Let the shootout begin. Yesterday I downloaded Movable Type 3.17 and got it up and running. I already had WordPress installed and running, and was maybe 40% of the way to getting it ready to migrate my site to it. Before I get into the technical differences between the two, let me give my overall impressions of each of them.

When I decided to forget about my dream of building the ultimate weblog publishing tool and use something off the shelf, I had to decide what I wanted to use. Although I had heard good things about Typo, a blog publishing tool written using Ruby on Rails, I was committed to using something that would run in my shared hosting environment at pair.com. I thought about things like Drupal, but while I’m interested in adding community features to the site, it seemed a bit excessive.

My first thought was to go with WordPress, in large part because it’s free and open source. The idea of being able to make some improvements and submit them to the authors was appealing. Movable Type is a mature, well regarded product, but that’s usually not what I’m into.

More practically speaking, I like the idea that WordPress is an extremely thin layer over the database. I was under the impression that while Movable Type could store its data in a relational database, it required you to publish all of your pages to disk as static files. (I’ve since learned that you can set it up so that Movable Type publishes its archives directly out of the database.) That said, there is no “publishing” phase with WordPress at all. Since that’s how this site works right now, that strategy is what I’m most comfortable with.

Movable Type has some features that WordPress doesn’t offer, like support for multiple weblogs. You can install multiple copies of WordPress, one for each weblog, but that’s obviously not as nice as having one console from which to manage all of your weblogs. MT also provides TypeKey integration out of the box, and they get bonus points for coming up with it in the first place. In general, Movable Type seems to have more options for thwarting spammers, and when I open up this site for comments, I will do whatever I have to in order to keep the site from getting cluttered with spam.

One thing I like about WordPress is that a “theme” is just a bundle of PHP files and style sheets that call PHP functions supplied with WordPress to render the site. If you want to customize a theme, you just copy it and start hacking on it the way you would any other PHP application. I imagine that for some users, that’s really off putting, but if you already live in PHP land, then getting started is simple enough. On the other hand, I feel like you have to learn Movable Type if you want to customize it, and I don’t speak Movable Type yet. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to figure out whether that’s a worthwhile hill to climb.