Technology Weblogging

Movable Type: The Princess Time Forgot

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Once upon a time Burningbird ran under Movable Type. In fact, the weblog ran under Movable Type for at least a couple of years. But then, I also ran a Radio weblog, one through Blogger, my own form of WordPress (Wordform), and WordPress off and on–currently on.

At one time, Movable Type was the princess to Blogger’s Queen, a potential successor to the kingdom of Blog, Blog Away. Ben and Mena Trott were feted and fawned over. They were even invited to contribute to the book on weblogging that O’Reilly published, and to which I contributed.

Then that new darling, that rapscallion, WordPress came along with that era’s latest incarnation of wunderkid. Combined with Movable Type’s new, and loathed, licensing system and performance issues, MT still stayed a princess, but of what kingdom, no one really knew.

Today, nudged by Arthur in comments, and announced by Read/Write, Movable Type version 4.0 is on the way out to thee and me, and with its Typepad inspired performance enhancements, and hip, Web 2.0 interface, comes the politically astute move: Movable Type 4.0 will be open sourced.

Of course, there is open source and then there’s open source. To me, open source means I can create a fork of the product. According to Six Apart’s MT open source page, MT will be a true open source, licensed as GPL.

This is a smart move in many ways. First, it reminds us that MT still exists. Today, the big stories in technology related to weblogging tools tend to be about what dumb ass move the tool company or organization has done recently; not necessarily, ooh, look, shiny new release. This includes Six Apart with the recent fiasco of deleting too many Live Journal weblogs in its effort to be ‘child safe’. Open sourcing the MT code raises the noise level around the tool just enough to be heard among the recent Google/Microsoft/Yahoo et al stories–something that’s becoming increasingly difficult.

Secondly, Six Apart can do what it will with regards to licensing MT, including dropping support altogether for the product in order to focus on its more profitable hosted services. If it can get the ‘community’ to take over support, it means Six Apart is no longer trapped into supporting MT forever. I imagine right now that’s tempting.

Lastly, Six Apart can benefit from the creativity and skills of any number of open source developers, none of whom have to be paid. Wow, that must seem like finding a grape lollipop on the ground, still in its wrapper.

On the downside, my first reaction reading this was, “I’d give anything for a really exciting tech story, right now.” Movable Type is part of another era. An era where releasing a new version of MT would cause the news to shoot to the top of Daypop. Remember Daypop? I bet most people reading this do not. They’ll remember Mena and cries of “Asshole!”, but not necessarily the tool that built the castle that is Six Apart.

It was surprising to hear that MT is being open sourced. Surprising, also, to read that Anil Dash is vice president of Six Apart now (when did that happen?) More surprising to see a positive review by Duncan Riley.

It was good, though, to be reminded of this princess that time forgot. To see her crown polished, and her sequined gown fluffed out and shiny. Too bad that she returns to the dance so late; many of us have already left the ball.

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