We’ve all read reams about how the blogging community has exploded over the last couple of years, but one of the more interesting developments in this field lies in a change of dynamic in the software that drives blogs. When members of the mainstream web community first decided to write about what their cat was doing for its birthday or purvey their views on the state of the candyfloss industry, the application of choice for creating a maintaining a blog was Six Apart’s Movable Type. After dominating the market for a long while, however, the app started began losing ground to WordPress, which tempted users away from the hosted, subscription-based model of MT with a tasty open source alternative.
Now Movable Type is looking to claw its way back to the top of the tree after releasing a Beta version of version 4 of the program, and announcing that it will once again be free to run a limited number of blogs using the service. The decision of whether to plump for MT or WP has split the blogging community for some time now and there some fairly solid arguments for and against using each app.
Both applications store all your entries on a database via a web server. Traditionally, MT would only allow you to work with static pages, meaning everything had to be rebuilt wherever it was published, whereas WP allowed bloggers to handle content dynamically, making it much quicker to publish posts. Movable Type has improved greatly in this area recently and can now ably deal with dynamic data, generating and publishing pages on the fly via SQL queries.
Another reason why people started switching to WordPress was that it was much easier for a regular Joe to pick up and start fiddling with straight away. There are much more pre-made themes and page templates available in WP, and the installation process is pretty painless compared with the long-drawn out procedure associated with Movable Type. However, Six Apart have kindly bundled a lot of new, high-quality themes and templates with version 4.
Virgin bloggers have always warmed to the WYSWYG approach adopted by WordPress, which allowed users without much scripting knowledge to achieve decent-looking, accessible results. After watching this new digital generation fawn over these visual tools, the Movable Type guys have made MT4 much more user-friendly. A decent web editor offers functionality to allow insertion of not just text, but audio, photos, and files too. You can also easily reuse any of those rich media assets, with MT4’s new built-in asset management system.
With some innovative new touches such as a dashboard system for monitoring your blogging activity and a built-in registration system, allowing you to use your own authentication for commenter’s and users, it’s clear that Six Apart is gunning for would-be WordPress users with its latest release. Add to this the fact that it will now be available on an open source basis again, and you might envisage many MT defectors returning to the app from WordPress.
For us though, WordPress holds the trump card at the moment, owing to the sheer scale of the community it has built up. Get into a problem with something in WP and there’s always dozens of fellow users waiting to answer your cries for help. This hardcore base of blogging fundamentalists is also helping to drive the program forward by creating new all manner of new add-ons and plug-ins, thanks to the availability of the program’s source code. While it’s not necessarily an inferior application, until Movable Type attracts this kind of public development, we’ll stick with WordPress.