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Movable Type Moves Toward the Social

Blogging pioneer Six Apart is souping up its Movable Type publishing platform, with plans to release a new version tomorrow that will include a slate of social networking features such as profiles and discussion forums.

As part of the forthcoming iteration of the Movable Type line, version 4.2, Six Apart plans to introduce what it's calling Movable Type Pro, which will contain the social networking elements.

Six Apart promises that Movable Type 4.2 offers simpler design templates and noticeably faster performance than previous iterations. Many of the social features that come standard with the Pro version had been available either as plug-ins or through Six Apart's premium enterprise edition.

"It's addressing a couple of those key ways that we feel blogging is evolving," Six Apart CEO Chris Alden told InternetNews.com. "The social networking converging with blogging is something we call social publishing."

Six Apart's evolution of its popular publishing platform is very much in keeping with the spirit of adding social features to content sites across the Web. Companies like KickApps and Demand Media have built businesses on providing site owners with the tools to layer in bells and whistles that invite visitors to interact with the content.

By giving individuals the ability to create their own online communities, Six Apart is doing its part to continue a trend of fragmentation within the social networking world that has arisen in response to the big-box social networks such as Facebook and MySpace.

One of the most prominent players in that arena is Ning, the venture of Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, which has powered hundreds of thousands of social networks formed around niche topics.

"We have a common vision with Ning," Alden said. "We really think this is where the industry is going."

But Six Apart is confident that it is breaking ground in the realm of social publishing, because all the social features it is offering still leave the blog as the centerpiece.

"We don't look at Ning as a competitor," Ed Anuff, general manager of the Movable Type division, told InternetNews.com. "There's definitely convergence happening where people are looking to build a community around a topic of interest. Something like Ning tends to be more sort of a general purpose community, that doesn't necessarily have a publishing or content aspect to its core."

Movable Type Pro will enable users to create profiles and avatars, vote and rank content, and interact with each other through discussion forums and comment threads. Site owners will also be able to create community blogs where other members of the network can contribute.

In spite of the name, Six Apart is offering Movable Type Pro to individual bloggers and K-12 schools for free, with the option of purchasing a $99 support service. Six Apart is marketing the regular Movable Type 4.2, which does not have the social features, to developers who might want to tinker with its source code and add their own. The code of Movable Type Pro is proprietary.

In April, Six Apart launched an ad network in partnership with Adify (since acquired by Cox Communications), aiming to help bloggers monetize their work. Alden said that Adify still powers the network, which now numbers in the several hundreds and will invite the participation of the new Movable Type Pro sites.