May 13, 2004
Movable Type 3.0 Is Here -- Get Your Wallet Out

Six Apart has finally released the long-awaited Movable Type 3.0 (in a Developer’s Edition). That’s the good news.

The bad news? If you’re doing anything more than one-author publishing with your MT installation, 3.0 is going to cost you — they’ve rolled out a new licensing scheme along with the new software. According to their licensing wizard, it looks like I’m gonna have to shell out $149 to get the appropriate license for MT 3.0 to keep doing what I’ve been doing with 2.661 (run two blogs of my own, plus offer free blog hosting to interested friends).

My first reaction is that if you need a “licensing wizard” to explain how your licensing scheme works, it’s too complicated.

My second reaction is that I don’t mind paying for Movable Type — hell, I threw $25 to Six Apart as a thank-you for MT a while back — but it would have been nice if they had kept the price for people like me, who are doing non-commercial stuff with MT, under $100. The business licenses for MT 3.0 are much more expensive (up to $600), but for a business that kind of money is chump change, so that doesn’t bother me as much. For individuals, though, $149 isn’t a small amount of money.

Mena has some explanation of the licensing scheme on her blog but it only muddies the waters further, at least for me. She says:

With the new licenses going in effect today we will continue our tradition of offering a fully functional free version, there will also be a large variety of paid licenses that come with the structured support that we never felt that we could give our donors enough of.

OK, there’s going to be a fully functional free version… except that the free version they’re offering now isn’t fully functional, it’s limited in how many authors and blogs you can have. Is this the “fully functional” version she’s referring to? Or is there a different one coming when the “real” 3.0 release (not the developer’s edition, which they stress is for hackers and tinkerers) hits?

I’ll probably end up paying the $149. I like Movable Type and Six Apart, and I’m not one of these people who has a moral problem with paying hardworking developers for doing good work (and then wonders why the software jobs are all moving to Bangalore). I just wish they had done a better job of communicating that this was coming before today. Communication is key, people!

UPDATE: Tim Appnel has some thoughts on this matter as well:

The delineation between TypePad and MT have become clear with this release ‚?? TypePad is for general users wanting to blog and Movable Type is for developers and professional organizations wanting to do more then just weblogging…

Rumor around the MT community is that Six Apart was collecting less then 50 cents (US) for each copy of MT downloaded. That is absurd for a piece of commercial software!

This outcry raises a bigger more important point which is the reason for my post. As a developer and one who makes a living writing code, this reaction to Six Apart’s new licensing is really disheartening and on a certain level frustrating to see. I am a firm believer and backer of open source. I’ve personally released quite a bit of open source code myself and will continue to do so. However this apparent expectation of the vocal part of community that it is their right to have all great works of software at no cost is bothersome. If users don’t have the funds or won’t pay on principle for my time, effort or talent ‚?? how do I eat?

Like I said above, I’m not opposed to paying for good software. I’ve paid for Trillian, All-Seeing Eye, Media Jukebox, and many other packages before — all of which have free alternatives available.

In all those cases, I chose to pay because these teams are producing something that is (a) significantly better than the free alternatives in some non-trivial way, and (b) priced commensurately with how much better they are.

The uproar over MT’s new pricing suggests to me not what Tim thinks — that people won’t pay for software — but that Six Apart hasn’t done a good job of communicating how MT 3.0 meets (a) and (b). If I’m supposed to pay for it, tell me why it’s better than the free alternatives, and convince me that what you’re charging is a fair amount to get those benefits.

Outside the circle of beta testers, Six Apart has said practically nothing about 3.0 for months, so it shouldn’t surprise them that they fail on (a) — how can anyone be convinced the upgrade is “worth it” if they don’t know what’s in the upgrade? And as I noted originally, the pricing seems disproportionately high for individual users like me, which fails test (b).

In short, if you want to sell software, you have to sell it. Taking something that used to be free and putting a price tag on it is not selling. Convincing people that it’s now worth paying for — that’s selling. Six Apart needs to get in gear and start doing that if they don’t want people to react like they did to today’s announcement.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I think this post over at I, Feelafel hits the nail on the head:

SixApart‚??s obscure licensing scheme betrays its new model of the blogging user base: casual webloggers, hardcore computer h4×0rz, and content management service providers. In a MovableType 3.0 world, it seems that the casual webloggers are being told to use TypePad, the hardcore computer h4×0rz are being given the free copy of MT 3.0 and asked to make some cool new plugins for it, and the content management service providers are being charged for software that allows them to offer innovative services to their clients. It‚??s an attractive model, and I think it‚??s almost right ‚?? I just think that there‚??s a large, very vocal, and totally unaccounted-for group that sits between the casual weblogger and the elite h4×0r. It‚??s these people who‚??ve advocated MT over its competitors for years, these people who‚??ve secured their own web hosting packages so that they could use MT, and these people who‚??ve passionately contributed to the MT community forums. Now these people are left with the choice of paying $100 or more to keep running their and their friends weblogs, or subscribing to TypePad. Or, most likely, going back to Blogger and getting everything for free again.

Exactly right — I was just thinking myself earlier that the strongest vibe I was getting from the MT 3.0 release was that Six Apart would really prefer people like me to move to TypePad. I’m not a Movable Type “developer” — I use and enjoy several MT plugins (all hail MT-Blacklist!), but I have no ambitions for writing my own. I do, however, have a strong preference for hosting my own blogs on my own box, rather than jobbing that out to someone else through an ASP-style service like TypePad. (Not to knock TypePad, it’s just not for me.)

So where does that leave people like me? That would appear to be the question.

[This entry cross-posted at Just Well Mixed]

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at May 13, 2004
Comments

The upsetting thing for me is that I have a personal site that I created before ANY blog tools were available.

That means that I'd prefer to run a blog from my site, since I already pay someone to host it.

Now, I have to either not upgrade, change products or move my blog to a site hosted somewhere that's not the site I've been investing in all these years.

I think that and the steep personal license is what's getting to people, not the fact that it's not free.

Posted by: paul on May 13, 2004 11:54 PM

Why should we comment the software which most of the blog sites are maid of?This is a closed circuit.

Posted by: Marina on August 19, 2004 9:00 AM

Marina,

I think blog software is an important topic because it's central to enabling microjournalism -- one of the key tools that make microjournalism possible. If the tools become out of reach of the average user (by price, or technical complexity, or some other reason), that's an important development.

Posted by: Jason Lefkowitz on August 19, 2004 9:28 AM
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