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WordPress 2.3 And Another Comparison With Movable Type

WordPress 2.3 is out. The release is significant because it has some heavy changes in the schema, to natively support better taxonomy and tagging. I assume that the inherent support for tagging would also make it faster than through the plugins. It also has better support for canonical URLs.

The significance of this WordPress release has drawn some reaction from Movable Type camps. Jesse Gardner gives 10 points why bloggers should use Movable Type 4 instead of WordPress 2.3 (via CMS Wire). They are of course comparable, but is MT superior? I have my own reasons for this question.

Jesse’s points are based on the difference in approach of MT and WordPress, than any specific absolute features. So it is easy to turn it around. For example, is everything built-in always good? The fact that WordPress requires many plugins is good, because that means that the core of WordPress remains light. You can play around more with the plugins, and use more combinations. Also, if you do not need the plugins, you stay with the light-weight WordPress core. In fact this is one of the reasons why WordPress is flexible enough to suit many non-blog web sites. But there are some other reasons where I see WordPress score better.

Earlier the biggest reason was the MT was not open source, it has been open sourced in the recent version. But it is not only about being open source, it is about being open to contributions from the community. Six Apart still requires copyright assignment for contributions to be accepted. While this might just be another formality, it is going to shed doubts in the user’s mind. One of the best things of WordPress is the number of eyeballs and hands working on it increase everyday. WordPress sure has bugs, like any other software, but the community usually is quicker in identifying and fixing them. WordPress has a well-built open source ecosystem around it. I think MT will take time to gear up to be truly open source, and the growth in WordPress camp is not going to get any slower.

Also, the point about the template tags is not always black and white. By using PHP for both the templates and rest of the code, WordPress makes it easier on the users. In MT it is a case of learning another language of template tags, which are more like self-closing XML tags and either Perl or PHP for rest of the code.

MT still discriminates between the community and the enterprise by offering two different editions. MT still caters to the enterprise differently. This does induce a feeling in the everyday blogger if they are being handed a cheaper deal through the community edition. I know that a lot of products follow this strategy, but I have also seen that clauses like “free for personal use” attract a lot of doubts and a lot of questions. I think WordPress makes adoption easier.

The MT camp keeps bashing WordPress because of its dynamic nature. MT exports the generated HTML files into static ones so that future servings can bypass the web server and avoid scalability problems. Sure, this is one approach. However, WordPress too carries a very effective plugin called wp-cache, which provides similar advantages. The biggest disadvantage of a static serving is that you end up rebuilding all the pages when you change any of your template code. wp-cache, I feel, gives a better balance of auto-expiring cache. Do not wonder how many high-traffic sites like TechCrunch use WordPress.

WordPress also has some terrrific featuers, like flexible feed customization, which makes it easier to get a customized feed for yourself. The template heirarchy can be very effectively used to either build explicit templates or build a minimal site using just one template file. The flexible permalink setup and a facility to add custom permalink tags makes it pretty much open to everything. THe new canonical URL feature also makes it easier to now change the permalink and still not have any broken URLs. I am not sure if this is as easy with MT.

I grant that Movable Type is a good blogging system. It is being used by big blogs and web sites around. This is because it has some very good features and its approach is suitable there. It definitely scores higher in features like search.

However, for the everyday blogger, WordPress is simpler and easier, not only in the design, but even in the license and legal language. WordPress is one of the ideal tools where you start hacking around, and realize that this can be used for many bigger things, without having to worry about editions and licenses. If I find someone asking me about starting a blog, I am still going to recommend WordPress.

Discussion [Participate or Link]

  1. Jesse said:

    Hey Abhijit! Thanks for taking the time to put down your thoughts on the matter.

    I agree with you on some things. How much gets built in and how much remains a plugin has been one of the major discussions over on Pronet.

    Having worked extensively with both platforms, though, I’m going to have to disagree with you on the template tags. It’s nothing at all like Perl or PHP. In fact, it’s not a language at all. It’s really just something that looks like an HTML template tag, only that represents data from a database. (You don’t even have to self close tags like XML, but I do because I’m obsessive compulsive.) But it’s human readable. Stuff like MTEntryPermalink or MTBlogDescription. Can’t get easier than that.

    And I’m not sure I understand your dual edition argument. There’s only one Movable Type, with an add-on component for enterprise customers. That’s not an unusual thing; WP even offers WP-MU if people want to manage multiple blogs.

    You are right that publishing files can be a drag, but MT has not only gotten a lot smarter about what needs to get rebuilt, it’s also got RebuildQueue (which publishes in the background) built in. And I laughed out loud that you think MT search is better! I’ve often thought it was it’s weakest point. Ah well. =)

    Anyhow, if you know WP, by all means recommend it to your friends. They’ll probably be coming to you for support anyhow. Just don’t write off MT as inferior, because it’s got a LOT of power under the hood.

    Cheers!

  2. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Jesse, thanks for your comment. I agree with you that the template tags are not a language by themselves, but they are still something other than PHP. When I have seen people use WordPress, they really liked that it was PHP everywhere. The separation matters when you have different people working on different things. Which is not the case most of the times. Also, it is not very easy when you need more than existing tags. MT of course lets you create them, but they are not easy from a non-programmer perspective.

    I have worked on MT, though not as extensive as on WP, and perhaps on older versions. The reason I said MT search is better is because it allows regular expressions and boolean queries, as far as I remember.

    My differentiation in the MT editions is because of features like LDAP user management, user account synchronization and industry leading documentation which are not listed for the community edition.

    And I do agree with you that MT is not inferior, as I have said in the post, but it is not superior either.

  3. Matt said:

    If you use learn the funky MiXedCase MT template tags you know… Movable Type. A proprietary tag system used no where else in the world.

    If you learn WordPress theming you know PHP, the most widely used scripting language on the web. You’re also well-positioned to help the numerous bloggers and businesses who continue to switch to or start with WordPress every day.

    Abhijit, an advantage of your blog over Jesse’s is it doesn’t require me to “type ‘x’ in the box” to leave a comment…

  4. Theme Playground | The Dust Settles: Thoughts on WordPress 2.3 said:

    […] is hosting a great comparison between MT4 and WordPress 2.3. Some interesting discussions are cited in the post, and it even got a little comment love from […]

  5. Anil said:

    Just to clarify a few of Matt’s points…

    If you use learn the funky MiXedCase MT template tags you know… Movable Type. A proprietary tag system used no where else in the world.

    Good news: You can use lowercase tags in MT4. So if your primary consideration for blogging platforms is an aversion to the shift key, mt:entries will be your new best friend. The template tag system in MT is used in TypePad as well, of course, and it’s built into Adobe Dreamweaver. Which is hardly “nowhere else in the world”.

    If you learn WordPress theming you know PHP, the most widely used scripting language on the web. You’re also well-positioned to help the numerous bloggers and businesses who continue to switch to or start with WordPress every day.

    Oh, c’mon. I know enough PHP to know that being familiar with the_loop is hardly the same thing as knowing PHP. In fact, if you learn MT’s PHP template tags, you learn Smarty templating. Which is a PHP skill you can actually use on other applications. But this whole line of conversation is kind of disingenuous — it’s along the lines of “if you extend Microsoft Word using C, you can write your own operating system!” Technically, it’s true, but it’s kind of irrelevant as a criterion for platform selection.

    Abhijit, an advantage of your blog over Jesse’s is it doesn’t require me to “type ‘x’ in the box” to leave a comment…

    That’s a great point, Matt. Jesse should be using OpenID on his blog, since it’s built in to MT4 and doesn’t require a plugin, as it does on Abhijit’s blog right now.

  6. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Thanks for your comments. I hope this does not turn into a to-and-fro argument. I wanted to stress that the pros and cons that we see with both the tools are because of their design decisions and approach. As a personal opinion, I feel that WordPress is simpler and easier for an average blogger, especially because of the community contributions and license language. I tried to back that up with why I thought so.

  7. The Dust Settles: Thoughts on WordPress 2.3 | WPCandy said:

    […] is hosting a great comparison between MT4 and WordPress 2.3. Some interesting discussions are cited in the post, and it even got a little comment love from […]

  8. NCI said:

    Thanks for this article, this is very useful for me. regards..

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Abhijit Nadgouda
iface Consulting
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