Well, here is something you don’t get to read every day. Byrne Reese who was the former product manager of Movable Type and TypePad as well as an employee of Six Apart from 2004-2008 wrote a great article outlining the various facets that have contributed to the success of WordPress. It’s a great post because it comes from someone that was in the trenches for the competition.
I’ve been involved in the WordPress community since 2007 but in reading the Codex as well as various articles from the past, it seemed as though one of the biggest reasons that WordPress was able to generate a strong nucleus of developers and an exponentially growing user base was because of the licensing fiasco that took place in 2004. It was one of those events in time that if it didn’t happen, who knows if WordPress would still be in existence today. Since then, WordPress has become the cream of the crop for web publishing. However, the article is a good read because of the insights that are learned from the mistakes that were made by Six Apart which played a role in their demise as a market leader.
I also recommend reading Mark Jaquiths comment on the post as he said something that I think more people need to realize.
It is worth distinguishing between Automattic/WordPress.com vs. Six Apart and WordPress/WordPress.org vs. Movable Type. Movable Type is a Six Apart product, but WordPress is not an Automattic product. It is an independent project that Automattic contributes to. But the community is much bigger than that (take me, for example, an independent). The rivalry between Six Apart and Automattic is a run-of-the-mill business rivalry, and one I’m glad I could sit out. The rivalry between Movable Type and WordPress was different. It was about a product versus a project.
Remember, at the end of the day, choose and use the best publishing system for the job. WordPress can do many things but it can’t do everything which is why it’s great to know there are alternatives available.