A new Open Source project has been launched today called Open Melody, which is a fork of Movable Type Open Source. Open Melody has been created by the MT developer community in order to take the product to the next level.
Why fork Movable Type? The Open Melody FAQs explain, "The community created Melody out a shared passion for Movable Type and a shared desire to see it flourish as a platform. We felt that the best and quickest way to achieve that goal was to create a product in which the community was inherently entrusted with a greater degree of control over its direction, communication channels and roadmap, and rewarded with more transparency and a greater sense of belonging."
In the spirit of being driven by the community, the current state of Open Melody is very similar to the latest version of MT. Going forward, features will be added and changes will be made in accordance with the community collaboration. So its too early to say what Melody will look like, and how it will be different from MT. Time will tell.
Why This is a Good Thing
Over two years ago, Six Apart, the creator of Movable Type open sourced the code for the core Movable Type application. While its was an exciting and bold move, the announcement and product naming choices were confusing to many -- the differences between Movable Type Open Source and the Movable Type Commercial product and closed source add-ons sold by Six Apart weren't easy to grasp, and some even disputed the newly open source nature of core application.
Bottom line is that the core of MT has been open source for 2 years, so what are the reasons and potential benefits of a separate branch of the application, why do we need Melody? In my opinion, the key benefit is that Melody will be developed completely by the community, with no direct ties to a commercial for-profit enterprise. While core MT has been open source licensed, the product planning process and much (but not all) of the discussion, prioritization, and release planning and scheduling were closed to those outside of Six Apart. Six Apart also acted as a gatekeeper to code contributions, with final say over what made into the final product. Both of these may be common for open source projects lead by commercial entities, and are fair enough -- Six Apart is a business and like any business they can and should make decisions based on the commercial interests of the company. But for the community of developers, consultants, and users, this didn't feel very open, at least in my opinion. The feature roadmap was being driven internally at Six Apart, not in a collaborative way with the community at large. [This is not to say that Six Apart did not listen to feature suggestions of the community -- many of the features added to the product were in response to community requests] The reality, I think, is that the internal business objectives that informed the development and product planning process are not fully aligned with the objectives of the broader community. This is an unavoidable reality, there is no right or wrong here, only different contexts and thus different perspectives and goals. For these reasons, I think many developers and end-users shied away from Movable Type -- despite the open source license, the product was controlled by a single for-profit company, and the ability of the external community to contribute and collaborate was limited.
Open Melody changes that dynamic. The core code becomes freed from the business concerns and objectives, thus enabling it to evolve in a way that is fully aligned with objectives and desires of the community. This means that roadmap planning, feature discussions, and development will all be completely open and collaborative. I hope that this will help attract more developers to the project and lead to faster release cycles and richer features that users want to see. With Open Melody, everyone wins: users, developers, community, the product, and even Movable Type and Six Apart. Its going to exciting to see how Melody evolves.
Current User of Movable Type?
If you are a current user of MT, you may be wondering what this means for you, should you switch when the time comes, or stay with MT? Today, there is a single, easy answer: wait and see. Melody is just getting started and it will probably be at least 6 months before a stable release is ready. So sit back and wtach how it evolves -- or better yet, contribute! Even if you are not a programmer, you can contribute by offering feature suggestions, etc. Another important thing to keep in mind is that a goal of Melody is to maintain compatibility with MT, so you should be able to switch back and forth, and use the same plugins and themes with either.
Melody and MT Hacks
I believe in the goals behind Melody and I hope it will be successful. I plan to contribute however I can, while at the same continuing to support the Movable Type platform. My goal is that plugins from MT Hacks will be supported on both platforms, which is aligned with Melody's objective of compatibility with MT. So if you use plugins by MT Hacks and you decide to move to Melody in future, you can continue to use the same plugins, and if you continue with MT, you can also keep using the same plugins. Of course, like any core MT upgrade, sometimes plugin updates are required, but those should work on both platforms.