It’s sad to say this, but Movable Type and its publisher Six Apart have lost that moment in the spotlight that they possessed just three or four short years ago. I won’t speculate on what happened, other than it’s a sign of how little the blogging industry has grown in spite of how phenomenally it’s grown, too. There’s been a proliferation of new blogs, of course, but they’ve been brought to bear based on a wide variety of competing systems like Blogger, Six Apart’s own Typepad, and a dozen or so others, many of them hosted solutions. There still isn᾿t a clear winner in the marketplace, a runaway hit that’s categorically left the others in the dust.
In 2003, I would have bet that winner would have been Movable Type, and if you aggregate its users with those of Typepad and its other sister products, I bet you could make a convincing case that they are in fact the market leader. But the blogosphere is a funny place, and in spite of numerical metrics, it’s so clear that WordPress has caught the popular imagination of the most interesting bloggers out there — and that of the many of the new, ill-conceived but unrelenting wave of new bloggers publishing for the first time every day, too. I can᾿t tell you how many times I’ve seen barely altered variants on Kubrick, WordPress᾿s wildly popular out-of-the-box template, in the past six months, and how few times I recall coming across one of Movable Type’s many stock templates.
What᾿s more, the WordPress user community seems robust and enthusiastic in a way that Movable Type used to, but does no longer. When I went hunting for Movable Type plug-ins to remedy my comment spam problem, I was shocked how many of them had mothballed their Movable Type projects, declaring instead that they᾿d become WordPress developers. That’s a quietly damning turn of events.
For myself, I like Movable Type a lot, still, but mostly because I know it so well. I may eventually trade it in for a new publishing system — I’d be more than happy to use something much faster, more responsive and modern-feeling — but for now, I’m not convinced that a move to WordPress will yield enough benefits to make the learning curve worthwhile for me. Besides, this is just a hunch, but it feels nearly as if WordPress has begun to crest as well. The time feels right for a new kind of blog publishing tool, one that takes a quantum leap ahead of these two basically comparable software packages. If there’s one truism about the blogosphere, it’s that the definition of what a blog is remains under constant, turbulent change, and its tools will inevitably reflect that.