I’ve spent most of the afternoon and evening reading through the literally hundreds of trackbacks to Mena Trott’s announcement of Movable Type 3.0 and its new pricing structure. It’s a pretty amazing process to watch. And if I didn’t like the folks over at SixApart so much, I’d enjoy watching this process unfold a lot more.
As I write this, there are already 547 trackbacks to Mena’s post. The vast majority of them are from MT users who are upset about the announcements—many of whom are actively pursuing alternatives, and posting URLs to other blogging platforms and instructions for migration.
This is certainly not the first time that a company has badly misjudged its customers (remember New Coke?)—but it may be the first time that a company whose customers are all online publishers has done so.
The real problem, as both Simon Phipps and Jason Kottke have pointed out—is that the personal license pricing is disastrous. And by making the personal licenses so unpalatable, they’ve alienated the very users that made them so successful.
They’ve also left a number of academic users with serious questions about how this pricing model will affect them. From the University of Minnesota UThink project to my own MT Courseware, academics who’ve vested significant time and energy into customizing MT are now pondering what their options will be. There does seem to be some encouraging news on that front, however. I’ve spoken with Anil Dash about the “significant educational discounts” that are referenced on the site, and the answers were reassuring. I’m not going to post specific numbers, because they want to work out details on a case-by-case basis—but I’d strongly encourage academics interested in upgrading to contact SixApart directly to find out what the cost for their specific installation would be.
People already running installations of MT 2.x don’t need to panic—what they have now is covered by their original license, so unless they want to upgrade there’s no reason to be concerned about the fees. Unfortunately, that wasn’t well communicated in the announcements, so a lot of folks are unnecessarily worried. (Yes, I checked this with them before writing that.)
This post from DrunkenBlog has a nice analysis of the economic issues at play in this process right now. What seems clear is that this announcement has created a significant change in how people perceive the blogging tools playing field. The folks over at pMachine have started a “Make the Switch” campaign; they’re offering free copies of their new ExpressionEngine software to the first 1000 “switchers,” and promise a competitive upgrade price to follow. Shelley Powers, Slashdot and MeFi have pointed a slew of users to WordPress and TextPattern.
On top of those “install it yourself” options, SixApart is also now facing competition on the hosting front from a much-improved new Blogger (complete with integrated comments!), and the final release of Tucows’ BlogWare.
I think we’re watching a significant moment in weblog history. Justified or not, the anger among MovableType’s users will push many of them to new tools, and has permanently changed the perception of SixApart by its customers. The users have spoken, and the landscape has shifted.