WordPress vs. TypePad, Round 2

Comments on blog posts are funny things. They can be aggressive, constructive, nice, flame bait or spam, and not each of them deserves a response in turn. Most of it is noise, so when I got a comment from the CEO of Six Apart on my post about why TypePad sucks , I am pretty impressed and blown away.

Until I read the comment itself, which… well, to put it nicely it was abrasive, insulting, and belittling of my expertise… which man, lemme tell you, is a fantastic marketing strategy for the CEO of a company that sells blogging software. Given that I’d heard good things about Anil Dash I was shocked and surprised, and was about to let it go with a simple rebuttal…

…and then I realized I wasn’t about to let it slide. He said that I hadn’t done my research, so I did it: and here’s what I found, point by point, to everything he said.

Before I go into the meat of it all, let me post a challenge to both Automattic and SixApart: Let the numbers decide who’s better. When all is said and done the way to determine which system is better is best determined by how many signups, users, blogs, posts and comments each of your systems generates over time. I’m no statistician, but I do know a few that are rational and uninvolved in this debate (if a little anal retentive) and would be more than happy to provide a reference to finally settle this argument once and for all. In other words, I’m asking you to put your numbers where your mouth is, and then publish it.

Now, on to the research!


“To be fair, you have to compare the hosted services of TypePad and WordPress.com or the installed software of Movable Type and WordPress.org, or you’re comparing apples and oranges.”

Touche, yet I’d like to point out that you do the very same thing several times in your response.

“A quick glance reveals tons of features that are exclusive to TypePad.”

This is an interesting statement, because from observation TypePad has been copying WordPress for years now (Which I can respect- there’s no shame in copying good ideas). I’ve listed a few features below that have been on WordPress.com far before TypePad ever got around to implementing them.

  • Banned words
  • Moderation queues
  • Spam folders
  • Static Pages
  • WYSIWYG text editor
  • Paging
  • Custom headers
  • Podcasting
  • BlogRolls

“Anybody who’s paying attention to technology at all couldn’t have missed TypePad for iPhone showing up in Steve Jobs’ keynote at Apple’s WWDC at the beginning of this week. But it’s not just that TypePad was first, and best, to bring blogging ot the iPhone, but that there are exclusive clients for the Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm, and Nokia phones too.”

Congratulations, you’re standing in the shadow of Steve Jobs. So is every last iPhone addon, Mac Peripheral and iPod knockoff. Trying to bolster your company through secondary affiliations like that indicate that you can’t stand on your own. What really matters here isn’t the number of clients you have available, but the amount of quality content you publish via those clients. Secondly, saying that you’ve got the “best” mobile client is misleading- http://wphoneplugin.org/ is quite effective and many people I know are happy with it. Now, I’d rather claw my eyes out than write something substantive on my iPhone, but then there are those bloggers that get by with twits rather than substance. Can you provide actual comparative numbers proving that your mobile solutions are “better” than someone elses?

“There’s TypePad AntiSpam built-in, which even WordPress users have told us provides better comment spam blocking than Akismet.”

I’m again going to request a citation for this statement, because so far the only information I’ve found comparing the two systems is an article about how TypePad’s spam protection is overly aggressive and unstable, as well as an email stating that your spam protection was actually derived directly from Akismet.

“The only ads on WordPress.com are the ones Automattic puts onto your blog but hides from you if you’re logged in.”

If you are catering to the type of blogger who wants to have ads on their site, then you’re catering to people less interested in providing content and more interested in earning a quick buck. That’s certainly an acceptable business strategy, but not one I would lower myself to.

“You could even have ads for causes or companies you don’t support on your WordPress site.”

Well, of course. Anyone who uses AdSense can do this.

“You’re just plain inaccurate in regards to URLs.”

Really? Oh, goody, lets take a look.

“While Meg hasn’t set up Cute Overload in the way that you’d prefer”

She clearly tried, and if one of your largest blogs can’t figure out how to properly set up canonical permalinks, you’ve got a problem.

it’s absolutely possible to have whatever URLs you want for your site — take a look at Celebrity Babies:

You neglect to point out the following link: http://celebritybabies.typepad.com/, and all the subsequently valid links that can be searched for on google. If you want to talk SEO, lets talk about the penalties of double-posted content.

To contrast on WordPress.com, lets take a look at People Magazine. The original stylewatch wordpress account link redirects to the correct URL, and even if you search at the stylewatch.wordpress.com site the links all 301 redirect to the correct server.

Furthermore, TypePad 404′s out if the URL is incomplete or even missing a trailing slash , while on WordPress they can map you to the closest match on a particular URL. In other words, even links that have been cut off because they’re too long are 301 redirected to the correct ones. And lets not talk about the behavior of your trackback URL’s.

Long story short, URL handling in WordPress is superior to TypePad. Moving on…

“I see this mistaken assertion made often enough about TypePad that I have to wonder if someone out there is deliberately misstating what the system can do.”

I have seen several TypePad blogs that properly handle permalinks. Unfortunately, the default instructions provided by Six Apart result in the behavior I’ve listed in my previous post, so it seems that your problem isn’t one of not supporting a particular feature, but one of crappy documentation.

“And TypePad simply blows WordPress.com away on SEO when it comes to search engine indexing: TypePad delivers your blog posts directly to Google Reader and My Yahoo and Blogline.”

Please provide a citation on this one, because last I checked WordPress and practically everyone else out there has a standard notification system via pings and trackbacks which works like a charm. In contrast this notification system of yours seems to be a public ATOM feed, which only works when and if a search engine decides to consume it.

“On WordPress.com, you’re kind of moving into a bad neighborhood — by their own admission, one-third of the blogs on WordPress.com are spam.”

This was a ballsy enough statement that I hunted down the actual numbers from Automattic. Turns out that one-third of their signups are spammers, which are subsequently and effectively axed before damage can occur (Information available for the curious). It’s important to make sure you’re precise in the statements you make- else it starts sounding like spin and hype.

“You seem to know more than enough about SEO to know what that implies.”

Hey look! A compliment! I was feeling like the scum of the earth there for a while….

“On TypePad, you can make a password-protected blog, and share it with as many people as you want to grant access to. On WordPress.com, it’ll cost money if you want to invite more than a certain number of people to have passwords on your site.”

I just tested this, and I had no problem password protecting my blog and giving different users access. I could also do multiple authors, and multiple blogs without being charged a dime, something TypePad will charge you for. Moving on…

“Extensibility? Let’s talk about what normal people who aren’t PHP coders can do.”

This statement’s a little odd, because it automatically posits that a PHP coder could do something. i.e. we’re talking about Movable Type vs. WordPress rather than TypePad here.

Assuming the latter, TypePad has an existing framework by which third party providers can inject their widgets into your blog. I don’t call that extensible, especially when I have to tell my friends to go sign up for a host of other services to get their stuff the way they want it. At that point you’ve given up control of the user experience to the widget provider, which… well, how much do you trust them to stay in line with your UX & UI?

For the former… you mean install any of thousands of plugins? No? How about installing thousands of themes? No? Oh, you mean the ~300-odd plugins, or the piddly number of themes available for Movable Type?

“For self-hosted options, Movable Type is free, open source, and it’s just irresponsible to misrepresent the fact that MT is open source.”

I’d like to point out that you just went on record to say that there’s no difference between the Free Download and the “Movable Type Professional Pack” advertised at $100, which… lets see…”is an add-on for Movable Type 4.1 available exclusively to paid customers”. I for one know you didn’t mean that, but please be careful in the future- I don’t want to be subpoenaed in a class action suit.

“And MT is dramatically more secure than WordPress.org — and that’s according to the Department of Homeland Security’s own statistics.”

You are using misleading statistics in the post you linked. The aggregate data provided by the Department of Homeland Security covers every version of each system and every third party plugin across the better part of a decade, without even taking into account reported vs. actual, fix turnaround, whether it’s third party or core, and the size of the reporting community.

To be truly able to call MT more secure than WP, you will need to do a study on # reported, # valid, # fixed, features and plugins tested and the time it took to resolve a vulnerability. Anything less is FUD, and until you can come up with some serious statistics I’m going to go with the solution that CNN, the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Reuters, and the Financial Times entrust their blogging to.

“But of course, there’s no MT-MU, and that’s because MT was intelligently designed from its very first release almost seven years ago to support multiple blogs.”

But of course if you want support, pricing starts at $300, and from what I hear it doesn’t scale effectively for more than a couple of thousand users. Actually, here’s an excellent question: Are you powering typepad.com with the openly available version of Movable Type? Because WordPress.com is powered by MU, and if you’re not willing to take your own medicine, you have no right selling it.

“It’s not a separate fork with its own set of plugins and themes.”

98% of WP plugins (that’s thousands) and all WP themes work with MU. Check your sources.

“And it’s not just possible to host blogs for others with it, it’s the sort of thing that’s done on the scale of Major League Baseball offering free MT blogs to anyone who wants one.”

Wait, what? You mean all the news outlets I listed above don’t count as “on the scale of Major League Baseball”? How about WordPress.com? Are you saying that the MLB’s free blogs have more active writers than your competition?

“Sentencing your friend to a blog where he can’t run his own ads and his “upgrade” path is an ordeal of constant security problems that have been described as a “cancer””

Well, hey, the Technorati top 100 have a good WordPress representation, so at least they’ll be in good company in that “Blogger Jail” you’re suggesting. As for upgrading, I know how easy WordPress is, and I know how “easy” updating Perl CGI’s is, and the latter’s a much bigger pain to deal with.

In fact, ever since the WordPress SVN repository went public, my updates are single commandline affairs that I’ve already taught to several clueless bloggers.

“cool stuff like blogging on the iPhone”

http://wphoneplugin.org/

Friends don’t let Friends use TypePad

There is a followup post here that goes into quite a bit more detail. If you are interested in this topic I recommend you read both, as well as take the time to go through the comments. There is some excellent back and forth on the benefits and downsides of each.

As someone who manages several blogs, some on TypePad and some on WordPress, I find myself in a rather unique position to comment on both. I won’t lie- I am clearly biased towards the latter, and though my opinion might be colored by that bias I’ve tried to figure out why I feel the way I do. I’ve outlined a few points below on areas where I feel that WordPress is clearly superior to TypePad.

Feature Implementation

If you look at a strict feature list of each system, it seems like while there are a few tradeoffs, the two systems are effectively equivalent. This is not entirely the case- hosting on TypePad gives you a series of admin forms that… well, don’t really feel like admin forms. Figuring out where all the customization settings are is almost as much effort as the customization itself, and no real thought has been put into UX or context. To contrast, the new WordPress UI has clearly received quite a bit of love from people who aren’t developers: The design is clean, management and updating is easy, the help files are easily found and concise, and if a particular feature is implemented it is done so in a way that covers 95% of your use cases. In other words, it’s a much cleaner experience.

URLs

This is perhaps my biggest issue with TypePad, and is best illustrated via the following samples. Please place close attention on the URL’s themselves.

Sample in Typepad

Sample in WordPress

For Search Engine Optimization this is a deal breaker – on WordPress, the Search Engine Spiders see all of your articles under your domain. On TypePad, they see a single page linking off to a bunch of pages on typepad.com. In other words, TypePad gets SEO credit for your content. Note that this is a double-edged sword: by having your content on TypePad you get a small automatic SEO boost simply because you’re affiliated with them, yet the tradeoff is that you’re far more likely to get lost in the noise.

User Registration

On WordPress, anyone can register and comment, and they get a handy dashboard once they do. On TypePad this is not the case- even if you’re logged in as a user on TypePad, you will still be prompted to sign in to TypeKey to be able to retain your identity across blogs and comments. On top of that, your registrants will be bombarded with requests to start their own blog, and while my marketing side can appreciate the cross-sell opportunity, the user in me finds it incredibly obnoxious.

Extensibility

This will probably not come into play unless you’re interested in hosting your own blog and/or have a developer mindset (like myself), but WordPress is simply easier to customize. Even if the metric fuckton of extensions and plugins doesn’t suit you (the kitten-a-day plugin is my personal favorite), the fact that the codebase is fully open sourced makes it easy for third party developers to generate their own. In contrast, TypePad itself is really not customizable at all, and Six Apart’s self-hosted solution Movable Type will cost you money. Admittedly, they do have a few plugins that are superior (Piknik for one), but given the ecosystem I expect an enterprising developer will meet and exceed them soon enough.

Upgrading

Sooner or later, you’re going to want to upgrade and leave your hosted solution for your own server. If you’re on Typepad, you will probably be looking at a variety of different solutions, including Movable Type (published by the same people who publish TypePad). If you’re on WordPress, you’ll probably be looking at… WordPress. Movable Type has licensing fees, and while they’ve made strides towards open-sourcing the core of their system they still retain IP control over the real juicy bits. In contrast, WordPress is entirely free, and given that at this level the two systems are functionally equivalent, the upgrade path from WordPress.com to your own installation is much easier, cheaper, and builds on your existing system knowledge so you don’t have to learn everything over again (On top of the UX point I made above).

Furthermore, WordPress has an ace up its sleeve: WordPress Mu. This is the upgrade after the upgrade, where you become the host of other people’s blogs. The install is practically the same, the only difference is that now you’re in charge of the "WordPress.com" equivalent. While competing with them directly might not be the best option, this is an excellent system if you are interested in opening your own office to blogging. Anyone and everyone can create their own blog and retain their own author identity, while at the same time remaining associated with your company. OPENing up your office culture can be a boon in many different ways.