June 5th, 2007

WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown

by

Movable Type has just released version 4.0 and reversed a decision that nearly killed MT 3.0 and led to the rise of WordPress — MT 4.0, currently in beta, will be released in open source later this year. (See Read/WriteWeb coverage.) The interesting question is how the market will respond to an open source battle between the old blogger favorite and the new blogger favorite.

WordPress has leapfrogged ahead of Movable Type in large part because most developers switched over to WordPress when Six Apart turned off the entire blogosphere by enforcing the MT 3.0 license and displaying a conflict of interest between the do-it-yourself MT software and the hosted TypePad software. WordPress has managed to avoid that conflict of interest between the open source WordPress.org and the hosted, paid service WordPress.com by keeping the open source version on an aggressive new release cycle.

Movable Type is now trying to leapfrog past WordPress by introducing community features that give blog readers the ability to create social network profiles and post content. It’s interesting to note that this feature is competitive in some respects to Pluck’s SiteLife, KickApps, and a number of other community feature platforms, although it seems to me that the potential value is limited to sites that work entirely on Movable Type, i.e. not apparently useful for sites that use other content management systems, as almost all large media and corporate sites do.

It’s a safe bet that WordPress won’t sit still by letting Movable Type leap ahead of its core feature set. The real competitive action is going to play out in the open source developer community and among bloggers and other independent publishers, who have rallied around WordPress.

As a WordPress user, I’m amazed that every time I want to add a new feature, I just do a quick search and find a WordPress plug-in that does exactly what I need. This creates a huge barrier to my even entertaining the notion of switching to Movable Type, regardless of what new core features it has to offer.

This showdown is similar to the history of PCs vs. Macs, where Apple has remained far behind Microsoft in the development of applications for its OS. The question for Movable Type is — can they catch up, or is WordPress just too far ahead?

One X factor in this competition is large media companies and other enterprise users, many of whom adopted MT when it was on top and then never switched over to WordPress, i.e. they weren’t anywhere near as nimble (or outraged by licensing fees) as independent bloggers. Of course, that probably means most won’t be very nimble in upgrading to MT 4.0 — and the incursion of open source CMS Drupal is yet another factor. (I dislike even referring to WordPress and MT as “blogging software” — they are content management systems.)

As for bloggers and other independent publishers, I can say for myself that I have a strong loyalty to WordPress and to the development community that has served me so well. Part of that loyalty is not tied to specific features or benefits, but a more fuzzy brand loyalty.

It will be interesting to see how brand loyalty affects the Movable Type vs. WordPress competition — will developers and publishers, all things being equal (or even somewhat unequal), remain brand loyal? MT is positioning its brand as the “social media platform for businesses and power bloggers,” implying of course that those who use competitors like WordPress are neither businesses nor powerful. (That’s not going to convert many independents like me.)

The open source software movement will have a lot to learn by watching how this plays out.

Comments (50 Responses so far)

  1. WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown 5:03 PM EDT, June 5, 2007 via Publishing 2.0

  2. Discussion: Mark Evans, VoIP & Gadgets Blog and Publishing 2.0

  3. WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown — Movable Type has just released version 4.0 and reversed a decision that nearly killed MT 3.0 and led to the rise of WordPress — MT 4.0, currently in beta, will be released in open source later this year.

  4. MovableType while working on the Enterprise version & TypePad, and have now come back (with a vengeance) to focus on making MT the best blogging platform (on the planet). 6A will need a strong showing from MT4 if they hope to stave off the WordPress phenomena. ••••• today’s entry continues below ••••• News of a corresponding Open Source release is surprising, cuz lack of one was always MovableType’s biggest negative (during its 3.x incarnation of the

  5. Feedtwister Lets You Mix Feeds After registering with Feedtwister, members can begin adding their favorite RSS feeds. You can create as many lists as you like, and each list is a combination of the RSS feeds you selected. WordPress vs. Movable Type

  6. Ryan Sholin: The Ten Commandments of Online Journalism SmartMobs Part of content is context: lessons from the newsroom AZCentral Commentary: Why DRM won’t ever work ZDNet via Content Agenda Cool Tools WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown Publishing 2.0 Coming Soon: Microsoft Kitchen TechCrunch Flickr Facebook App is Now Available Mashable Deals, Partnerships and Sales Tullett Prebon Teams with CQG Data Factory to Launch Historical Market Data Web Portal

  7. WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown

  8. has announced that it will be released as open source. Word is that MT4 has a bevy of improvements and fixes. Lots and lots of discussion on this announcement, of course (Wired, Read/WriteWeb, Tom Foremski, Mark Evans, Scott Karp, Aaron Brazell–very funny), the question on everyone’s mind is: “Can MT regain it’s blog crown from WP?”. I say no. WP is still supremely easy to install, update, and tweak. MT might be better, but still running on Perl and using the CGI

  9. Movable Type/Six Apart did indeed lose its first-mover edge with their change in their licensing model, but is that enough to crown WordPress the permanent “king blogging platform” in MIddle-Earth? I don’t think so. Publishing 2.0 put it best when it said, “One X factor in this competition is large media companies and other enterprise users, many of whom adopted MT when it was on top and then never switched over to WordPress, i.e. they weren

  10. WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown

  11. Shel Holtz shares his opinion of the practice of Ghost blogging – via Shel Israel Movable Type 4 is in beta and lots of people have been commenting. Here are some of the better reflections on the release: WP vs MT: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown – by Scott Karp Movable Type 4.0 Announced – Becomes Social Media Platform – by Richard MacManus Is Moveable Type the New Mac? – by Mark Evans What Does it Mean for Movable Type to go Open Source? – by Dawn Foster

  12. Shel Holtz shares his opinion of the practice of Ghost blogging – via Shel Israel Movable Type 4 is in beta and lots of people have been commenting. Here are some of the better reflections on the release: WP vs MT: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown – by Scott Karp Movable Type 4.0 Announced – Becomes Social Media Platform – by Richard MacManus Is Moveable Type the New Mac? – by Mark Evans What Does it Mean for Movable Type to go Open Source? – by Dawn Foster

  13. Shel Holtz shares his opinion of the practice of Ghost blogging – via Shel Israel Movable Type 4 is in beta and lots of people have been commenting. Here are some of the better reflections on the release: WP vs MT: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown – by Scott Karp Movable Type 4.0 Announced – Becomes Social Media Platform – by Richard MacManus Is Moveable Type the New Mac? – by Mark Evans What Does it Mean for Movable Type to go Open Source? – by Dawn Foster

  14. became the platform choice for the in crowd. You could argue Apple’s became #2 the day it made one strategic decision: to keep the Mac OS in-house rather than licensing it to other computer makers. One decision, big consequences. As always, Scott Karp makes some excellent points about MT vs. WordPress. “The real competitive action is going to play out in the open source developer community and among bloggers and other independent publishers, who have rallied around WordPress.

  15. Publishing 2.0

  16. Publishing 2.0WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown Movable Type has just released version 4.0 and reversed a decision that nearly killed MT 3.0 and led to the rise of WordPress — MT 4.0, currently in beta, will be released in open source later this year. (See Read/WriteWeb coverage.) The

  17. the company which made a poor decision in the past when they heavily enforced their MT 3.0 license and which gave rise to WordPress to become a major player in the blogging platform arena, and arguably, the CMS world. Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 has posted his thoughts on how he thinks the battle between WordPress and Movable Type will play out, now that both will soon be open sourced. WordPress has really taken a strong foothold and has now become the blogging platform of choice among millions of users worldwide.

  18. WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown » Publishing 2.0

  19. WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown » Publishing 2.0

  20. that lets me create a private group for investing tips, investment clubs and maybe a way to create a personal stock index based on my portfolio. Om has a good write-up on Covestor. I guess Newsome.Org was number 36. Bummer. Scott Karp has a great write-up on WordPress vs Movable Type. As someone on the verge of breaking out of the Blogger trap, I am very interested in the differences between the major blogging platforms. Shelley Powers thinks the train has already left the station

  21. Type in the first place, building a community that wants to make the best, most influential blogs in the world.Some see this as the beginning of battle between WordPress and Movable Type. Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0. takes this position. See “WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown.” TechMeme has a lot on the subject. Here’s what I wrote in the comment section of Publishing 2.0: “I use Movable Type, TypePad and WordPress. Do I care about which platform has the edge over the other? No. All I care about is that they work when I

  22. runs a series of profiles on political bloggers: BlogJam. A review of a new blogging tool: BlogEngine.net by the team at Download Squad. They also have a listing of Firefox apps to aid in blogging. Publishing 2.0 has a comparison

  23. that lets me create a private group for investing tips, investment clubs and maybe a way to create a personal stock index based on my portfolio. Om has a good write-up on Covestor. I guess Newsome.Org was number 36. Bummer. Scott Karp has a great write-up on WordPress vs Movable Type. As someone on the verge of breaking out of the Blogger trap, I am very interested in the differences between the major blogging platforms. Shelley Powers thinks the train has already left the station

  24. Thanks for the post Scott!

    > large media companies and other enterprise users, many of whom adopted MT when it was on top and then never switched over to WordPress

    I’m not sure this is the case. There’s been significant large media and enterprise adoption of WordPress, especially int he last 12 months: http://wordpress.com/notable-users/

  25. Great post Scott. My money’s on WordPress on this one. Developer communities don’t get built overnight and WordPress has so much momentum. It’ll be a fun race to watch though.

  26. Hi Toni, thanks for stopping by.

    You have indeed signed up a lot of top media companies — the smartest ones, really. But that really just represents the head…I know of many mid-tier and longer tail publishers that are still toiling away on MT.

  27. this post is slanted. the decision to charge didn’t nearly kill MT, as you wrote. Instead it probably helped turn Sixapart into a real company, with the ability to grow Typepad, buy LiveJournal, and launch Vox. Oh yeah, and they captured the enterprise market.

  28. Hashim,

    Anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    If Six Apart hadn’t stumbled with MT, this page would not exist today: http://wordpress.com/notable-users/

    And I’d likely be using MT rather than WordPress, and giving the “slant” to MT.

  29. You make a compelling argument, Scott, but in my opinion, WordPress is already the de facto leader of open source blogging platforms.

    I post my thoughts about it here:

    http://www.kinggary.com/archives/movable-type-initiates-battle-against-wordpress-the-open-source-app-that-feels-professional/

    ;)

  30. I’m a user of both MT and WP for various projects, and each definitely have their pros and cons.

    In a one-to-one battle, I think WordPress has one big advantage over Movable Type: there are a lot more PHP hackers out there than Perl ones, myself included. That of course means more plug-ins, which means more features, which means more users.

    If you need to manage multiple blogs (and not create a blog farm), I can tell you right now that Movable Type does a far better job than WP or WP MU. For the 80% who just want a blog though, WordPress does the job nicely w/o getting in the way.

  31. MT distinguishes between “open source” and “commercial”. That is usually PR-speak for “we don’t like open source, we don’t get open source but we feel we need to get on the bandwagon, so here’s some code”.

    Inevitable, the “open source version” will be or become a crippled version, and MT will have to refuse to commit third party features that compete with the unique selling points of the “commercial” version. I mean, if you actually believe in the power of Open Source, you “know” the open source version will be better then the “commercial” version.

    However, if MT4 is any good (and the source a lot less crappier then the last time I saw it), somebody might actually start a successful fork that’s actually better then MT’s commercial version. That’s usually the way these thing go.

    So MT, so long and thanks for all the sourcecode….

  32. Great post Scott. I’m a big WordPress fan and have no exposure to MT. I moved to WordPress from dasBlog which I was using out of loyalty to the .Net platform and have never looked back since switching to WordPress. I think WP now has a critical mass that will make it pretty difficult for MT to gain ground. As you say, the wealth of plugins for WP is astounding and this is what makes WP such a formidable opponent for any other blog platform.

  33. I use Movable Type, TypePad and WordPress. Do I care about which platform has the edge over the other? No. All I care about is that they work when I want to use them. Currently, they all do.

  34. In my opinion it’s far easier and quicker to customise WordPress to work as a CMS, and this is something I do regularly for clients.

    The community behind WordPress and the amount of functionality it can have, through plugins, is amazing. I tried MT early on, found it somewhat clunky and moved to WordPress having never looked back.

  35. You are correct to note that MT’s licensing scheme isn’t important to many people. It’s certainly not an issue to institutions who dont’t believe they can trust the “community” for support. (I.e., you can’t make the “community” drive into work at 3 am when the server crashes.)

    Of course, this doesn’t apply to the average personal blogger who has bought some pace on a shared host somewhere. As MT learned, most of those folks are either too cheap to buy anything or let their political opinions guide their software choices.

    In the end, there is no money to be made trying to sell blogging software to those folks. There simply is no market there. People like to extol WP and other such their products as vanguards of a beautiful new open source world. But, the fact is that Matt, et al, couldn’t sell WP into that market for $69.95 and up any more than SixApart could sell MT. And, as others have learned, the corporate world doesn’t really care about the “free as in beer” aspect.

    The Microsoft vs Apple comparision is cast incorrectly. First, the range and quality of applications available for Macs certainly seems more than enough for most Mac users. Remember, the downside of Windows apps is that you need to actually use Windows.

    Likewise, people and businesses who use MT may stay with it because they like it, not because they are inflexible or lack the initiative to switch.

    The architecture of MT and WP differ significantly, so much so that anyone planning on rolling out a site that will draw serious traffic really ought to consider both. Both have potential chokepoints. MT can suck up resources as content is posted or changed, but once a static file is posted, that’s it. On the other hand, a busy WP site can readily overwhelm its database.

    In other words, if you run a big commercial site on your own hardware, it may come down to a choice of which slice of that hardware you need to beef up. If you run a personal site, it probably make no difference.

  36. “MT distinguishes between “open source” and “commercial”. That is usually PR-speak for “we don’t like open source, we don’t get open source but we feel we need to get on the bandwagon, so here’s some code”.”

    I think that’s false in the general case, and also false in this specific case. Our teams have always made huge contributions to open source, and you can ask anybody in the Web 2.0 space for corroboration. If you’re saying “open source means abandoned”, while I’m using Firefox to post on a site that’s run by open source software, then you’re just being absurd.

    Regardless of the perception in tech geek circles, the audiences for all our platforms has been growing rapidly. Those of you who are old-timers might remember when the same group was *convinced* that MT’s growth was coming at the expense of Blogger, not realizing that then, as now, the goal was always about getting new people blogging.

    There are definitely people who focus on trying to get people to switch from one blog tool to another; We just don’t think that’s a sustainable method of growing blogging as a whole, so we focus on getting new bloggers started, and those new people are smart enough not to see a space where *everyone* is growing as a simplistic horse race. There can be, and always is, more than one “winner”.

  37. The problem is more a business problem.. Can SixApart LIVE with revenues from technical systems ? Typepad is too expensive now (in B2C and in B2B). Vox doesn’t have (may be i am wrong) a good success with firms.. Why pay ? If SixApart waqnt to be a software editor they have to build a logistic of real software editor and the will compete “classical” cms.. and they will no more be “blogging firm”.; if they want to continue to be b2c, they have to find revenues and it’s not very easy in the “free” world of blogging..

  38. Anil, what I am missing is any kind of justification (business or ideological) for having a separate “commercial” version at all. What is going to be the USP for the “commercial” version? Why would I want to buy a license? If it’s support, why not just be straight and sell the support. If not, what’s the secret ingredient in MT4 “commercial” that can’t be open sourced? (This is not just a theoretical question, in my current job, I’m the one responsible for selecting the software for a number of high traffic blogs. And yes, we’re currently using WordPress.)

    And I seriously take exception to the distinction between “open source” and “commercial” as if they were opposites. That is newspeak from the “open source is communism” crowd. Call it “premium” or “supported”
    or something like that, but don’t suggest open source in general means non-commercial.

  39. Thanks for the post Scott. I’m on the Movable Type side and I do encourage you guys to give a look to the new version.

    As a Movable Type consultant and to encourage people discover the new Movable Type without any effort I’ve installed a fully working demo version at:

    http://www.movabletype4.org/

    Check it out and let me know what you think of it!

  40. Thanks for an update on MT vs WP. The University I work at is currently using MT, but we’ve been considering moving over to WP.

    However, in addition to the changes with MT 4, there’s also the additional features of MT Enterprise. MTE is targeted at professional publishers, universities, and corporations and includes LDAP integration, support for SQL Server & Oracle DB, and other advanced administration features.

    It’s also substantially more expensive than any of the other MT licenses.

    Thanks for setting up that demo account Mihai!

  41. My first blogs were with Pivot and MT. Now, I use WordPress. I can tell you, I will NEVER go back to MT as long as it is in Perl/CGI. Frankly, it is a dying, messy, archaic, and complicated language.

  42. [...] WP vs MT: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown – by Scott Karp [...]

  43. [...] WordPress vs. Movable Type: Open Source Blogging Software Showdown from Publishing 2.0 [...]

  44. [...] Versus WordPress: Publishing 2 discusses the “showdown” of competition that may open between WordPress and Movable Type now that [...]

  45. [...] WordPress the permanent "king blogging platform" in MIddle-Earth? I don’t think so. Publishing 2.0 put it best when it said, "One X factor in this competition is large media companies and other enterprise [...]

  46. [...] WordPress the permanent "king blogging platform" in MIddle-soil? I don’t think so. Publishing 2.0 put it best when it said, "One X factor in this competition is large media companies and other enterprise [...]

  47. I’m used to WordPress but i will try that moving platform thing.

  48. [...] and license versions. WordPress and Movable Type are the leading two companies in this area and are competitors . There seems to be more features in the Movable Type package than WordPress and email support [...]

  49. [...] comment on wordpress vs. movable type: open source blogging … – […] you have to wonder, as do quite a few other folks around the net, why open source and why now? as carthik pointed out, the sixapart blog sheds […] [...]

  50. [...] and license versions. WordPress and Movable Type are the leading two companies in this area and are competitors . There seems to be more features in the Movable Type package than WordPress and email support [...]

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