Movable Type, on it's trek towards full fledged CMS'ness, just got a little closer. Today saw Mark Carey's announcement of MT Forum -- a MT add-on module which delivers fully functional forums that are loosely based on the behavior of the popular phpBB system.
Does this addition bump the MT Community Solution -- the other way to build forums with MT -- off the table? Let's have a look.
Features of the forum plugin include:
* Integrated forums into existing blogs/site or create a site as a standalone forum
* Topic posts and replies can be made using MT commenter accounts, OpenID, LiveJournal, AOL, TypeKey and other authentication methods
* Create sub-forums within forums to organization discussions
* Unauthenticated users can post topics and replies if configured by the Administrator
* Topic and Reply forms are protected against spambots
* Recent discussion topics are listed at the top of forum postings and new topics can be tagged by posters.
* Integration with other MT plugins using template customization is supported Other notables: * Two out of the box template themes (red or blue)
* A set of templates that control the display of the home page, listing pages, topic listing pages and new topic submission page -- installed by a single click of the mouse. Installation Requirements: * MT 4.1+
* Template Installer 1.2 plugin (included)
* IfAvailable plugin (included)
* Entry Post 2.6 plugin Entry Post 2.6 Plugin In order to provide submissions to the forum via forms, you also need to have Mark's Entry Post Plugin.
The good news is that you purchase both MT Forums and MT Entry Post together and save a little money. Combined Pricing ranges from US$ 66 for a Non-Commercial License to US$ 346 for a Blog Network License. That's pennies compared to Six Apart's Community Solution add-on.
As Compared to MT Community Solution
We were curious to understand how this new Forum capability is different from the forums one can build with the MT Community Solution (coverage | product site), so we pestered Mark a bit. Here's what he had to say about the differences, in regards to the forum functionality: Forum UI and Presentation is More Standard "MT Forum uses a familiar conventional forum layout, whereas the MTCS forum presents a novel layout. In my view, since people are familiar with the conventional forum layout, it will generate more participation. There has been confusion about the forums at http://forums.movabletype.org/, but to be honest, I have not checked it out lately to see what may have changed." Current Topics are More User Friendly "With MT Forum, the topic listed first is the one with the most recent post: either comment or new topic. So when some replies to a really old topic, it floats to the top of the list. This is consistent with conventional forum behavior. MTCS sorts content much like a blog, based topic creation date -- so it is difficult to see what conversations are active. (Also note that the 'last reply' column on forums.movabletype.org is simply wrong, which must be a bug.)" OpenID Authentication is Nice "The MT Community Solution does not support OpenID authentication for posting new topics, nor does it support unauthenticated posting." Creating Forums is Simpler Another benefit to MT Forums according to Mark is that you don't have to create a new blog in Movable Type to house the forum content. Instead you have a choice of either creating a new blog or integrating the forum with an existing one. According to Mark "this saves admin effort... you don't have to [manage] two blogs, update design/CSS in two places, etc." MT Forum is Less Expensive There's little debate here. The pricing is much more aggressive for the MT Forum add-on. From what we understand, the Community Solution starts rolling in the US$ 3000 range. But to be fair, this is no apples-to-apples comparison. MTCS is more than forums. It includes member registration, user profiles, avatars and user pictures, community blogs, custom fields, voting and recommendations, and more.
Will the new MT Forums add-on win the forums sales battle when lined up against MTCS? This of course will depend on the requirements context, but Mark's got a history of developing and supporting solid work, and with a strong functionality set, OpenID support and much lower pricing, the very likely answer to this question is yes.
For more information, purchase and installation instructions see MT-Hacks. You can also test drive the functionality right here.