted and I actually went to b2evolution.

    Over the last few years my goals changed, my life changed, my blogging stopped and then started again (at the new blogger no less) and I came back to Wordpress to find that it had matured into the best blogging platform out there (open or closed).

    Comment by David — 6/9/2007 @ 9:38 am

  30. WP’s community is where it is all at. If you ever have any problems, have questions about pluggins the forums and the people are there to help out. I just never saw that in MT. I’m glad I am on Word press – 3 years running now.

    Comment by simon — 6/10/2007 @ 1:37 am

  31. I’ve been using Wordpress for as long as I can remember on various blog projects as well as websites i’ve build for other people and there really has not been a viable alternative to wordpress in my opinion. I don’t really have much experience with MT but as far as I’m concerned I’ve no reason to think of using any other blogging platform. Wordpress has always been there for me and the developer community surrounding it has always been spectacular.

    In saying that I think it is great that MT is going open source, competition should always be welcomed as well as offering people alternatives and adds a bit of variety to things. MT going open is good news for Wordpress. WP will continue to push boundaries.

    Comment by KJ — 6/10/2007 @ 2:34 pm

  32. Maybe it’s because my first experience was with MT, but recently I have been using WP and WP MU and I find it really difficult to wrap my brain around WP templates and themes. MT was way easier when I was first learning it and it seemed to work the way you would expect it to.

    WP is still very rough around the edges using template tags and other functions.

    But the only reason I ever started looking at WP was because after the MT pricing started I couldn’t afford it for what my needs have been.

    Comment by Anthony — 6/11/2007 @ 9:45 am

  33. [...] looks like 6A is attempting to gain brownie points: it appears they are opening the source code to Movable Type. Interesting, for sure, but I have to wonder why they are doing it. The announcement from 6A does [...]

    Pingback by Trausch’s Little Home » Blog Archive » Is Six Apart trying to gain brownie points? — 6/13/2007 @ 9:27 pm

  34. I had just “donated” a small (but hard-earned) amount of money to MT/6A for my personal use of their software on my blog when Mena’s pricing email came out. I had donated to help, then felt immediately abandoned to commercial interest. Yes, my donation was a drop in the bucket considering the work they put into MT, but it was my drop.

    I’m over it long-since, but shortly after that I found the article on switching to WP (thank you), and I immediately downloaded it and converted my modest site to WP.

    Yes, that email is water under the bridge, but so is my regard for MT. The shifting policies, the comparative PITA (rebuilding, anyone?) of using MT, are all things I don’t have to deal with any more. The switch to OSS is just another cynical political shift, and there will be more to come. They are a Movable Type in more ways than one.

    Comment by cd — 6/16/2007 @ 10:34 pm

  35. MT, not that great, I’ve tried it and found it slow and have many restrictions. Now i have a great alternative for MT and its WordPress..

    I’ve been using Wordpress for my various blog’s and used its themes to great effect. WP have siply no alternative.

    Comment by Mitesh Rami — 9/3/2007 @ 6:49 am

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