Six Apart: the new SCO

Bashing Six Apart (the publishers of MovableType, which powers JRE) has suddenly become fashionable. They’ve announced that MovableType will now be available for pay; the free version will be limited to one author and three weblogs per installation.

The chorus going up from the weblogging community is “we can’t afford that!”. And not unfairly – the pricing as soon as you go above those numbers is USD70.
But really… for single-author blogs, there isn’t anything wrong with the free version. There’s no support and no paid installation service. Unsurprisingly, there’s also a no-commercial-use clause – which is what was preventing MovableType from being widely offered in the first place. The license actually prevented web hosts from offering it as a for-pay service.
Where is the downside? I will concede that anyone running a for-profit blog is going to either have to start paying for the service, or move to another service. But if I hear a single one-man blogger complaining about how Six Apart is evil, I’m really going to start breaking things. (The linked article is especially hilarious. The author draws the analogy of MovableType’s licensing to the licensing of a book… and then says, quote, “Hm. So you want to license your books like software?”. I can only conclude that the author objects to licensing MovableType as if it were software.)
That said, if I can’t keep using it in my current setup, I’ll be a good consumer and drop it like third-period French. The current leader seems to be WordPress – but when you’re on to something good, why not stick to it?

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2 Responses to Six Apart: the new SCO

  1. lux says:

    The issue is not price per se. It’s value for price.
    I would be quite willing to shell out $ for MT above and beyond what I already paid last fall *if* there were a current and/or future feature set worth paying for. Optimizing existing code is fine but that plus one questionable new feature (spammers have already begun to register over on typekey) is not enough change. Right now there is no compelling reason for the average user to upgrade except for the fact that if they don’t do it now, it may well cost more to upgrade in the future. Maybe you can get away with that if you’re Microsoft, but not if you’re a startup like SixApart.
    Side note – the language they chose as part of the list of features paid licensees receive – “guaranteed path to future versions” is vaguely threatening. It implies that if you don’t upgrade now, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to later. It’s another example of really bad communication by a company that makes communication tools.
    As a former product manager, I understand very well the perils of going public with your feature roadmap. But given the depth of the PR hole that SixApart has dug for itself, they would do well to show some good faith to their users and be more forthcoming about what the future will hold for MT licensees.

  2. Josh says:

    (Welcome to JRE!)
    I don’t think we’re in the same boat here, though. JRE is not a big website, and I can scrape in underneath the one-author-three-blogs limit that entitles me to the free, unsupported version. In my case, this is no different from what I’m currently used to – and that means there’s a very minimal marginal cost to upgrading (unless you count the fingernails that I chew on when I bring the site back up on the new version…)
    Now, had I paid for MT in the past, or if I was even slightly larger, I’d be pretty livid (and looking longingly in the direction of WordPress). In terms of public image, in terms of their customer base, in almost every possible context, there’s no question that Six Apart blew this in a big way.
    My point is simply that a lot of the people who are complaining about this change won’t actually be affected by it. I for one will be sticking with Movable Type as long as it’s still free (and reasonably feature competitive).

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