The Death Of Movable Type

If ever there were a post that's long overdue, this is it. This post began when I more or less threw a coding hissy-fit. I'm not sure how else to put it, quite frankly.

I got sick of the bugs and slowness in Movable Type and decided to finally do something about it. I tore down Jalpuna.com and started over. The design looks similar, but the code is brand-spankin' new. Gone is the html table-based layout. It's 100% css now. I designed the entire thing from scratch. I then coded it by hand using nothing more than a text editor. And I'll tell you why.

Movable Type is dead. That's why.

The cause of my hissy-fit was the unbearable slowness of doing anything with Movable Type.

Create a new post?
Search previous entries?
Even just to frigging log on...

Long story short: if you have a blog and are considering upgrading from MT4 to MT5, don't do it. You should either downgrade to MT3, or abandon the platform entirely. I chose to downgrade to MT3.34

- Of Proof And Pudding -

Let's tackle the issue of proof to back up any of my gripes. I'm telling you that each version of Movable Type has become increasingly slow, bloated and confusing. Don't take my word for it. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, so, let's test this poo (ding)! Here's a website where you can log on and test different versions of Movable Type for yourself. At each of the following links, you can log in to a working MT install and try it out. For each of these, the log in is as follows:

Username: demo
Password: demo

Movable Type 3
Movable Type 4
Movable Type 5

It's immediately clear that each version is of Movable Type is slower than the previous version. I'm going to say that again because it's important. Each version is of Movable Type is slower than the one it replaced. Each is more bloated. Each is more poorly designed. Especially MT5. Instead of getting better, each new version of Movable Type took a leap backward.

What! A! Mess!

Again, don't take my word for it. Click the links and time those page loads. It gets significantly worse if you have a blog with a lot of content. MT really gets bogged down. With each new version, the blog interface runs more slowly. It's easy to throw around frustrated opinions, and yes, I am frustrated, but the links to those demo installations prove me right.

Each upgrade of Movable Type is slower than the previous. The demo installs prove it.

Unless you need a specific plugin that requires MT4, I highly recommend you stick with MT3. Don't even consider MT5.

- Movable Type 3, 4 And 5 -

When I created Jalpuna back in early 2004, I started with Blogger but quickly switched to Movable Type. And I really liked it. Movable Type was a slick blogging platform with a simple interface. I designed my website and popped my code into Movable Type templates. And I had a fully functioning blog. Neat!

Movable Type 3 was solid and fast. Lightning fast. By the time MT reached version 3.34, I'd become used to the idea that each update was an improvement. Then came Movable Type 4.

The biggest mistake I ever made as a blogger was when I upgraded to MT4. The interface had become aesthetically appealing but cumbersome to use, with different sets of menus stashed in seemingly random places and 'cute' names for where things were in those menus. Create? Design? Manage? Worst of all, Movable Type had become dreadfully slow.

Movable Type became slow to log in, slow to search the archives, slow to post a new entry, slow to do anything. Oh, god was it slow. I installed each update to MT4 because each promised to be "Significantly faster!" None were. By MT 4.3, I'd given up using Movable Type to write posts. I'd write everything offline and only log in to MT to post an entry. In other words, I was trying to avoid using it.

In desperation, I gave Movable Type one last chance and installed MT5 once it was out of beta and had received an update.

MT5 was the last straw. The interface had become layers and layers deep with a dizzying array of menus to accomplish the simplest of things. Movable Type was trying harder and harder to become a platform of "themes" similar to Wordpress. If I wanted Wordpress, I would have installed Wordpress. Movable Type 5 was still nowhere near as fast as MT3. Slower to log in. Slower to save entries. Slower to search. Come on!

Ah, but now Movable Type can do so much more than ever before!

I. Don't. Care.
I Don't Care.
I don't care.
I Don't.

I don't care if Movable Type can run 597 blogs with 32438744329 authors. Really, I don't care. If MT can't run my one blog and run it well, why should I care about a trillion features I'll never use? And why should I have to search through the menus to turn off [expletive] features I didn't want in the first place? Zemanta? Fuck Zemanta!!!!

While Movable Type was becoming worthlessly bloated, its users were leaving the platform in droves. There used to be an amazing community of blogs dedicated to getting the most out of Movable Type. They're gone. The once active MT forums are a ghost town now, partly because they began running on Movable Type rather than poper forum software, which made them useless. SHEESH.

Every aspect of Movable Type has been headed in the wrong direction for years, and finally, I'd had enough. I exported my entire blog. I deleted Movable Type entirely and started over with a fresh install of the long-ago replaced MT3. I'm running MT 3.34 to be exact.

- But Why? -

Why is Movable Type such a mess? It's a classic case of Lack Of Focus. Movable Type wants to be a blogging platform, a social media platform, a corporate website platform, plus a platform for forums and whatever new trend comes along. But, with absolutely no focus, Movable Type no longer excels at anything, and thanks to a mountain of bloat, it takes forever to do the plethora of things it now does so badly.

Movable Type was designed by Six Apart Ltd. Initially, the company seemed to have grand visions of conquering the blogging world. They bought Livejournal. They developed TypePad and Vox alongside their flagship Movable Type platform. I suppose that lack of focus helps to explain how they lost their way. By 2007, they'd sold Livejournal and this year, they closed Vox; meanwhile, each new version of Movable Type became more bloated than the last. Most bloggers abandoned Movable Type in favor of the open source Wordpress long ago.

I didn't.

- Why Not Wordpress? -

There are two reasons why I don't use Wordpress. #1: Wordpress is a nightmare for people who want to completely design their own sites. Maybe it's great if you code in PHP? I don't know. I'm an html/css guy. #2: Pages created with Wordpress are slower to load when browsing (partly because they are dynamically generated at that moment rather than having static pages already existing on the server. Yes, that's a gross oversimplification). Movable Type also offers the option for dynamic publishing. I refuse to use it.

Wordpress is phenomenal for people who want a blog that's easy to get up and running. Install Wordpress, find a site theme you like and you're good to go. I'm not one of those people.

I enjoy being able to easily create custom designs for my pages and custom templates for anything I want my blog to be able to do. For example, I made a template that serves up random playlists. Movable Type 3's template system is easy to use, assuming you delete all of Movable Type's code and use your own.

I didn't even mention how much of a mess Movable Type's documentation is. With each new release, the documentation has become more unwieldy. Broken links, missing info. So much of it is outdated. It's a bloody mess.

Now, Six Apart, the company that makes Movable Type, has been sold/merged to create a new company named SAY Media. They say (eyeroll) that they are still committed to developing Movable Type, but since the platform has been going in the wrong direction for years, there's nothing to suggest there's a chance the new company will get it right now. No way.

- Fork That! -

To make matters worse for the future of Movable Type - as if that's even possible - a group of the few remaining Movable Type developers have gone off on their own and created a fork of Movable Type called Melody. They've further diluted the Movable Type userbase, and they've based their fork on the bloat of MT4, which partially led to the demise of Movable Type in the first place. They introduced Melody in June. Yay! A successor to Movable Type! Oh, wait... that was June, 2009.

2010 came and went. It's now 2011. Melody is still in beta, but you can test it here [Username: demo - Password: demo]

As far as I'm concerned, a quick read of the Melody FAQ gives Movable Type users every reason NOT to use it. They promise "a ever growing list of feature (sic) hundreds of commits and tens of thousands of lines of code contributions to continue the development of Movable Type" (bloat!) "A robust theming framework" (if I wanted Wordpress, I'd install Wordpress) "Theme exporting to make theme distribution and sharing easier" (again, if I wanted Wordpress). And there's this gem: "Melody differentiates itself most from Movable Type through a more well supported, engaged and excited community or users" ...for a platform that is still in beta? Puh Lease.

One more quote from the Melody FAQ: "Melody 1.0 is currently in active beta and a full release is scheduled for the end of 2010."

Apparently, Santa didn't give somebody a new calendar. It's now 2011.

- Go Back! -

If you're a frustrated Movable Type user, I believe the most logical move at this point is to downgrade. In many ways, downgrading to Movable Type 3 is an upgrade. Scheduled posts work. That feature never worked properly for me in MT4. Also, when writing a longer post, the entry body and extended entry fields are on one page, rather than having to click back and forth between them. How could anyone have possibly thought that was a good idea? So many of the bugs I'd become used to in MT4 don't exist in MT3. By downgrading, I upgraded in a big way. And that's why I say Movable Type is dead.

What comes next is anyone's guess.

Movable Type is dead.

::::: | Saturday, Jan 08 2011 at 4:06 PM
::::: |


Tuomo Riihimaki said:

Hi Rob,

where do you stand now re. blogging software? With my brother (who's the tecchie one)I have been testing MT, WP, and Melody plus Joomla and Drupal. I would also need to do mobile blogging.

But blogging is also about having documentation, support and discussion groups available. I am aware of the Japanese takeover re. MT but other than that, does it look like to you that there will be life left in MT or Melody?



::::: | November 13, 2011 2:14 AM

Rob said:

I'm using an old and badly outdated version of Movable Type. Pre-bloatware, you might say. V3. It's fast, easily configurable and I can design my site as I see fit.

As I said, I believe Movable Type is dead. Melody is its ghost. I'd say Melody is Dead On Arrival, but really, it was dead at conception, long before there was even a beta.

The battle for themes based blogging has been won by Wordpress. If Melody is headed in that direction, it's a waste of time. That being said... I'm no fan of Wordpress. It's blog friendly so long as the blogger doesn't want to change the way the system works. Templating and designing is a nightmare.

If somebody can marry the functionality of Tumblr with the templating of MT3, I think it could be the next big thing. People are moving away from hosted blogs anyway. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are where people are going because social is king.

::::: | November 19, 2011 6:51 PM

fluffy said:

I made the mistake of 'upgrading' to MT4, and then later to MT5. Everything I've seen online indicates that you can't downgrade MT5 back to MT4 or earlier, which I'm guessing is because of the new ridiculously-convoluted site/blog/page model that seems completely half-baked and ridiculous.

What I want to know is, do you know of any reasonable means of getting my massive amounts of blog data out of my MT5 database and into some other CMS that has the same level of flexibility as MT3 without all of the ridiculous bloat of MT4+? Or at least get it into MT3?

I have never once found any value to the site/blog thing, since there's only one site where I use multiple blog instances on it and I don't use the site index part because it just plain doesn't do anything useful ANYWAY.

Maybe I'll just write my own special-purpose thing for my various sites, like I used to do in the good old days, and just make some MT templates to export my data in a way that doesn't suck badly. Seems like a lot of work though, but on the other hand so is building even a single entry on my webcomic anymore...

::::: | November 27, 2011 1:28 AM

tuomo riihimaki said:

Thanks Rob and sorry about the late reply.

I'm only a novice in this, I was first keen on going for MT. But as you wrote there seems to be a dead end there. Melody isn't moving on either.

As I am not a big fan of straight out of the box systems with their inflexibities, I wasn't so excited about WP. However, along with blogging software we were looking for a CMS and I came across with a Wordpress for Joomla! component. I will give this combination a go.

Social is king but it unfortunately seems to mean that intelligent conversation is going out of the window. I don't think it has to be like that but the way e.g. fb is built (you are giving personal information about your doings instead of your thoughts) means that the emphasis is on entertainment...

::::: | December 11, 2011 2:45 PM

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