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Movable Type Open Source

By Anil Dash
Posted December 12, 2007.

As of today, and forever forward, Movable Type is open source. This means you can freely modify, redistribute, and use Movable Type for any purpose you choose.

Just want the details and downloads? Skip to the bottom. But you might like the story of how we got here.

Like many of us on the team, some of you have been waiting for this moment for years. For a business, an open source license affects boring things like how a product is created, updated, and distributed. But the open source movement has always been about something more important: Freedom. With a name like "Movable Type", we've always been keenly aware of the importance of freedom, as that name echoes both the birth of the printing press and the creation of independent media that an individual can control.

Our goal has always been to create the best blogging platform in the world and to put that power in the hands of as many people as possible. And we want to honor a tradition of openness that Movable Type has embodied for over six years:

  • From TrackBack to Atom to OpenID, we've always invented and popularized key technologies that were delivered with open source implementations, freely-available specs, and no patents.
  • Movable Type has always had all of its source code freely available for review, from its first release.
  • MT's license has always permitted users to modify the code for any reason.
  • Every major release of Movable Type, from version 1.0, has included contributions or patches created by outside developers in the community.
  • Many members of today's MT team began as contributors to the MT code or creators of MT plugins.
  • There was a public code repository with nightly builds of Movable Type as far back as four years ago, though it lacked dedicated resources.
  • There's always been a free (as in beer) version of Movable Type.
  • We've always wanted people who pay for a Movable Type license to do so because they believe in what we're doing -- whether that's standing behind our work with professional support, or the new era of benefits like plugins and themes for paid users.

Fighting For Openness

And so, while this is a milestone for Movable Type and for our community, this is something of an evolution for the platform, not a revolution. In fact one story stands out from the earliest days of our company. I got to witness the conversations between our cofounders Ben and Mena Trott (who were then the entire staff of Six Apart) and Joi Ito, who would go on to lead the initial investment in Six Apart from his company Neoteny.


Back in late 2002 and early 2003, Ben and Mena had both been adamant about one particular point from the very beginning of the negotiations: That there would always be a free version of Movable Type with the source code freely available. To their credit, the team at Neoteny was always wholeheartedly behind the idea. Of course, Joi Ito's reputation in supporting and fighting for openness on the web since then is well-documented, from his work with Creative Commons to ICANN to the Mozilla Foundation to the Open Source Initiative itself.

But as a passionate MT user, it struck me that, even in those days when there were only a few thousand bloggers out there and the whole idea of starting a business around blogging was extremely risky, Ben and Mena were really committed to setting the standard that Movable Type would always be open, and would always be free, just as much as they were committed to making sure Six Apart would be a solid company that could hire passionate members of the community to stand behind its products.

That's the truth, but of course, that might not have always been our reputation. Ever since the changes with our version 3.0 launch three years ago, there have been those who are quick to judge or quick to question whether the intention of openness was ever there. And of course, we've since learned a lot about how to communicate better with our community, and how to build a sustainable business that we're proud of, so that we can ensure even greater investments in Movable Type. We hope that it's not just the launch of MTOS that demonstrates our commitment to openness -- from our community feedback process (which has already yielded a completely new MT wiki) to our creation and promotion of open standards for the web to our genuine interest in dialogue with the communities we serve, we truly believe Movable Type is the most open platform around.

Movable Type 4.0's release earlier this year has been the most successful launch of a new version of MT ever. It's been one of the milestones in the history of Six Apart, too, by re-establishing our flagship platform as an unquestioned leader in blogging, and demonstrating what the tool can do when we've worked with our community to invest a tremendous amount of resources in the platform.

And stay tuned: There's even more exciting news for MT coming soon! You'll want to subscribe to the XML feed for all the updates.

Thank You

The Movable Type Open Source project exists thanks to the passion, dedication, and inspiration of a community that has been incredibly generous for more than six years. We thank you for all the work leading up to this launch, and especially for the valuable contributions you'll be making in the future. Today, we're honoring the spirit of openness that's always been part of the Movable Type community and taking it to its logical conclusion: Please welcome Movable Type Open Source.

A few quick answers to questions you might have about MTOS:

  • MTOS has every feature in Movable Type 4.0 along with several new minor improvements and bug fixes.
  • All plugins, themes, templates, designs, and APIs that work with MT4 work with MTOS. MTOS also works with other Six Apart open source technologies such as memcached.
  • MTOS is one of the only open source blogging tools with built-in support for an unlimited number of blogs, an unlimited number of authors, and sign-in with OpenID, with no plugins needed.
  • We'll be adding additional paid benefits for people who've paid for commercial licenses for Movable Type, with benefits like improved technical support and custom add-ons such as plugins or themes.
  • MTOS is complemented by the paid software products we sell on top of the MT platform, such as our Enterprise Solution, Community Solution and personal and commercial licenses which include support.
  • There's a public Subversion repository for getting the MTOS code and nightly builds.
  • Once there are stable public builds, those downloads will be on as well.
  • You can find out how to contribute to the MTOS project and the MT community at
  • MTOS support is provided by other members of the community. (A great place to start is the new Movable Type Wiki.) You can buy a standard paid license for one of the existing Movable Type products if you'd like professional support directly from Six Apart.
  • Movable Type Open Source is being released under the standard GPL license.
  • We welcome and encourage the distribution and reuse of all or part of MTOS in other open source projects. Get in touch if you want to work together.

Be sure to check out the full MTOS details for more details on how MTOS works, a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and information about how you can contribute.




jlewin on December 12, 2007, 10:13 a.m. Reply

This is a great move.

It’s going to invigorate Movable Type and encourage competition and cooperation between the MT and Wordpress platforms. on December 12, 2007, 10:49 a.m. Reply

Are there any plans for a public bug tracking system?


Kabatology on December 12, 2007, 10:50 a.m. Reply

It was just time - better late than never even though I don’t understand why it is not free for business blogs and commercial projects? on December 12, 2007, 12:24 p.m. Reply

To answer my own question, has status’s of various parts of the project, including the public bug tracking system.

Andrey Serebryakov

Andrey Serebryakov on December 12, 2007, 1:13 p.m. Reply

Congrats! Been looking forward to this day. Welcome to the family.

I don’t understand why it is not free for business blogs and commercial projects?

MTOS is free for any purpose.

You can:

  • use it for your business
  • get paid to install it
  • get paid to support it
  • modify it (and release your modifications)
  • rebrand it, modify it, and sell it

Knock yourself out!

I R A Darth Aggie

I R A Darth Aggie on December 12, 2007, 2:41 p.m. Reply

You may want to update the download page to reflect the new license terms. The current download page links to this

PRO IT Service

PRO IT Service on December 12, 2007, 3:19 p.m. Reply

As I’ve felt the emotion of launching MTOS together with some great Six Apart team members today in Paris at Le Web 3, I couldn’t resist the temptation of offering an absolutely free online demo of this free product to anybody interested

This is a sincere encouragement to any bloggers around the world to give it a try and consider it as an excellent alternative to any other blogging platforms

Byrne Reese

Byrne Reese on December 12, 2007, 4:42 p.m. Reply

I just posted the recording of the ProNet conference call in which Anil and I talk about MTOS a great deal. Lots of good details and information in there, including a sneak peak at the Movable Type 4.1 beta.


demonsurfer on December 12, 2007, 5:13 p.m. Reply

Gratz! Does this release include the improvements suggested by Media Temple (as mentioned in a recent post on this blog), or is that coming in a soon-to-be-released version here.. like MT4.02 or something? Cheers.


demonsurfer on December 12, 2007, 5:14 p.m. Reply

Oh, you may have just answered that.. MT4.1beta?


bradfitz on December 12, 2007, 5:37 p.m. Reply

Yay! :-)

Benjamin Trott

Benjamin Trott on December 12, 2007, 7:56 p.m. Reply

Great job, everyone on the team! on December 13, 2007, 12:24 a.m. Reply

What a great news! on December 13, 2007, 8:07 a.m. Reply

great move guys, should add some competition into the mix.


kameko on December 13, 2007, 10:16 a.m. Reply

Is this another joke? This seems more an act of desperation than anything. Your momentous licensing move with MT3.0 pretty much led to pushing Wordpress as the forefront of blogging applications. Sorry but it’s kind of late now to try and barge in with ludicrous claims of being an “unquestioned leader of blogging.”

Of the near 200+ blogging feeds I’ve accumulated and read over the years only 3 of them are run by MT. You guys had your chance and you blew it.

Daily Rev

Daily Rev on December 13, 2007, 10:48 a.m. Reply

Congratulationsm MT, an oustanding move. This will enable the same kind of creative development that we’ve seen over at WP, where we enjoy the famous 5-minute install and nearly innumerable gadgets and widgets and plugins that make blogging personal, functional, and fun. I’ve noticed you’ve been on an Ubuntu-style path for a while now — offering the base product for free and making your money on support. So I’m not surprised to see this finally made official, but it’s certainly welcome news.


HaloX on December 13, 2007, 1:14 p.m. Reply

Wow have we got egg on our face: We trusted your business plan and purchased the software from you, including additional licenses, as recently as two weeks ago.

Wow. That was a waste of money.

Hmmm… Maybe NOW I should re-look at Wordpress…

Byrne Reese

Byrne Reese on December 13, 2007, 4:32 p.m. Reply

@HaloX - Paid users still receive benefits that free and Free users do not. Features you may think are worth paying for. Plus, since you have already purchased Movable Type 4.0, you are entitled to a free upgrade to Movable Type 4.1 — so it might not be a total wash for you.

Since you did purchase so recently however, if you feel that you really did waste your money and you have no need or desire for the professional support we provide, or the extra features that come with the paid version, then I am sure we can issue you a refund.


bmelton on December 13, 2007, 7:06 p.m. Reply

I don’t have a blog right now, but I posted my thoughts on this topic on Slashdot.

In short: There’s evidence that 6A didn’t care about its free users before MT3 came out, and this move isn’t really evidence to the contrary. (Yet.)


demonsurfer on December 13, 2007, 7:45 p.m. Reply

Dammit. I paid full price of about US$79 for personal MT3.something during the small time when it was required for personal users and not discounted down to about $40 or whatever it dropped to until it went free again. Also made three donations to movalog (Arvind’s site, the creator of many of the more popular plugins, including customfields). Unfortunately the MT license did not roll over to MT4, and custom fields is not available anymore via movalog, but is being packaged with MT4.1 - but only with paid commercial licenses.

I’m really grateful for MT (which is why I paid for it back then), and have donated when able to Arvind and a few other plugin authors, but I’m a poor bloody university student, I can’t afford to pay again just to get use of customfields :(

Bah, never mind, I’m just venting.


bmelton on December 13, 2007, 8:14 p.m. Reply

There’s evidence that 6A didn’t care about its free users before MT3 came out

Ahem, that should have been

There’s evidence that 6A hasn’t cared about its free users since before MT3 came out

Big difference there, thought I’d post a clarification. on December 13, 2007, 9:07 p.m. Reply

Congratulations on your decision to GPL Movable Type! I knew this day would come, so kudos :)


collector on December 14, 2007, 5:05 a.m. Reply

Source code became available makes it easier for hackers to hack the system, so updates are coming soon :)


Donald on December 14, 2007, 11:11 a.m. Reply

Although this is a great move for this platform, it will be much more substantive once Six Apart actually addresses how much Movable Type has changed between versions 3 and 4 - and what remains closed about this CMS. I’m talking specifically about 3 things: the differences in the user interface, in the template code and in the plugin architecture.

After I upgraded, I’ll admit, the completely new interface was extremely disconcerting. I was really hoping for more of a point of reference. Yes, it looked great and more ‘touchable’ with all the gradient textures, but I was instantly lost.

Once I learned my way around, I was able to compare the default templates and my customized templates. It was another extremely disconcerting moment, due to all the drastic changes - and, again, seemingly no point of reference.

And my customized templates relied on many popular plugins that have not been updated for use in Movable Type 4. I’m stuck because I know that if I rebuild anything, I would have to rely on the included default templates, discarding all the work I put into creating clean HTML (and CSS and Javascript) that utilized some great plugins.

So now Movable Type is open source and freely available - but what does that actually mean in terms of usability for the rest of us? How many times does Six Apart expect users, web designers, web developers and plugin developers to start over from scratch when change renders past work incompatible with future updates?

Byrne Reese

Byrne Reese on December 14, 2007, 12:59 p.m. Reply

@Donald - your concerns are completely valid and you are not the only one who has expressed them. We are working hard in MT 4.1 and MTOS to build the frameworks necessary to address these concerns.

For example, Template Sets allow us to package up our MT 3.x style templates and let users use those in lieu of the newer and more complex MT4 style templates.

That is a solution though and does not directly address the fundamental challenge facing Movable Type and its users in moving from MT3 and MT4. MT4 is a huge leap for a lot of users to make, and we need to better about making those leaps less disruptive. So going forward I think you will see the MT team looking backward to help more and more people make the transition not only from MT3, but also other platforms, while at the same time pushing forward with amazing and innovative new features, programs and services.

a lifelong song

a lifelong song on December 14, 2007, 4:19 p.m. Reply

Welcome to the 21st century. Congratulations!

Two questions: 1. Are there any bits that won’t be licensed under the GPL? 2. Any reason why not to use the AGPL, which is for Web applications?


obihirorabbit on December 23, 2007, 12:43 p.m. Reply

This is great.


HaloX on February 4, 2008, 6:32 a.m. Reply

What’s kind of ironic is that when I posted here a while ago as a paid user with a lack of enthusiasm, I checked the “Receive email notifications of further comments box.” Now every time someone posts here I get an e-mail, some of which are from MT people who tout the support and quality of their product.

Yet when I click on the “If you no longer wish to receive notifications, please click here…” link in the email, I get a 404 - Page not found.


Byrne Reese

Byrne Reese on February 4, 2008, 9:27 a.m. Reply

I am actively working to fix this. I am sorry for the inconvenience.


HaloX on February 4, 2008, 9:37 a.m. Reply

thanks. :)

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Pouya on September 6, 2008, 2:57 a.m. Reply

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That’s so cool for this to be open source. Most others are doing the same.

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Daniel Vinciguerra on February 16, 2011, 3:14 a.m. Reply

Uouuu! Look… I have a company and now can I develop MT custom features for my costumers and sell as service job!? At some times I can develop custom plugins/features and post it to community! :)

Can I do it now?

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