May 14, 2004
Trouble in UThink LandUPDATE: Six Apart has unveiled an introduction to its educational licensing for MT.
The makers of the software that runs UThink, Six Apart, yesterday came out with the much anticipated version 3.0 of Movable Type. Usually this would be a good thing as this would mean an upgrade for everyone using the UThink system. However, for some strange reason they have also attached to this release some very, very restrictive use licenses that may prohibit UThink from ever being able to upgrade. It looks like MT now comes with at least 4 different licenses to choose from. The first is the personal license where for $70 you can get the software with the options of creating up to 5 blogs and 3 authors. Next is the commercial license through which you can spend upwards of $700 to get a maximum of 20 authors and 15 weblogs. Yikes! There is still a free version, the version that runs UThink, but that is limited to 1 author and 3 blogs. Obviously, that is not going to work. UThink already has more than 230 blogs and 250 authors. So, what to do? Six Apart hints at an educational license:
"Accredited educational institutions that make use of Movable Type are eligible for our educational licensing program."
If it is anything like their commercial license, I don't know how we are going to make it work. This is very upsetting to me. I don't begrudge Six Apart's need to make money, but there was absolutely no hint of this kind of pricing structure coming out of the company in the 9 months I've been working on UThink. Not a hint! Essentially they've offered a free, unhindered piece of software for years and now after they get a huge user base they pull the rug out and start charging for it. The old bait and switch if you ask me. It reminds me a little of Netscape in the late 90s. For years they gave their browsers away for free, and then when 4.0 came out they created a commercial license and started charging for the browser. I think we all know what happened next. I have little doubt that MSIE still would have dominated the market had Netscape kept to their free license model, but their 4.0 commercial license didn't help at all.
What I'm trying to say is that had a I known that this was coming down the pike I probably would have gone with another software package. I realize that Six Apart has never claimed that MT is true "open source," but it was free and they encouraged developers to modify the code. Now that they have hooked me, so to speak, I am a little miffed and confused at what happens next. I'm really looking forward to hearing from them what kind of "significant" discount is offered in their educational license but again, if it is anything like their commercial license I'm in trouble. Big trouble. I am more than willing to pay for Movable Type, but it has to be priced right and it has to have the features and functionality we need. Namely it can't have any "number of blogs" or "number of users" type restrictions.
To top it off, there are two versions of their FAQ available:
FAQ 1 states:
Q: What is your policy on use by schools, colleges and universities?
A: Educational pricing for accredited institutions is available at a significant discount from the prices listed for commercial use. Contact us to find out about a license thatís approrpriate for use by your institution.
FAQ 2 states:
Accredited K-12 schools, colleges and universities can offer Movable Type to currently-enrolled students or staff as part of school-provided web hosting as long as there is no charge to students or staff for use of the service. Educational institutions are not required to pay for Movable Type but are asked to donate what they feel the software is worth and to maintain the "Powered by Movable Type" link on the site.
Confusing. Very confusing. I'll keep you posted.
Posted by snackeru at May 14, 2004 9:12 AM | UThink
I'm in the same boat you are at blogs.setonhill.edu.
I've also written long e-mails describing how I use MT, and what features I'd like to see to make it more useful.
I agree with you that it's only fair that Six Apart make a living, but even the most expensive commercial version only permits 20 blogs.
What software are they using over at Harvard again? ;)
Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at May 14, 2004 10:48 AM
Bait & switch is the newest trick in the book. I'd hate to see UThink slain in its infant stage.
Posted by: Carl Hamm at May 14, 2004 12:07 PM
Shane, we'll have to talk to SixApart and see what kind of deal we can strike for UThink. Don't assume that their general terms are all they will allow and don't assume that we would not pay something for the software. We could also look at WordPress ("http://wordpress.org/") which is getting a lot of good play during this SixApart price change. It is PHP/MySQL/GPL. It is missing one key feature (multiple blogs!) and all our customization (x.500), but may at least allow us to continue if MovableType becomes too expensive. If we can keep using what we have up for the time being, then we have time to decide.
Posted by: Eric at May 16, 2004 2:26 AM
Eric, thanks for your comment. Just to clarify, I don't assume anything. I've already said that I would be more than willing to pay for the software, but it has to be under terms we can accept. Hopefully the educational license they offer us will enable us to carry on "business as usual" but we'll have to see. Namely, again, we need unlimited blog and author capabilities, or at least the limit they give us has to be very high. Also, I checked out WordPress and I was very impressed. I installed it in literally under 3 minutes and it allows for password protected posts (something people have been asking for). You are right that it doesn't easily allow for multiple blogs but they have already said they are working on it. We may also be able to come up with a work around. We have time given that our MT 2.661 license still gives us everything we need. Anyway, thanks for the comment. I'll keep you posted.
Posted by: Shane at May 16, 2004 9:26 PM