Update: Thanks for all your feedback. Please read this post that hopefully answers a lot of questions as well as explains some changes we're making.
Commitment to a Free Version, while getting our pricing right
As I hope you already know, today we launched the Movable Type 3.0 Developer Edition, what you may not know is that with this release we are also making major improvements in our licensing and support policies.
Over the past couple years, since our first release of Movable Type, we've tried to balance offering a product for free while being able to continue to innovate and develop. When our user base was in the hundreds and our users tended to be of the developer or designer breed and required less support, it was quite easy to release new versions at a fairly quick pace. As our user base grew and the tool became even more popular, it has become difficult to develop and offer support while relying on voluntarily donations.
That's not to say we aren't completely appreciative of those who donated. Every one of you has made it possible for Six Apart to exist today.
Ben and I are incredibly proud to see that Movable Type, the product that we first developed in our spare bedroom, has now enabled us to become a company that not only allows good people to have jobs that they (hopefully) enjoy but also a company that remembers those who got us here. Even better is that now we can say that so many of our staff were not only first and foremost Movable Type users but also people who volunteered for so long.
Before we were "Six Apart, the corporation" and were just "Ben and Mena," we were torn about our licensing structure. While we had no qualms about offering Movable Type for free, we knew that sooner or later our work was going to be exploited.
In preventing web hosts from offering Movable Type for a fee, we had to put a pretty strict blanket clause on our licenses to cover all cases when compensation was earned. Buying a commercial license to perform services was a bit backwards, but at the time, it was the only way we felt we could control the situation.
The problem with this was that it also stifled those who wanted to legitimately integrate Movable Type into their core service offerings. These were developers, designers and companies that loved Movable Type and felt that it was a good tool to provide to their clients.
With 3.0 we have revised our licenses and pricing structure to address this issue. We feel that with this new release we have created licensing that allows and encourages the development of software and services paid or free. We will be offering a variety of licensing options for small to large sized business, educational institutions and we are also beginning to sign-up qualified companies who are interested in hosting Movable Type (we'll be announcing a few partnerships very soon).
And for the many large institutions and businesses who want to use Movable Type, we finally have a coherent licensing structure that benefits both the end user and Six Apart.
Yes, there will be a free version of Movable Type 3.0.
With the new licenses going in effect today we will continue our tradition of offering a fully functional free version, there will also be a large variety of paid licenses that come with the structured support that we never felt that we could give our donors enough of. We're bringing in a help ticket system for paid licensees as well a company maintained knowledge base.
Additionally, as promised, donors who have ever contributed $20 or more to Movable Type will be able to apply their full donation to this version. For many who donated, the difference after applying their donation will be a nominal fee.
You'll see from the pricing chart that the cost of offered licenses vary based on the number of authors and weblogs people plan to have. Based on surveys and user feedback, we are fairly comfortable these licenses will meet the needs of over 85% percent of our current users
We're big on honor at Six Apart. We haven't built in any nagware for license violations or phone home mechanisms. We trust our users' good judgment and intentions. We intend to use our good judgment in being flexible about enforcing these limits.
Commitment to reinvesting in Movable Type
Offering a paid version means we can devote a team at Six Apart solely to Movable Type. It means that we can continue to innovate, continue to put out great releases and continue to pour resources into Movable Type.
Throughout all of this, though, we're not forgetting the users who have brought Movable Type this far. You don't need to be a developer to download our new release — there's that trust thing again — Movable Type 3.0 Developer Edition offers more than just an extensible architecture, it offers great comment management, moderation, and registration tools - we believe this are incredibly flexible and well thought-out and some users just won't want to wait.
We would recommend that, if you're not the type of person who likes to tinker with Movable Type or would require a installation, you hold off until the general release. We won't be providing installation services for 3.0 (we'll still install 2.661) during this period to reinforce that this is a period for diehard Movable Type users.
One final thing. You'll notice that we're no longer describing Movable Type as a "Personal Publishing System" -- we now call it a "Publishing Platform." While "personal" remains a major component to weblogging, the medium continues to evolve and so must the tools. We feel that offering Movable Type as a platform will embrace the new uses of weblogs that we have yet to imagine.