MovableType Going Open Source

This is kind of a follow up to the WordPress post I made a couple of days ago. Well recently, MovableType (MT), another blogging/CMS application in direct competition with WordPress, announced a major new version (4.0) that would be completely open source. Note that WordPress is already open source as well. This is a departure in that previously MT was only free for personal use and was limited in terms of number of users per installation. They also had paid commercial licenses and what not. A lot of people are talking about this and MT themselves spew a lot of marketing speak about how they’re doing this to empower bloggers, etc. But I really don’t think that’s the real reason.

SixApart Did This To Themselves
You see, several years ago I used to use MT on my site for blogging. A LOT of people did. Then they switched to a commercial license. Since my usage is for personal use, this doesn’t really affect me. But I remember the functionality back then just kind of annoyed me, with all the rebuilds, pop-up comment boxes, and generally slow-feeling Perl backend. I switched to another platform called Greymatter (which is all but dead now) for literally a week, and then switched again to WordPress. I’ve never looked back since. Like I said before, WordPress has great core features and wonderful extensibility. The developer community and number of plugins is simply unmatched by anything MT has to offer.

A Defensive Maneuver
SixApart (the company behind MT) announcing they’re open-sourcing it is a defensive maneuver against WordPress (WP). Simply because WP is thriving and has completely leap-frogged MT. SixApart is doing this simply to catch up in a sense. Not only that, the hosted version at WordPress.com is growing like crazy as well (not to mention their VIP program). SixApart has all these redundant services like Vox, LiveJournal, and Typepad. They originally had Typepad and then, infused with new funding, they went out and bought LiveJournal (LJ) and developed Vox in-house.

Very Little Synergy
Why they did this is completely beyond me because there’s no synergy. Sure they’re buying the large userbase but they haven’t really leveraged that too much have they? LJ is a FREE service and there’s really no advertising on member pages to speak of. Then they go and build Vox which is also FREE. Where’s the revenue coming from? What is their business model. How many ways can you spin a blog service/community? Why build Vox when you have LiveJournal? Now, TypePad seems to be their only paid service and it’s basically hosted MT. Why not just have ONE service, ONE brand to focus on and market, using the same infrastructure, and have multiple tiers of service from free personal blogs (LiveJournal-type service) to paid business blogs (TypePad-type service)?

I could be wrong, but I think SixApart is bleeding cash supporting their various services or at least they’re not as profitable as they’d like. I mean, venture capitalists seek large returns. So either you get acquired, go public, or you just go out and make a ton of money (often you need the latter to achieve the former two).

WordPress is Too Far Ahead
I’m pretty confident in my opinion (in the absence of research data) that WordPress has more users and is growing much faster than MT. Non-technical personal users can use WordPress.com, more advanced users host their own WordPress (like I do). Any business or corporation needing more advanced solutions can hire a developer/consultant to customize their own self-hosted WordPress without having to buy a commercial license.

Unless MT4 comes out with some amazing new features, I really don’t see a reason to switch at all. Personally, what I’ve seen so far hasn’t been that impressive. I think SixApart is just too late – they should have acted earlier while WordPress was growing by leaps and bounds. I remember distinctly more than a year ago, thinking “what the hell is SixApart doing about WordPress moving so fast on their turf?” Well, nothing much really, not then and not now.

One Last Note (P.S.)
If Facebook or a 3rd party develops an excellent blogging service using the Facebook Platform what the heck is MT going to do? They’re building social/community features into MT4.0 presumably to get into social networking. But if Facebook comes out with some awesome blogging feature integrated with everything else they got going on, how do you beat that? I’m going too far on a tangent here but Facebook Platforms is just f*cking brilliant. Seriously. They created open API’s that allow 3rd parties to basically enhance the Facebook service for them – very smart. Yahoo might regret not ponying up the moola to acquire Facebook although my take-away was that Facebook didn’t really want to be acquired yet – now you know why.

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