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First good look at TypePad

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2003

Six Apart has posted some screenshots and a small list of frequently asked questions about their upcoming TypePad service. Looks like we finally have a weblog service that’s easy enough for beginners to use but powerful & flexible enough for power users. Once TypePad launches, Google will have their work cut out for them in trying to catch up with Blogger and Blog*Spot. (And actually, I don’t think Google much cares about weblogging software…they’re much more interested in the search component, how to help people find information on blogs. Plus, they could easily pull a Microsoft to Six Apart’s Netscape, make a free Blog*Spot Pro service, and drive 6A out of the biz…which would totally suck.)

Reader comments

dclayMay 22, 2003 at 1:46AM

Google? Hard to see, the dark side is. 6A should be glad to be mentioned in the same paragraph of Google. MT is a superior product and that alone will help them sleep well at night… Man, I used to dream about creating a company or product that would one day be crushed by Google.

sandyMay 22, 2003 at 8:19AM

what about a pro version or something so that we could get/buy the new functionality without having to host it with them?

RobertMay 22, 2003 at 8:31AM

The other thing that I would add to this is that 6A entering this particular market can only be a good thing for the industry in general. Pyra/Google has not substantially improved their service and software, in my opinion, since 2000. They haven’t really innovated or added any new features, even when the market really wanted those features, either. Competition, especially from Weblog insiders like 6A, can only force Blogger to double their efforts. As much as I will love cheering on the little guy, I’m far more interested in seeing Weblog authoring software improve in general. Right now, it’s essentially a decision between either ease of setup or rich featureset. I’d love it if my non-technical friends could have a feature rich Weblog without having to employ a server software person to set it up.

BrianMay 22, 2003 at 8:52AM

Decent stuff. Nothing earthshattering. Simple and clean, but that’s the way all this stuff should be anyway. I can’t believe that we’re praising what should be common.

JohnMay 22, 2003 at 9:06AM

MT has always been a great example of what a very small team of focused, motivated & talented people can build. TypePad looks very promising as long as the burdens of supporting it don’t take away from new innovation too much. The recent funding should help in that department.

Steven GarrityMay 22, 2003 at 9:33AM

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the simplicity of esthetics of their interface.

RyanMay 22, 2003 at 9:48AM

The question is, Jason, would you use Typepad if it doesn’t support the date format that you like?

(Sorry — just watched the Blogumentary trailer yesterday and that quote’s fresh on my mind.)

Joshua KaufmanMay 22, 2003 at 10:05AM

Simple and clean, but that’s the way all this stuff should be anyway. I can’t believe that we’re praising what should be common.

That’s the point. We praise simplicity because it should be more common.

jkottkeMay 22, 2003 at 11:05AM

Dave Winer, previously of Userland (competitor of Six Apart) and currently setting up weblogs at Harvard**, took a little shot at TypePad (copied and pasted here in case it changes later on in the day):

“Movable Type’s new TypePad service is unveiled. It appears to be what UserLand had working (for free) in 1999. Hosting is a tricky business, as we found out, there are ISPs who now host MT sites that must somehow be included in their plans, yet there seems to be no mention of them in the FAQ.”

Comparing EditThisPage circa 1999 with 6A’s as-yet-unreleased service is difficult, but based on their work on MT, I’d wager that TypePad will be a significant upgrade from what ETP offered for users of all skill levels and be worth paying for.

And on the hosting tip, if you look at the license that comes with MT, it states that you cannot offer MT hosting. So if ISPs are doing that, I imagine 6A will be talking with those parties about those licensing issues.

** Are people there being given the option of setting up weblogs with MT or Blogger or are they locked into Radio? Choice and competition are fun!!!

AnilMay 22, 2003 at 11:42AM

what about a pro version or something so that we could get/buy the new functionality without having to host it with them?

Movable Type Pro is on schedule for development in late summer and will include as many TypePad features as we can reasonably integrate, given that MT has to run on a much broader set of platforms than TypePad. We’ll be putting out more information on that as the product gets closer, but the answer for most of the new features is yes.

Timothy AppnelMay 22, 2003 at 11:45AM

I was given a good piece of advise when I was working in the R&D/strategic planning space some time back that I found quite profound. Paraphrasing that advise it was “anyone can think for of great ideas. I can think of a 100 right now. That’s easy. Executing on them and making them successful is hard and that is where the true genius lies.”

Time will tell whether TypePad will be successful or not. (I have a hunch though.) Can Dave say this about EditThisPage or any of his other revolutionary business ideas?

pbMay 22, 2003 at 12:08PM

I get so sick of those noting that such and such is “not new, nothing revolutionary, we had this back in ‘98, etc,”. As someone else stated, ideas are a dime a dozen and virtually worthless. Execution is everything.

The one thing that *is* earth shattering is that the interface is clean and simple, something that could *not* be said about the 99.9% of sites and services out there.

scottandrewMay 22, 2003 at 12:19PM

My biggest concern is reliability. Part of a good experience requires that the foundation be rock solid. I was driven from Blogger during it’s heyday because of the lousy uptime; I decided it was easier to update by hand than lose one out of every five posts because the Blogger servers would drop the connection. I’m sure this problem was addressed long before Google bought them, but the fact remains that I left and never went back, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

(BTW, I did evaluate both Radio and EditThisPage, and concluded that while it’s just as powerful as any of the major packages, the overall experience is just as confusing as it was back in 1999. If UserLand invested some dollars in the experience, they’d be a player. But my (un)educated guess is that new users just don’t get Radio, just as many people don’t get how to install MT.)

A combination of solid reliability, smart experience design and preexisiting MT lovemarks should be enough to keep TypePad afloat, I think. Bloggers in general seem to be emotionally invested in their blog software (i.e. few people switch unless they’re really having difficulties) so it’s important that new blogware offerings be ironclad to snag those new users.

Robert K. BrownMay 22, 2003 at 12:27PM

Ditto on most of the comments about Winer’s dig, with one more thing to add: Radio users continue to be tethered to their desktops. Some might consider this to be a good thing (Dave, for example), but does Radios’ FAQ include the price of owning your own computer?

It’s pretty cool to be able to publish and maintain a website from the public library, or even from Sebastian Joe’s, now with net-accessible iMacs. Pretty very cool.

GeneMay 22, 2003 at 12:47PM

I think you’re missing the point. Not only did Dave Winer invent weblogs, he invented all weblog software. In 1997.

megnutMay 22, 2003 at 12:47PM

I was driven from Blogger during it’s heyday because of the lousy uptime

Reliability is a critical issue when a service is hosted, I agree. But I see a critical distinction between TypePad and Blogger: one is not free. For every new user Blogger gained there was an additional load on the resources, but no increase in revenue to sustain those resources. Every new TP user means a revenue increase, allowing TP (in theory) to scale just fine.

pbMay 22, 2003 at 1:23PM

I don’t doubt Dave’s contribution to the medium but that’s a stretch. There have been personal web sites organized chronologically since day 1.

tMay 22, 2003 at 1:24PM

Typepad looks impressive. The new version of blogger looks amazingly lackluster.

It’s nice to see a company get it right.

Chris ThompsonMay 22, 2003 at 1:33PM

I think the service looks fantastic, and I look forward to the backporting of those features into MTPro, which I’ll gladly fork over some money for.

Ben, Mena and Anil are quality people who have all the tools available to them to make this work, and work well.

That said, the dotcom refugee in my can’t help feeling that this whole deal, a company getting VC for blogging software, seems ripped out of the script from 1999. Companies with teams just as talented as Anil and the Trotts (Which sounds like a good band name) failed miserably.

I don’t know much about the Neoteny people, but I’m certainly hoping that they have paid attention and learned something from the dotcom bubble, and will provide 6A with the flexibility and resources to make this succeed.

Oh, and as for Dave Winer, I don’t put much stock in him. He’s found himself a sugar daddy in Harvard, and he’s feeling cocky. He doesn’t speak for bloggers as a community any more than I do.

scottandrewMay 22, 2003 at 1:38PM

Meg, you’re right of course. I’d forgotten that the popularity was overwhelming the resources of a free service. I would have gladly paid for a subscription had Blogger Pro (or something like it) had been available at the time, especially if it meant a more reliable service. In retrospect, the overall damage to Blogger Free was probably minimal considering that they still have thousands of users.

Matt HaugheyMay 22, 2003 at 2:08PM

From a purely programming perspective, EditThisPage did have functionality of templates, image includes, and weblog hosting.

But the truth of ETP had everything TP has (from the look of the screenshots) in 1999 is about as true as saying the 1927 Ford Model T had all the functionality of a 2003 BMW 7-series sedan with its iDrive interface, and the Model T cost only a few hundred dollars new, while the BMW’s price is in the many tens of thousands. They both had four wheels, a steering wheel, pedals, a body, and a place to sit four people so they’re the same, right?

GeneMay 22, 2003 at 2:25PM

I don’t doubt Dave’s contribution to the medium but that’s a stretch.

Sorry, forgot to wrap that in <sarcasm> tags.

BobMay 22, 2003 at 5:33PM

I think that the big difference between what happened to Netscape and what I don’t think will happen to MT is that Netscape raised large amounts of money, went public and had quite an expense appetite to maintain as they fought the monster from Redmond.

MT, on the other hand, just hired their 4th employee and has their initial funding under their belts. From my own experience with the MT product and my brief look at TypePad, I think we have a team in Ben/Mena/Anil (and the new guy), and hopefully their investors, that can do a lot on a little. Hosting technology has come a long way and is well-understood today. Not that they won’t have challenges along the way, but all indications, from their writings to their product capabilities lead me to believe that they are level-headed and intensely devoted to their product and their mission.

I know who I’m rooting for.

anthony langfordMay 22, 2003 at 5:50PM

The emotional attachment current users have developed with MovableType is what will actually be the deciding factor in the success of TypePad. Truth is, it would make no difference to the majority of users, as far as output goes, whether they were using MovableType, b2, or even rantelope. There are obviously differences in the software and the user experience, but only great enough of differences to warrant difference in opinion, but not objective difference of quality.

Paul Michael SmithMay 22, 2003 at 6:55PM

I personally think that the service was the next logical step for Six Apart but another thing they could do if they really want to leap forward infront of Google is lisence the TypePad system to ISP’s and other similar type businesses, so that for example a user could signup for an ISP and get a typepad account with their subscription or maybe a branded version of the typepad interface for isp’s or even educational institues to use ? I don’t know but you get the idea.

Whatever they do, I wish them every success. It is people like them and Noah Grey that give alot and ask for very little that I like to see do well. - Just my 2c.

tMay 22, 2003 at 7:43PM

Comparing noah grey with the trotts isn’t a good comparison. Noah created greymatter for himself and made it public on a whim basically. It was only until the end that he considered trying to make a living off it (though he eventually decided against it). He just wanted to share it.

The trotts seem to have had a path, or plan, from the beginning. Creating a business is not ‘asking for very little’. And I hope they succeed. They deserve it. But the situations are completely different.

jkottkeMay 22, 2003 at 8:59PM

Actually, Ben and Mena created MT much like Noah did. From a WriteTheWeb interview done in late 2001:

“MT began as a pet project that I would develop in my spare time. Dissatisfaction with existing blog CMSes - performance, stability - led Mena and I to begin development and UI design in earnest in early September.”

And MT has been free since it was released and will continue to be free. I guess that’s the “asking for very little” part.

Witold RiedelMay 23, 2003 at 12:42AM

I am ready to donate a portion of my income to the 6A people, to help them survive. They changed my life. I am forever thankful for what they enabled me to do.

Paul Michael SmithMay 23, 2003 at 7:00AM

Correct Mr Kottle. :-) They have always offered it for free and the fact that they have started a business doesn’t mean they are no longer being as generous as they were, they are providing a service that they feel is wanted by people.

Personally I would much prefer the MTPro than TypePad but I don’t think TypePad is specifically targeted at people like us but it doesn’t exclude us either because it has the features more experienced people would want too. I think it is a great idea.

Paul Michael SmithMay 23, 2003 at 7:27AM

Blah, typo on your name. Sorry. :-)

Scotty The BOdyMay 23, 2003 at 7:32AM

TypePad looks lovely! The design and the feature set seem to be right in line with “leading edge” in the blog software world.

I wonder about this whole business model, however. I’m sure it would be difficult to convince people to pay for Blogger Pro, but I’m even more certain that subscribing to TypePad is, for me, not an options. I already have a website and a host, and I have the wonderful Moveable Type application installed and working fine. I have a feeling that MT was moving toward this long ago, as they never lifted the license restriction that allowed for other parties to offer MT hosting. This would have been a good way to grow their install base, so they must have been saving that morsel for themselves.

As mentioned earlier, hosting is a WHOLE DIFFERENT business from web application development. Although with the crumble of the co-lo business, people are getting infrastructure for pennies on the dollar.

My sincerest hope is that we end up with better weblogging software because of this. Robert pointed out (above) that Blogger hasn’t improved in quite some time and that the competition will force them to do it. But still, why should MT host? Why not offer commercial versions of the software that allow others to do the hosting and then charge them a per-blog fee? This would align Ben and Mena with what they do (develop kick-ass software) and put the burden of infrastructure support on people who do that for a living.

heyotwellMay 23, 2003 at 10:20AM

quoting the quote of Winer:

“Movable Type’s new TypePad service is unveiled. It appears to be what UserLand had working (for free) in 1999.”

Way to judge the market, there, guys. There were like 40 people who wanted to EditThisPage in 99, now there are 40 zillion.

I’m sure Radio/UserLand is right now inventing features that we’ll all love in other products in 4 years. It’s just that no one can understand how to use them in Radio.

(No! It’s easy: you just write a macro in a custom scripting language, then place that file in a special directory, then invoke the new command with a … never mind.)

Bernardo CarvalhoMay 23, 2003 at 11:16AM

I don’t think Google much cares about weblogging software…they’re much more interested in the search component, how to help people find information on blogs(…)

For people who are not really that interested in weblogging software, they were pretty eager to fork over cash (or stocks, whatever) in order to acquire the industry leader. Given that, I don’t think I understand what you mean. If they wanted to search weblogs, they didn’t need to buy a weblog publisher, after all they would be interested in the published results, and those are *public*, right? Why bother with the middle-man between writer and content, if they just want to index the content? Philantropy? Extra cash to burn in order to justify an overestimated acquisitions budget? Marketing coup?

I don’t think so… because for me it is clear they DO care for weblogging software, and they care a LOT. There are several hypothetical reasons for this, all of those stand much stronger than simply stating “Google does not care about weblogging software”, which reads “Google does not care about BLOGGER”.

Paraphrasing someone in a above post, shouldn’t you have wrapped that comment in <contempt> tags?

pbMay 23, 2003 at 12:17PM

Google bought the *people*!

tMay 23, 2003 at 5:03PM

Actually, Ben and Mena created MT much like Noah did. From a WriteTheWeb interview done in late 2001:

If you go to the very beginning maybe so. So they wanted to create a weblog system for themselves. For that matter, blogger was created as an in-house system, correct? Then they decided to release it.

My point was, and is, that by the time we heard about moveable type it wasn’t very long at all that we heard of a pay model coming. That’s far earlier than greymatter, where noah only threw the idea around of charging for a ‘super greymatter’ toward the very end. Moveable type (free) became an intro to charging for moveable type very early on. To compare the situation to noah’s is a huge stretch.

Correct Mr Kottle. :-) They have always offered it for free and the fact that they have started a business doesn’t mean they are no longer being as generous as they were, they are providing a service that they feel is wanted by people.

I have no doubt that the trotts are generous, wonderful people. But like anyone who has to eat and pay bills they want to make a living, and they’ve chosen moveable type (and their new company). They are not simply providing a service they feel people want, but one people will pay for. To believe otherwise is simply naive.

I’m also sure moveable type basic will always be free. But not only because of their generosity, but because taking away their free version would kill their pay version prospects. To take away the ‘entry—-grab them and make them want more’ version’ wouldn’t make business sense.

tMay 24, 2003 at 1:08AM

You cared enough to comment. Thanks, really.

buscadoresMay 24, 2003 at 6:22PM

I think the service looks fantastic. Thanks.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.