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Typepad or Movable Type?

People who want to start blogging often ask me which tool they should use, Typepad or Movable Type? 9 times out of 10 my answer is TypePad. That's odd, you might think coming from someone who runs a blog all about Movable Type. The answer has more to do with who is asking the question than the relative merits of either program. Both products are created by the team at Six Apart and both are based on the same technology. The main difference between the two is that Typepad is a fee-based hosted service and Movable Type is software that you license to run on your own server or web host. The reason that I more often recommend Typepad is that, unlike Movable Type, you don't have to know any HTML in order to use it. Within one or two hours of creating your account you can be up an blogging away. You can customize the look and feel of your weblog without ever having to know what CSS is.

So, why would one choose Movable Type over Typepad? One reason is if you already have your own web server or server space at a webhost you may not want to pay an additional monthly fee for a weblog hosted somewhere else. Movable Type does offer a free version of its license, so for no extra money you can set up your own weblog (although I highly recommend a paid license as it includes support). Another reason is flexibility. Movable Type's platform supports third party plugins that can greatly extend the capabilities and features of your Movable Type blog, beyond those of Typepad. Movable Type's flexibility allows it to be more seemlessly incorporated into existing websites making it the tool of choice for many commercial implementations.

The driving factor of what determines my recommending Movable Type or Typepad is the blogger-to-be's level of technical expertise. To effectively use Movable Type one needs to know HTML and how to use FTP at a minimum, and have the time and inclination to learn XHTML, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), the MT template system, MT template tags, and a variety of plugins. If you are a web site developer or a programmer, this is old hat and the learning curve is not so steep. But if you are not, even if you already know HTML, learning CSS and the rest take a lot of time. When I started blogging, Typepad wasn't out yet so I plowed through Movable Type and spent literally hundreds of hours installing and configuring my blogs. Now that I've made the investment in time I like Movable Type and the degrees of freedom it offers. But honestly, if were starting out today and I didn't already have a website with server space, I would most likely choose Typepad, and spend my blogging time writing entries instead of trying to figure out how to get tags to work the way I want them to. All that said, they are both terrific products and a great way to get launched into blogging.

Links:
Movable Type
TypePad