Is Six Apart Services Killing Smaller Movable Type Designers and Developers?

Filed as Features on April 22, 2008 2:27 am

The Six Apart announcement that they acquired a major Movable Type design firm have sparked some reactions. Personally, I’ve been debating whether I should look into Movable Type or not, now that it’s available in an open-source license and everything. Prior to that, it wasn’t an option for me, I like my platforms to be open.

Anyway, the launch of Six Apart Services, a branch that will offer Movable Type development and design, makes me even more cautious of moving into this sphere. A Six Apart branded firm will be very hard, if not impossible, to compete with.

I think Mike Rundle is pretty much spot on in his post on the matter. He notes that he’s always preferred Movable Type to WordPress, which is interesting since 9rules is pretty much WordPress powered, with bbPress being the Notes section, but that’s beside the point.

Mike writes:

When Anil Dash says that this acquisition will grow the market for Movable Type consulting, I believe him. However the acquisition of Apperceptive lets Six Apart reel in a larger part of those consulting projects, leaving less fish for everyone else to eat. Six Apart has been working hard on building their developer community up to match the one surrounding WordPress, and I really can’t see this as a something that developers would appreciate.

I’m definitely in agreement with his thoughts here, albeit me being an outsider and not at all involved in the Movable Type community. I think a company that produces a platform that they want others to work with, should be very careful not to mess with the developers. You don’t see many serious Microsoft Office competitors, do you?

This might be a great idea for Six Apart, and great business as well. I don’t think this is something that will be the fall of the company or anything. However, there is a huge risk that it’s putting developers and designers off, should Six Apart Services be taking a chunk of the cake from them. I can only look to myself here. Despite the informative tutorials, and my urge to give MTOS a go, I find myself waiting yet again. First I waited for the open-source release, and now I’m waiting to see what Six Apart Services would mean for me as a designer.

I don’t want to compete with Automattic on WordPress any more than I want to compete with Six Apart on Movable Type.

Is Six Apart Services a smart move for Six Apart, and what will the implications be?

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  1. By Jesse Gardner posted on April 22, 2008 at 5:40 am
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    I’m a Movable Type developer and I have to say I embrace these new services wholeheartedly.

    I have quite a lot of thoughts on the matter, most of which I’ve already shared over at my blog; but I’ll summarize:

    * It’s in Six Apart’s best interest to keep their developers happy. Poaching customers from developers is the quickest way to sink their own ship, and they’ve already affirmed both privately and publicly that they want to enable developers, not steal from them.

    * Creating a service branch of Six Apart helps to legitimize the platform by making it much more appealing for very large corporate customers who wouldn’t even begin to consider using Movable Type without official implementation.

    * Opening the upper end of the customer base helps to bring in even more “trickle-down” work for developers.

    * The product will ultimately be more useful because Six Apart will not only be developing the product, they will be developing *with* the product. This breeds a whole lot more practicality and sympathy with developers.

    * As Six Apart starts creating things *with* their software, the perceived need for stable APIs and comprehensive documentation will be even greater and will ultimately strengthen the community and the platform.

    In my humble opinion, I think it’s going to be a good thing. But then, I’ve been wrong before.

    Reply

  2. By Mike Rundle posted on April 22, 2008 at 7:26 am
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    Hey Thord, thanks for the link.

    Jesse, I read your comments at TechCrunch before writing my entry and obviously respect your opinions on this matter since we’ve both been working with MT for a long time. Although Anil has said that they’re not looking to take any work away from MT developers with the acquisition, I think that still needs to be seen. Apperceptive was a growing company with a growing client base, and if there’s money to be made then I can’t see Six Apart not going after it. I don’t think that 6A will be going after small-to-medium individual blogs (normally the realm of the independent developer) but larger-sized social sites, however who really knows.

    Reply

  3. By Ann Ray posted on April 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm
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    There’s always room for many players, but a challenge for the third parties–like me in another niche–is that most customers start with the publisher. While the most experienced consultants/devs are often not at the publisher (or not talking to the general public), screening third parties is its own hurdle when one is shopping.

    Despite the hope that Six Apart is just going after the big guys, they do have a SMB offering:
    http://www.sixapart.com/services/bloggers-small-business/

    Though I’m leery of what I’d get in a $200 prefab package. Or maybe it’s just because what I want always falls outside standard services ;-)

    One niche I haven’t seen either Six Apart or the community serving is coaching. As I built my new blog (hopefully switching DNS today!) I would have loved to shortcut my learning curve by spending an hour or three picking an expert’s brain.

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  4. By Bruce Prochnau posted on April 26, 2008 at 3:51 am
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    SA stating that they want to “empower” developers is patent nonsense and double speak.
    They state they are going to be developers and designers of their own software for those wanting a website.

    Saying this does not cut out smaller developers is incomprehensible and defies common sense.

    The most recent I have seen is them thinking of watching over developers, to me a way of gaining control over who works with the software for their customers, and likely weeding out those who don’t buy into the party line.

    All this makes me move further away from MT as a developer, not that I cannot compete, but on principles.

    Reply

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