Six Apart releases beta version of MovableType 4.

Long time SEB readers know that back in the beginning we ran on the uber-popular MovableType blog platform up until they released version 3.0 and put a prohibitively expensive licensing system into place. By the time Six Apart recovered from the firestorm that broke out over the licensing issue we had managed to land one of the 1,000 free ExpressionEngine Personal Licenses that the folks at EllisLab handed out to take advantage of Six Apart’s misstep and we made the jump to EE.

The outrageous licensing issue and the free EE key were only part of the reason we made the jump, though. MovableType 3.0 was billed as a major release and it did include some notable new features, but it was so long in coming and was so much less than what had been discussed in the past that it was a disappointment for a lot of folks including myself. At the time Six Apart was busy with their TypePad hosted solution that seemed to be getting all the new features love while MT seemed to have been forgotten. The biggest improvement in 3.0 was the new plugins system they added that allowed third-party developers to work plugins into the system just about anywhere, but it would be awhile before that system would be taken advantage of and it contributed to the feeling that Six Apart was setting MT up to rely on third-parties to add any new features folks wanted so they could concentrate on the more profitable TypePad. Since then Six Apart has gone on to give MT more of the attention it deserves, but it still seemed to me to be lagging behind other platforms such as EE and WordPress unless, that is, you wanted to shell out the big bucks for the Enterprise edition they eventually released.

So the release of the beta of MT4 comes as a pleasant surprise as it appears to be a major reworking of the code base. Here’s a brief listing of some of the new goodies from the MT4 Announcement:

What’s new in Movable Type 4?

With more than 50 new features, MT4 will enable you to quickly start a blog, easily manage entire blog websites, and better connect with your audience. Here’s some of what’s new in MT4:

  • A completely redesigned user interface
  • It’s easy to install and easy to get started
  • Get an at-a-glance summary of your blog activity from content to contributors on our new dashboard
  • Easily insert text, photos, files and more with a rich WYSIWYG editing
  • Built-in asset, photo and file management
  • Support for creating standalone pages that automatically inherit your blog’s design
  • Built-in member registration system for reader and comment authentication
  • Support for OpenID
  • Aggregate posts from multiple blogs into a single blog
  • Expanded options for archiving and displaying content
  • And much more…

Some of those, such as a built-in member registration system, are features I know I had been clamoring for back when I was still running MT and active in its user community. It appears that quite a few of the goodies that TypePad users have enjoyed for a long time will now be available to MT users as well and it’s interesting to note that some of the features mimic long-standing features of other packages such as EE and WordPress. Most interesting of all, however, is word that Six Apart plans to release an Open Source version of MT 4 later this year.

I played around a bit with a MT4 Demo installation the folks at Pro IT Service have made available and I have to admit that I’m very impressed so far. You can only do so much with the demo version so it’s hard to say how it handles things like the multi-blog aggregations and such, but the WYSIWYG editor is very nice and the simple interface is impressive. It does have support for one feature that I’d love see become native in ExpressionEngine: Tagging, but I believe that’s been in for a while now added at some point in the MT 3.x series.

All in all the MT4 Beta is intriguing enough that I’ll probably download a copy to try out so I can get to the nitty-gritty under the hood. I have no immediate plans to migrate off of ExpressionEngine at the moment, but I like to keep up with what the alternatives are offering these days and I’ll never say that I won’t ever consider making the jump back to MovableType as I once wrongly claimed that I’d never leave MT. There’s a number of EE features I’ve gotten used to having that still aren’t part of the default MT package though a fair number of them could be emulated with plugins. Still for people who are jumping into blog that don’t want to go with a hosted solution MT once more seems like a promising option. If nothing else, die hard MT fans should be plenty happy with the new goodies they’ll have available to them.

You can keep track of the beta’s progress as well as the upcoming Open Source version at the newly revived MovableType.org website.

10 thoughts on “Six Apart releases beta version of MovableType 4.

  1. I’ve also been giving MT4 a test run and so far I really like it.  I did end up sticking with the MT 3.x series though even after the licensing stink.  Which, ended up being a bit of a to do over nothing because they offered a free version afterall wink

  2. I like to toy with as many blogging/CMS packages I can get hold of. I’ll certainly try MT4 if and when I can find the time, but for the time being I’m more than happy with EE.

  3. Kevin, that big to do over nothing is why they offered a free version and improved the terms on the other licenses. If we hadn’t raised that stink I doubt thinks would’ve changed.

    Though I couldn’t have gotten away with the free version because I run too many blogs and have too many authors. At least not without violating the terms of the license.

  4. Les,

    Oh I totally agree.  I didn’t mean to imply that all those who complained initially were wrong to do so.  On the contrary, I wasn’t exactly pleased either.  But as I told a mate of mine who jumped ship immediately, just wait it out – the dust will settle and they will realize the mistake they made.  And they did.  Six Apart were a young company at the time and I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Ben Trott suddenly had to make the transition from hanging out with the rest of us Perl programmer lackeys on perlmonks.org to suddenly being a bigwig at a startup.  Mistakes were made.  Lessons were learned.  That’s life really.

  5. I’m running the beta on my site.
    I like it so far.
    There are a couple things that bug me…some features aren’t easy to get to (at first anyway).
    You can dynamically publish everything if you want to (instead of all statically or selective items only).
    Tagging is nice (though admittedly I’m using a “keywords as technorait” plugin instead – makes MarsEdit use easier).
    The import feature is a little fractured. All the posts were imported with the current date. I had to run 3.35, import, THEN upgrade. But that might be a PICNIC* error.
    Overall, I’m pretty impressed with it. The “soon to be offering an opensource option” drew me to try it. There’s potential for a community fork of the code smile

    *PICNIC – Problem In Chair, Not In Computer.

  6. Kevin, I completely agree with you that it was an honest mistake on their part and my first inclination was, as you suggested, to wait it out. It was the chance landing of the free EE license that ended up tipping the scales for me.

    If you check the archives you’ll find that when ExpressionEngine was first released I commented on it and said it looked cool, but beyond my budget at the time and, with no demo being available, I wasn’t able to see if it was worth the money. The free license gave me the chance to try it out and see how good it was and that was all the push I needed at the time.

    Since then I’ve helped people setup both EE and MovableType based blogs and I still have fond memories of my time on MT. I’m looking forward to playing with the new version.

  7. We switched from MT to EE for http://www.westportnow.com when the “free to switch” offer was made and we got in. MT then was starting to fail as westportnow.com is a huge, frequently updated newspaper site and MT’s perl engine just couldn’t handle the load and we couldn’t get any help from Ben, and then the MT pricing got too stupid for a group site like a newspaper. Jumped to EE and never looked back.

    But, like you, I’m always interested in keeping up with what’s out there, and my husband’s blog is still on an MT platform, and he’s home recovering from open heart surgery so has some time to learn something new, so I’ll get him to upgrade his blog so we can kick the tires …

    The worst thing about the brouhaha back then with MT was that they completely ignored those of us who faithfully ponied up real money as donations to keep them solvent—we were treated badly during this transition and ignored afterwards, so I decided then that I will never give 6 apart another dime of my hard-earned dinero. (They coulda offered us a measly discount for our support and loyalty—5% even—but they flat-out refused. So to hell with them.)

  8. THanks for the thoughtful comments and the insightful look at MT4, Les. It took me a while to catch your comment, but it’s appreciated.

    Not sure if Neurotwitch is still reading the thread, but as I recall, we gave 100% credit for any donations or payments that anybody had ever made for MT when people bought any MT3 license. That probably got overshadowed in all the noise around that release, but it took a not-insignificant amount of engineering to do so in time for that release, so I remember the decision well.

    It may have been a few years ago, but I hope you’ll accept a belated apology that we never clearly communicated that.

  9. I run a number of small sites that would be a decent fit for MT’s static publishing model. Once MT4 is out (or perhaps the open source edition), I may migrate these sites.

  10. Wow, never expected to hear from Anil Dash himself. I thought the MT Community would’ve long forgotten me by now. grin

    Anyway I think MT4 is a great step in the right direction, especially with the inclusion of the podcasting module. Keep up the good work.

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