Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The demise of Six Apart

Communication
Six Apart was a company formed in 2002 to handle the commercial aspects of Movable Type, and later its hosted platform, TypePad. Along the way, it acquired, and then later sold LiveJournal, and also launched a social blogging platform called Vox, which is to close at the end of this month.
I saw ‘was’, as in the past tense, because Six Apart has now ceased to exist in an independent form; it has joined with another firm called VideoEgg to create Say Media. The web site doesn’t really give much of an idea about what the new company does, apart from lots of marketing buzzwords encouraging ‘engagement’, but I gather it’s something to do with internet advertising with a social aspect.
So where does that leave Six Apart’s two major remaining products, TypePad and Movable Type? They’re still mentioned on Say Media’s home page, but in small grey text at the bottom of the page. And the press release on movabletype.org does not even mention the two services. It’s natural, therefore, for current TypePad and MT users to feel a little uneasy as it looks like the new company will leave the two services to, at best, stagnate somewhat.
As much as I like MT, it’s undeniable that it’s now nowhere near as popular as WordPress; similarly, TypePad is losing out to WordPress.com and Tumblr, both free services which offer a level of service that is close to or matches TypePad.
I have high hopes for Melody, a fork of Movable Type which involves a number of former Six Apart employees (Jay Allen, Byrne Reese, Anil Dash). I’m hoping to migrate this site over to it once it becomes more stable. But I’m not confident that the future of the main MT project and TypePad is so secure. We shall see.
(As an aside, Saturday will be 8th anniversary of the switch from Blogger to Movable Type on this site)

3 Comments

  1. I was in a state of un-shock when I read the pre-anouncement. Movable Type has been neglected for years, shoved aside in favor of a bunch of other products and services that Six Apart acquired or hacked out of MT… none of which were compelling enough to catapult the company to new heights. If anything, they just buried the company to obscurity with no focus on a flagship product to give them an identity.
    Oh sure, we got the new revised template structure and some nifty new features in MT 4.0, but they had crappy to non-existent documentation and support was minimal. A proud do-it-yourselfer since I was typing away on an Apple ][, I didn’t have the time to figure it all out on my own, and ended up hiring somebody to upgrade my templates for me.
    That’s when I knew the MT was done.
    Meanwhile, WordPress has continued to eat their lunch, despite the fact that every install I have of the platform is hacked (or attempted to be hacked) on a weekly basis. Probably because the support community and development is off the charts.
    I too have high hopes for Melody… mostly because I don’t want my seven years of investment in MT to be lost. The idea of converting my blog to another platform is enough to make me want to quit blogging. 🙂

  2. I’ve also been a fellow MT user for years and really don’t want to switch to anything else. I know how it works, have gotten used to its quirks, and have even hacked around some annoyances. Like Dave, I have a little too much invested to even want to try anything else.
    I think there are probably 2 reasons why WordPress ate Movable Type’s lunch a few years back. (1) ease of installation, (2) themes.
    A Perl web application is never going to be that easy for novices to install. I do have to give Six Apart some credit for their web based installer shipped in modern versions of MT though. So much nicer to install than it used to be. If only the older versions had it.
    And let’s be honest, bloggers like their themes. WordPress has eleventy billion of them and they’re easy to install. Movable Type has a little less than that and installation is a crap shoot. MT’s templating language is uber-powerful but there’s a steep learning curve and not everyone wants to learn it, they just want to do the clicky-clicky install-a-theme-and-be-done kind of thing.
    I’m on the Melody developer’s mailing list and keep a close eye on the project. Very very interesting indeed. Having said that, on the MTOS developer mailing list Jun said that Six Apart Japan are still going to actively develop MT so I’m keeping my eye on that too.

  3. @Kevin and @Dave2 –
    Movable Type is far from finished. And the Melody project aims to give new life to the platform and engage old and existing users in a way they honestly haven’t been engaged with Six Apart – at least not since the launch of MT4.
    The two gripes you have mentioned, themes and ease of installation, are completely appropriate and they are both huge priorities for the community. The first beta of Melody, due out in November, will have tons of new features for theme developers. We have integrated Config Assistant, Theme Manager and Auto Preferences (among other plugins) which we developed as plugins independent of Movable Type over the last two years. They are mature, power numerous web sites, and are now core to Melody.
    Installation is next. I have been working on a project to dramatically improve the installation experience, but I needed to put it aside to focus on the core product. It will hopefully be the centerpiece for the next release after 1.0. But like everything we do, we will develop it as a stand alone piece of code so you won’t need to wait for a release to use it.
    The people behind Melody care a great deal for the product and are committed to its future. It is the only thing we work on, so one doesn’t need to worry about us getting distracted by another product we want to launch or another revenue stream we are trying to build. For us, it Melody, Melody, Melody, all the way.