Can Movable Type Really Make a Comeback?

5 minute read
Anthony Myers avatar

Can Movable Type Really Make a Comeback?
If WordPress and Drupal can take over the Web CMS world, why not a company like Movable Type? After all, it was one of the originators of the easy to use, easy to build and maintain content management systems.

A Japanese company called Infocom now owns Six Apart, the company that originally built Movable Type, and it not only has a big pocket book to help the company expand, it's now readying its Movable Type push into North America.

Turn Back the Clock

Go back less than a decade, and Movable Type was the leader in a burgeoning industry of easy to use website building systems. Even knowing how fast technology changes, it's hard to imagine that being true today. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal so thoroughly dominate the list of most popular Web CMSes by website usage, according to W3 Techs, the rest of those monitored register less than 4% usage.

In other words, outside of the top four most popular CMSes, none have more than 4% of the connected world using them as their core CMS. Movable Type actually still measures pretty high on the list with a .3% share. Those numbers account only for websites that actually use a CMS, as nearly 66% of all websites on earth do not use one.

Despite the actual popularity level, Movable Type simply doesn't make it to many shortlists for companies that are shopping around for a web content management platform, something that needs to change, Robert Minton, general manager of North America at Six Apart said in an interview.

Say Goodbye to SAY Media, Hello to Infocom

As noted above, Movable Type was originally developed by a company called Six Apart, and in 2010, it was bought up by SAY Media. SAY Media began dis-investing in Movable Type, Minton said, and support and customer experience took a downturn. Movable Type staff went from around 100 and to about 20, he said.

Just a few months after the SAY Media buy, however, Infocom, a Japanese company, bought out Six Apart, and Movable Type along with it. Even at that time, the Movable Type team planned on expanding in North America, Minton said, but the devastating earthquake in Japan early in 2011 put those plans on hold.

As a result, the company has focused more on the Japanese market, and now the country is starting to recover from the loss of electric power and the debilitating tsunami. Furthermore, the current value of Japan's currency has made investing in a North American expansion all the more attractive, Minton said.

Six Apart has opened a New York office, hired up a sales team, and has completed a round of market research with another, more focused round now in the works, Minton said.

Movable Type

Movable Type dashboard showing image editor.

Learning Opportunities

New Products within 12 to 24 Months

The core of organizations and businesses running Movable Type are using version 4, even though a version 5 is currently available. Movable Type Enterprise runs version 4, so many organizations simply don't need to upgrade yet. Companies have been calling up the Movable Type team recently to inquire about upgrades, and due to the slashed staff and support levels, some don't even realize what is available to them.

There hasn't been much outreach of late, and yet those companies seem to be pretty happy with Movable Type, Minton said. Movable Type is known for its stability, and even if it doesn't have a ton of modules or add ons, companies like it for that reason alone.

As to what features might be forthcoming, it's not a case of catching up to what other companies are doing, Minton said. However there will most certainly be new products rolling out over the next 12 to 24 months.

We're focusing less on what the other guys are doing, and more about what people are complaining about."

Minton and his sales team will be looking to offer the best customer experiences, and that will start with helping those customers solve their problems. Instead of simply selling what Movable Type can do, those conversations will start with aligning business problems the Movable Type's strong points. For some companies, Movable Type may indeed not be the best choice, Minton said.

Big Data is Changing How We Manage Content

Online data is being created at ever faster rates, and at some point, the amount of data that is going to be going through many CMSes will in fact become too much to handle, Minton said. This points to Movable Type's underlying architecture, he said, a system called static publishing. This architecture is much more able to scale, Minton said, and that will be a requirement in the future.

Compared to dynamic publishing systems, static publishing is more server friendly and doesn't increase load times. In 2013, the difference is negligible, but in the future, any system relying on dynamic publishing will begin to feel the drag of the increased weight of all that data. For Movable Type, this is the company's future, so clearly it is thinking long term here.

How long term are its competitors thinking? Sure WordPress has 20 million installs and earns millions of dollars per year, but many of those installs are free versions, and that means more infrastructure costs, Minton pointed out. Movable Type now appears to have deeper pockets with which to expand its scalable system, now we just have to see if customers are thinking as long term as Movable Type is.

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