A little more taste of what’s in MovableType 3.0. Plus lots of talk on TypeKey.

If you’ve been paying attention to the blogosphere at all since the folks at Six Apart announced their new TypeKey service you’ve probably noticed that it’s generated quite a stir. Overall, the reaction has been largely negative and, as it turns out, speculative. Even with being involved in the MT3 Alpha testing, as I am, there’s still a lot that isn’t known about the TypeKey service beyond how it currently fits into the next version of MovableType, and even that is probably still open to change before the final version is released. Again, I can’t go into any specifics yet as part of the agreement I made in participating. I can say that some of the concerns being expressed aren’t unreasonable while quite a few others are being overblown. In short, be patient and wait for the upcoming TypeKey and Comment Registration FAQ Six Apart is putting together before you have too much of a hissy fit. Until we have a better idea of what Six Apart hopes to accomplish it’s kinda silly to be tossing around some of the more sinister accusations people have come up with.

One of the good things that has come out of all this noise, however, is a little more detail on what you can expect in MT 3.0. Ben Trott revealed a few more tidbits in a comment addressing some of the concerns about MT 3 expressed by Haiko Hebig in an entry on his blog. In that entry Haiko complains that the only three improvements due in MT 3 are “ATOM API support, a CSS based backend and support for a new SixApart service called TypeKey – that’s it.” In addition to his speculation on why anyone would need a login system for their blog, Haiko does bring up two very relevant points: 1) MT does not scale well and 2) The rebuild system is flawed. Ben’s response was as follows:

TypeKey is definitely not the only new feature in MT 3—it’s only a part of the release, and in fact, in our original announcement at http://www.movabletype.org/news/2004_03.shtml#000912 it was barely even mentioned.

But as you said, comment registration is not for everyone, and to help out folks who don’t want to use it, we’ve also vastly improved MT’s comment management functionality: you can now look up “all comments by this author”, “all comments from this IP address”, etc, and bulk delete those comments. This is really powerful when combined with comment registration, of course, but even without using comment registration, the tools are much more powerful than in MT 2.x.

With regards to scalability: we’ve now implemented one of the major scalability improvements in TypePad into Movable Type—speeding up the archive list generation by using the MySQL or PostgreSQL processing engine rather than MT.

Finally, as far as features go: another one of the major changes in MT3 is the callback interface, which exposes much more of MT’s internal processing to plugin modules. This allows plugin developers to build large application functionality on top of Movable Type, and we’re hoping to see some really interesting tools get built, because we know that by this point, when there are hundreds of plugins up on http://www.mt-plugins.org/ , there are many people besides Six Apart building interesting things with Movable Type. smile

I’m assuming that if Ben has mentioned these things publicly that I can safely put my two cents in on these subjects from my standpoint as an Alpha tester.

First, the new comment management functionality: It is sweet and one of the nicer changes made to MT 3. I’d go so far as to say that even if TypeKey doesn’t eliminate comment spam altogether the new tools for managing comments in MT 3 will make dealing with it a helluva lot easier.

Next, scalability and speed: If you’ve commented here on SEB at all you have a good idea of how slow the current version of MT can be when you get to a high number of comments (we’re close to 10,000 now). As a test of MT 3 I exported everything in the way of entries and comments from SEB as it currently stands and imported it back into the test blog I set up and then told it to rebuild the entire site. Normally under the current version I’ll be lucky if I make it all the way through a complete rebuild without timing out at some point, but MT 3 tore through the rebuilding process at a surprising rate. At least until I ran out of storage space. I’d forgotten that SEB eats up 100+ megs on my host already and I didn’t have the room left to do a full rebuild under the new system, but I was damned impressed with the improvement in speed I was able to witness.

Lastly, the new plugin system. I can’t say a whole lot about it mainly because there’s not a whole lot of info on it, but if it’s as pervasive as we’ve been led to believe then it should allow for some amazing new plugins to be developed that will look and feel like a part of MT instead of something tacked onto it. In fact it may be the saving grace for one of my concerns about MT 3. So far there are a number of new things I was hoping to see in MT 3 that aren’t there and don’t seem likely to show up before it is released, though I could still end up being surprised. If the new plugin system is as good as it sounds, however, then I’d imagine a lot of the stuff I was hoping for will eventually either be released by Six Apart as a plugin or will be available from third party folks who take it upon themselves.

So there’s a little more info on what you can expect in MT 3. Hopefully by taking my cues from Ben I’ve not overstepped my bounds in sharing my impressions. Even at this stage of testing there’s a lot to like about the next version and it will probably make a lot of MT users very happy, though I suspect it won’t please everyone.

Update: A very funny take on the whole TypeKey uproar can be read over at Dive Into Mark. Found via Neil’s World.

2 thoughts on “A little more taste of what’s in MovableType 3.0. Plus lots of talk on TypeKey.

  1. The most I ever did with MT was a toy install or two on a local server, so I’m pretty unaware of the practical issues. However, out of general principle my reaction towards TypeKey is negative, as well.

    Ignoring the issue whether or not TypeKey what problem TypeKey is supposed to solve and whether it is something the MT users need or want, there are several worrying aspects.

    First, a centralized authentication service is a non-trivial piece of infrastructure to design and implement. Unless the design is thoroughly peer-reviewed, I have grave doubts about the robustness and security of the service. “Trust us, we know what we’re doing” is one of the top-ten famous last words.

    Second, user acceptance is obviously a sticky point. Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t even consider to sign up with such a centralized service. The direct or indirect commercial interest behind TypeKey doesn’t help, either.

  2. I can’t really go into a lot of detail on it yet, for obvious reasons, but I will say that based on what I’ve seen of it so far the folks at Six Apart are aware of the concerns with a centralized registration service. They’re designing a system that should minimize these concerns for most people and I want to stress that it’s also optional. At the least some of the stuff flying around out there about how TypeKey is the “Patriot Act of the Blogging World” is unwarranted at this point.

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