Five Things MovableType Learned from Bilbo Baggins

Movable Type announced today that Movable Type 4 would be open source. This is obviously a retreat on their move to a closed model back in Movable Type 3. If you recall, MT 3 came under a tremendous amount of fire for moving away from the “free” model and created a side effect of moving WordPress into the role of most popular blogging software. They have continued to be under fire and the pressure has finally mounted to the point where Movable Type 4 will be open source again.

Of course, Bilbo Baggins, the hero of The Hobbit learned some pivotal lessons in his trooping around Middle Earth – lessons that the fine folks at SixApart have also apparently learned on their sojourn.

  • “There and Back Again” was the name of Bilbo’s memoirs upon his return from finding the ring and seizing great dragon treasure. He was completing his memoirs as we take up the start of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was supposedly Tolkien’s translation of Bilbo’s writings. The thing is that now that MT has gone from free to paid to free again. Unfortunately, they still haven’t gotten the clue and are charging for the GPL code. Stay tuned as I may host the thing for free here at Technosailor just for people who don’t want to pay the price.
  • Despite adventures, it is still old and worn out. Yes, even though Movable Type has ventured outside of the shire, climbed mountains, ran through forests, rode on the backs of eagles and wielded an Elven sword against a ravenous beast spider, in the end it is still written on Perl and includes much of the difficulty in implementing that its predecessors have had. Fortunately, the Berkeley DB system is no longer supported so hats off for that.
  • You may have the ring, but at some point you passed it on to Frodo. WordPress bypassed MT as the blog software of choice quite awhile ago. It is an unmistakable trend to use WordPress to power blogs these days. MT may be the great grand daddy of blogging software, but the ring has been passed on to the upstart and the upstarts adventure is far more compelling. Besides, who really wants to hang out with 13 dwarves anyway?
  • You can climb in a barrel and float down the river, but that doesn’t make you fine Elven Wine. Remember when the wood elves had captured Bilbo and friends and the only way to get away was to climb inside the wine barrels and float down the river? It may come as a surprise to you, but Bilbo was never a fine Cabernet. It got him out of trouble for the moment, but only for a moment. Likewise, this move back to GPL doesn’t really do anything for SixApart from my perspective. My perception is that they are escaping the public criticism but they are not truly changing their ways. They will still be in trouble longterm, but they do escape the quick demise by crawling in the barrel and floating downstream.
  • It will take more than Gandalf the Grey to get out of danger. Bilbo had tremendous benefits by having some very big people on his team. Gandalf was inevitably the most important. But even the point hatted wizard couldn’t help Bilbo all the time. Likewise, Sixapart may continue to enjoy great success among some big players, but the model will always continue to drive folks toward WordPress and other free software platforms. No amount of wizardry can change this.