WordPress 3.0, and why WordPress stole MT’s thunder

Scott Rosenberg: WordPress – A Key Link in Blogging’s Evolutionary Chain « WordPress.tv

This is a 55-minute video about the history of blogging and how websites developed into blogs, which I found linked off my WP admin page. It’s quite interesting, but there’s one point I’d disagree with, and I posted a comment on the WordPress.TV site but so far, it’s not appeared.

Anyone who was blogging in 2004 will remember Movable Type, which was the major, and the most stable, self-hosted blogging platform then. MT wasn’t then open-source (it is now), and Six Apart caused a lot of controversy by choosing to charge for it. Of course, not everyone paid, but certainly those who made money out of their blogs, beyond donation boxes and Google ads and the like, had to. This caused a lot of consternation because a lot of people out there think that they should get all software for free.

But that wasn’t what sank MT as far as personal blogging was concerned. What did that was spam. In late 2004 and early 2005, if you had an MT blog you couldn’t have open comments, because you would get flooded with spam. Many of us took to disguising the scripts used for comments and Trackback, but on one occasion, my then web host (the British-based Fasthosts) shut down my site because a run on my Trackback script caused all the sites hosted on the same server to stop working. (Their reaction, by the way, shows that they had no understanding, or at least didn’t care, about blogging and the specific issues bloggers had to deal with.)

WordPress v1.5, released in February 2005, introduced the two-level word-based comment filtering, so that you could filter out common words used in spam. I switched almost as soon as it came out, and it cut my spam dramatically. Although that method is no longer as effective as it once was, and it had its limitations (such as blocking anything containing a given string, even an innocent word, e.g. “cialis” within “specialist”), I was then able to recommend it to other bloggers in my community who had been reluctant to transition from Blogger to MT because of spam. It introduced other revolutionary features, such as “pages”, or articles that could be displayed outside the chronology of the blog, as with the “About” and “Policies” pages that are so common now.

WordPress installed (and still does) in five minutes; it remains a very quick and easy way to set up and maintain a self-hosted blog. One thing it didn’t have then, however, was the ability to administer more than one blog or site from the same admin screen, which Movable Type always had. That didn’t come in until the recently-released WordPress 3.0, and then you have to enable it manually. This is eventually why I took my blog back to MT when version 3.2 came out, which rectified a lot of the spam troubles. I eventually returned to WordPress a little over a year ago when I realised that MT wasn’t really for small-time bloggers like me anymore; it was firmly aimed at corporate customers. A most annoying feature was the lack of blogroll management; there had been a plugin that worked with version 3.2 and 3.3, but it was left behind by MT 4. It is, of course, part of WordPress as standard.

I upgraded to version 3.0 the day it came out, and I’m happy to report that my theme and plugins worked just fine (the only issue was the Broken Link Checker, which threw a database error, but all that needed to be done was deactivate it and then reactivate it again). The new features aren’t staggering for the ordinary user; there is now support for “taxonomy” (custom-designed categorisation) and user-defined post types similar to what is found in Drupal, but you need extra plugins ([1], [2]) to make these work from the admin screen. They also have multi-site administration as a result of merging the WordPress MU software (used to run WordPress.com) into WordPress itself; you can, however, continue to just use WP as you did before if you only need one blog (it might, actually, be easier to just install WordPress as many times as you need if you have more than one). The new features most readily available are custom menus and a new theme called Twenty Ten (there are actually many blogs currently using this or a very similar theme, like this one). So go ahead and upgrade if you’re wondering, but the new features won’t be all that exciting for most bloggers.

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