Community members of Six Apart's Movable Type platform (MT) are launching a new blogging service on Tuesday. Dubbed "Melody," it's an open-source version of MT that community members are free to build on and change.
Unlike previous open-source efforts though, this one is the first to break off (or "fork") from the main product, allowing for much faster and drastic changes. In many ways it's an answer to WordPress, a competitor of Six Apart that began as an open source project and has benefited from rapid development because of it.
Even though it's going in a different direction as MT, the group of users that are creating it hope that many of its community-created features will make their way back into that product. "The word fork is a very charged word," says Byrne Reese, who has been one of the leading contributors to MT, and was its product manager at Six Apart for two years. He's now helping to head up the Melody project and organization that will manage it, the Open Melody Software Group.
In a call with CNET News on Monday, Reese said that everyone who is participating in the project has a love for MT, and that Melody is simply a way to get some new community-driven features into it at a faster pace than what's previously been possible. "When you are an enterprise product it comes with a lot of overhead," he said. "Change in the enterprise world can be dangerous. So that's been one of the great challenges, and where a lot of the pent up desire to contribute comes from."
Reese and the other community members behind Melody aren't trying to get rid of MT though. "What we really hope to do is build on top of what Six Apart has done, and what it's actively doing," he said. "When you have a commercial product, I think your priorities as far as feature development goes, are naturally going to gravitate towards the features that make the paying customer happy."
That also means a faster progression of new releases. While MT is getting a new major release every six months or so, Reese is expecting Melody's to be much faster. "We want to create features that stem from real need. But we also don't want to do that at the expense of being able to draft off the experience of Six Apart. The company is often the first to create new standards. When there's a new service that comes on the market you can expect that Six Apart will be one of the first to have it. If we didn't draft off that we would fail."
Instead, Reese wants Melody's feature set to become the "bleeding edge" of what the MT platform is capable of by implementing community-driven features that can coexist peacefully alongside the work of Six Apart. Although he admitted that doing that while making sure that changes can migrate over to the other platform will be a challenge. "What melody hopes to do is to merge those two sides of the coin. We hope to exist somewhere in the middle," Reese said.
Melody is being released as an early alpha version on Tuesday, with a version 1.0 release later this year. Reese says that this initial version is less "sexy" as much as it is a re-architecting of the core of the existing MT service to more easily integrate code from third parties. "I don't know what the right metaphor is...but I like to think of Melody as a leading edge of a knife. A very long, thin knife. Hopefully we can start to make these little changes, and features that amount to something much bigger."
Correction at 7:15 a.m. PDT: The spelling of Byrne Reese's first name has been fixed.