MovableBlog: The Reports of Movable Type's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Nuance 2.0

May 14, 2004

Comic Book Guy: Last night's Itchy & Scratchy was, without a doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured I was on the Internet within minutes registering my disgust throughout the world.
Bart: Hey, I know it wasn't great, but what right do you have to complain?
Comic Book Guy: As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.
Bart: What? They're giving you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? I mean, if anything, you owe them.
Comic Book Guy: Worst episode ever.

Six Apart did absolutely the right thing in charging for the developer's edition of their software and offering a free version. MT 3.0 breaks some plugins and third-party software, so 6A released an edition that developers can use to upgrade said plugins and software. Not "crippleware": that's where you install fully-featured software which disables itself after a set amount of time. The free version of Movable Type—you know they offer a free version, right?—is full-featured and stays that way, and licensing has none of the limits are hard-coded. Also, if 2.661 works well for you, you are not a developer, and you do not want to pay for the licences, there is no reason to upgrade as it is.

Yesterday, over and over, I read people Comic Book Guy after Comic Book Guy, saying that they felt somehow betrayed that, months after of becoming a for-profit enterprise, that same enterprise would go ahead and do exactly what those types of enterprises are supposed to do. They gave you a great, easy-to-use, very well-supported (albeit by a volunteer community), great-looking, free piece of software that enabled you to speak your mind to potentially millions of people. Even if only you and your cat knew about it, Movable Type, along with the other great blogging software (some of it free software), lowered the entry barriers. Yes, the power law applies, but Movable Type, its predecessors, successors and competitiors made the tail end longer.

Also, when you downloaded MT 3.0D, did you read the license? (The following applies to the licence for Movable Type Free; I haven't seen the other licenses.) Gone is text that said you couldn't charge for services relateing to Movable Type. They not so much created a market opportunity for developers—loosely defined to include those who want to install and customize Movable Type for clients—as legitimized it, as they recognized that as it was, the licence was unenforceable. Not only that, but the new licence ends up helping everybody: the more people that can develop around Movable Type, the more commercial licenses Six Apart sells. Clients willing to pay for a high-quality weblog win. Developers win. Six Apart wins.

Six Apart did make some mistakes. You have to sign up for TypeKey—which I have my own, unrelated, problems with—to download even the free personal version. Many experienced non-developer users of MT will be inclined to think that the pretty overhaul, comments and Trackback moderation don't deserve a full integer upgrade. Yes, it's not a 'feature' release as Mena says, but some users might say "you're not kidding". They also sprung the pricing structure on the alpha/beta community, the very community that is most passionate about the software. That is their prerogative, but something like "in the next few days we will be announcing a significantly changed pricing structure" might have avoided some of the appalled reactions among the group. From informal chats I've had throughout yesterday, it also appeared they upset a higher proportion of highly skilled users, who generally have some sway over what lower-skilled established (and wannabe) writers who want to start a weblog than they intended. (I confirmed early this morning that at least one high profile blogger is switching away from MT.) There are also some minor bugs in the download that need ironing out, but that is happening.

In the end, Six Apart will finally make some money from selling what is an excellent product, a publishing system that higher-end users can use on their host of choice to take advantage of their coding skills and create a truly customized experience. Those who cannot afford the pricing structure have alternatives which can be purchased or downloaded (and even distributed) for free. The people who pay for Movable Type licenses, though, are getting a world-class piece of blogging software with professional support from 6A. Did I mention that this is a developer's edition with a free personal version? The reports of Movable Type's death are greatly exaggerated.

Posted by Richard at 11:05