Movable Type 3.0 and Eating.

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Timothy Appnel

Timothy Appnel
May. 13, 2004 10:31 AM

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In the wee hours of the morning today, Six Apart released Movable Type 3.0 to mixed reviews. (More on that in a bit.) This release is being called a developers edition that is not for general public use. It is also not a feature release says Six Apart. In many ways this release is like that of the original release of Mac OS X. There were few new features, but a significant changes to the underlying system that are poised to take the company in a whole new direction.

In that vein, MT is graduating to a platform rather then just a personal publishing system. This is great news and an important distinction for developers looking to extend and enhance MT for various non-traditional weblog uses like I have in my work. Six Apart is acknowledging the importance of developers to the evolution of MT. To kick off this renewed commitment to developers, they've announced the formation of a developer's network, plugin contest (more here), and new less restrictive and more diverse and costly licenses. First the happier side of the news.

Drilling down, new features for developers include:

  • The ability to create object callback plugins on pre and post saves, loads and removes. These will come in handy for doing automated mirroring, versioning and integrating subsystems that link to core information.
  • A plugin registration API that displays the plugin name and other metadata such as description, documentation and configuration script links in the MT content management interface.
  • A pluggable authentication system for comment boards. (The company launched their own hosted system that MT defaults to named TypeKey.)
  • Numerous performance enhancements including lazy fetching of data. (Developers can take advantage of this capability in their own plugins.)
  • A number of bug fixes. For instance, MTElse works with conditional plugin tags now.

From a user perspective MT 3 features a new lighter-weight interface which takes full advantage of CSS. It also reorganizes the interface to make comment and Trackback ping moderation easier to manage. Comments also have a number of new features which include moderation approval of messages and posters in addition to authentication. Email notifications have become more robust adding a verification step and (finally!) an unsubscribe feature.

Six Apart also announced new licensing which has been quickly panned by the push button publishing community. While there still will be a free version of MT, it is limited to 3 weblogs and 1 author. The reaction has been swift as many decry the new terms (specifically the fees) that run many weblogs with many authors that using MT will cost them. Many of these posts gripe that alternate server-based tools such as WordPress do not support multiple blogs and/or authors yet. What's a bit silly about these posts is that not one so far notes that the hosted version of MT (TypePad) allows for unlimited authors and weblogs (plus many other features not available in MT) at a price that rivals basic hosting packages.

The delineation between TypePad and MT have become clear with this release – TypePad is for general users wanting to blog and Movable Type is for developers and professional organizations wanting to do more then just weblogging.

Of the reactions I've read this morning I think Brian Stearns had the most poignant observation of this furor. Noting many of the initial Trackback pings to Mena's post he writes ...

For me this outlines that a large part of the weblog world was in it because it was free to do for the most part and an easy way to do something innovative (at least when they started). I think a large part of the internet world is cheap and not willing to pay for things so I will not be surprised to see people dump MovableType to start using a free weblog tool or discontinuing their weblogs altogether.

Agreed, Brian. Rumor around the MT community is that Six Apart was collecting less then 50 cents (US) for each copy of MT downloaded. That is absurd for a piece of commercial software!

This outcry raises a bigger more important point which is the reason for my post. As a developer and one who makes a living writing code, this reaction to Six Apart's new licensing is really disheartening and on a certain level frustrating to see. I am a firm believer and backer of open sourcefree software. (CORRECTION: I meant free software and slipped. I do back open source and open code software though.) I've personally released quite a bit of open source code myself and will continue to do so. However this apparent expectation of the vocal part of community that it is their right to have all great works of software at no cost is bothersome. If users don't have the funds or won't pay on principle for my time, effort or talent – how do I eat?

Timothy Appnel has 13 years of corporate IT and Internet systems development experience and is the Principal of Appnel Internet Solutions, a technology consultancy specializing in Movable Type and TypePad systems.