As of yesterday, the content-management and blogging solution Movable Type officially went open source -- in other words, free for everyone to use for any purpose, business or personal. SixApart, the maker of MT, calls it "a milestone." I couldn't agree more.
I've been using Movable Type to build my own sites for about a year and change now. (It's also the blogging solution we use here at InformationWeek.) Before that, I'd been using FrontPage, which was OK for designing individual pages, but hopelessly inadequate for a site that had potentially thousands of pages of content. I wanted and needed something database-driven.
While WordPress was a possibility (and I liked the fact that it already was open source),I had a number of friends who already had deployed versions of Movable Type on their own sites, in fairly complicated ways, and could walk me through things if I needed it. And MT turned out to be a great choice, even if at the time it wasn't an open-source product. The 3.2 version I originally started off with was a good beginning; I was able to pretty easily migrate the vast majority of my legacy content, scattered across a whole bunch of individual pages, into MT. I ended up having to do a certain amount of cutting and pasting -- yuck -- but at least once things were migrated there was no further work of that kind needed.
Then came the long wait for Movable Type 4, and for a while it seemed like we'd have to wait about as long for a new revision to the left of the decimal point as we did for, oh, Duke Nukem Forever. But then all at once earlier this year, word dropped that 4.0 was not only ready for public beta testing but also was being released in a wholly open-source edition. And now here we are.
The open-source version of MT isn't the only one that SixApart makes, but it's almost certain to be the most popular. Roughly speaking, it's to their other editions of Movable Type what Fedora is to Red Hat Enterprise Server -- it's the one that's most easy to get your hands on and start working with, and which requires no cash outlay to do so. If you want to step up to something with more professional features already built in, there are the Enterprise and Community editions of MT -- and you can also buy support, hosted solutions, or installation/upgrade services directly from SixApart.
I'm fond of Movable Type for a couple of reasons. For one, it's the program that made maintaining Web sites into something approaching a pleasure for me again. It's never going to be completely painless, but they've made it that much easier to do so many things that are normally quite hard. It's also one of the programs that I have, however tentatively, modified for my own ends -- the first open-source application (apart from, say, Web scripts) where the fact that it was open source was actually useful to me personally. That's a real milestone, too -- one of, I hope, many more.