As Movable Type is preparing the Gold release of the new MT4 version, one can only wonder if the once dominating blog platform the power has to make a comeback en force, based on the power of an open-source GPL license and thanks to the community. The Movable Type community is working hard at another package, based upon MT4 and licensed under the GPL. Movable Type Open Source (MTOS) will be released later this year in Q3.
Right now not much can be said about the features of MTOS, but the upcoming release of MT4 might give us an idea of what we can expect.
Are the new features in MT4 exciting enough to catch attention?
The new dashboard is very modernly styled and almost completely customizable, thanks to the MT template tags. It seems as if this feature will rather be used by the real coding, designing geek than Joe Average, but expect many dashboard mods to be released by the MT community.
The nicest features for the user who doesn’t like to customize the dashboard structure, are IMO the standard activity log and graphics for entries and comments, but I can’t really say those are groundbreaking reasons to switch to MT.
The installation process of Movable Type has become a lot easier, but still isn’t easy enough, compared to other platforms such as WordPress or even Expression Engine.
And honestly, a 40 minutes long upload process (almost 2000 files) might put off users. To have a chance long term, the MT community definitely has to create a Fantastico installation process, because I can’t imagine updating several blogs if I didn’t have shell access to uncompress archives directly on the server.
Except for the world’s smartest template language I really can’t figure out what is innovative among the new features in MT4. Unless it were for the in house support for both Markdown and Textile, which are standard plugins MT4 is shipped with.
A notable mention deserves the easy multiblog setup, but the biggest annoyance about MT has not been solved yet: the slow republishing system when the user opts for statically published template pages. Rebuilding archives still takes ages depending on their size.
The standard implementation of the CatCalendar plugin would have improved MT4 majorly.
Update: Byrne Reese, Product Manager of MT, points out in the comments that the CatCalendar functionality has been intgerated in the core of MT4.
Community Building Services
Community building improvements, such as built-in registration, the integration of OpenID (and other services), rating services and customizable feeds or even reply to comments from the dashboard, don’t really do it to me. I fail to see any innovative factor in those new features — innovative to the blogosphere that is — as most of those features are nothing more than the core implementation of some of the most popular plugins for other systems.
This might be a groundbreaking release for the MT community, but from the view of a WordPress user there is nothing to get really excited about MT4. The success of MT4 will majorly depend on the speed and accuracy of the MT community to release new plugins, already existing popular plugins for other platforms.
MT might have a more stable, better scaling platform for the industrial blogger but right at the moment MT4 (and MTOS) isn’t ready to start eating of WordPress’s cake. MT4 needs to be simplified, simplified for the user, not every blogger is a code freak, wanting to fiddle with templates.
An active and thriving community certainly can make MT more popular and a widespread alternative to WordPress.
The Six Apart Team deserves all merits for having released MT under an open source GPL license!
Disclosure: I recently switched several of my own sites from WP to MT4 RC and the geek in me loves that almost every plugin I was looking for (sitemap, contact form, feed redirect to Feedburner), can be realized with MT templates, but all this could have been solved much easier. Right now I can’t advise anyone without coder’s, designer’s soul to switch from WP to MT.