Blogging icons Dave Winer and Six Apart took steps late last week to defuse separate controversies illustrating how bloggers hooked on freebies can become a management challenge. While the fallout is leading some bloggers to shift to paid services, it is also prompting interest in free and open source blogging software.
Winer, who was sharply criticized for the sudden shutdown of many free Weblogs.com sites, Thursday announced a transition plan to help shift stranded bloggers to new hosting digs. Meanwhile, Six Apart, which was blasted for pricey new licensing for Movable Type 3.0, unveiled a new payment structure designed to make its new software more affordable for non-profits and personal bloggers.
Winer and Six Apart founders Ben and Mena Trott have had their differences, and the particulars of their PR crises differ as well. But each found themselves in similar straits, having popularized key blogging technologies only to suddenly come under fire from many points of the blogosphere. It turns out that free resources are often accompanied by high expectations, which were dashed when the time came for a cost/benefit analysis.
Under the shareware model, Six Apart was making just 38 cents per download of Movable Type. For Winer, the costs presented by maintaining more than 3,000 free Weblogs.com blogs were couched in more personal terms, but wound up being no less controversial. In both cases, decisions about transition management provided ammo to critics, with the loudest complaints focusing on treatment of non-paying users.
With more blogs building traffic and selling ads, many in the notoriously thrifty blog community are reassessing the tools and services powering their blogs. While the market for blog hosting remains deeply fragmented, the "licensing risk" seen in MT3's new pricing has spurred interest in free and open source blogging tools.
A prime beneficiary appears to be WordPress, which is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Many alienated MT power users have shifted to WordPress, including Mark Pilgrim, Rafat Ali's Paid Content and Om Malik. WordPress has also fared well in comparisons of alternatives to Movable Type. Another GPL release gaining attention from MT users is Drupal, whose early adopters include Linux Gazette and SetupLinux.com.