Six Apart’s focus over the past few years has switched from catering to the professional web development and enterprise audience, to the tweens/teens MySpace crowd. After their acquisition of Live Journal in early 2005, you could tell that their focus was shifting. The world of LJ is entirely different than the blogosphere that I know about, here’s a good quote from Zephoria:
Live Journal is a culture, not simply a product or commodity that can be bought. From an outsider’s perspective, it might appear as though they are similar properties – they are both blogging tools, right? Wrong.
Jump inside LJ culture. People who use LJ talk about their LJs, not their blogs. They mock bloggers who want to be pundits, journalists, experts. In essence, they mock the culture of bloggers that use Six Apart’s tools. During interviews with LJ/Xanga folks, i’ve been told that MovableType is for people with no friends, people who just talk to be heard, people who are trying too hard.
I saw the LJ acquisition as a way to break into the 12-18 year old market segment of the population, but didn’t think much about it until I heard Project Comet (now named Vox, an awful name that I will refuse to use in this entry) was coming out soon. Comet is the new lifestyle publishing platform coming from Six Apart, which they describe as “combin[ing] the publishing power of TypePad, the community aspects of LiveJournal and the years of insight garnered from Movable Type.” I anticipated that Comet would be a way to merge the free LJ users into a TypePad-esque payment structure, but now that screenshots of Comet are out I can see that they’re taking it a few steps further… Comet will be taking on AIMPages and MySpace for a slice of the youth audience pie.
The Draining Pro Market
I’ve compared Movable Type to WordPress previously because I feel WP is snatching up the professional end of the Six Apart user base right from under their noses. For the past 3 years, rumors and chatter have been surrounding 6A in the professional development community regarding their Pro version that was “in the works”. Supposedly this Pro version of Movable Type would allow for more advanced content management functionality, a dynamic and customizable template system, fully changeable user permissions, and more “pie in the sky” stuff that professional MT developers (like myself) have been dreaming about. Unfortunately, when Movable Type 3.0 came out in 2004, it had a lot of surface improvements like a beautiful new interface and standards support, but the advanced pro functionality wasn’t in there yet. The disappointment reminded me a lot of the late-90s, when Apple fanatics were anxiously awaiting Apple’s rumored Copeland OS but were instead given Mac OS 8 which didn’t include all the cool stuff that was hoped for.
Fast forward to now: MT 3.2 is out (with MT 3.3 in beta testing, coming soon) but the more advanced CMS functionality that pro developers have been waiting for doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. Many developers awaiting the MT Pro release have made the switch to WordPress, with more switching almost every day. As a developer who still prefers Movable Type, seeing all my friends and clients talking about using WP on their blogs makes me feel like I’m the dinosaur who doesn’t see the meteor heading to Earth.
Go Where The Money Is
To me, “Web 2.0” is about the anti-enterprise, the anti-establishment, the anti-business, among many other things. Although MySpace doesn’t have any fancy fading DHTML effects or a Ruby on Rails backend, it’s very much a “Web 2.0” company in the sense that it lets its users do whatever they want, however they want to do it, and basically just sits back and observes. Unlike many other “Web 2.0” companies though, MySpace actually makes money so that’s where the similarities end 😉
Six Apart’s Project Comet seems like it’s going after the growing MySpace segment of the population — the kids in middle school through high school who are responsible for so much of the economy. Comet is giving them the features they want: photo gallery integration, your friend’s content on your site, letting only “your friends” view your pages (the exclusivity/clique thing is always key), and many more youth-targetted options. Comet isn’t catering to the pro developer who craves advanced functionality, it’s catering to the MySpace crowd and the money that crowd brings with it.
A New Business
I truly feel as though Six Apart has now totally separated itself from the wishes of the pro development community, the community that put Movable Type up on its shoulders back in the mid-to-late 1990s. If no MT Pro version is around the corner (with the functionality we’ve been promised for the past 3 years) then 6A’s new game plan is completely apparent, and that’s to go where the money is and forsake those that supported you when you were a fledgling bunch of code written by one Perl hacker in his spare time. I can’t say that I blame 6A for their new strategy as it makes a lot of sense financially, but I feel let down that the bright blue skies and crystal clear water of Movable Type Pro may never be seen by these eyes.