In the RSS Vendor analysis I did recently, I identified 5 main categories of RSS Vendors: Publisher Services, Reader Services, CMS/Blogging, Content, Search. In this post I want to take a closer look at one of the stars of the 'CMS/Blogging' segment, Six Apart. They've just released an ambitious plan called Project Comet. It aims to be a "new platform for weblogging" (there's that word 'platform' again) and is being firmly targeted to mainstream users. They're after a mass market, including Six Apart president and co-founder Mena Trott's mother. It's slated for release in 2006 and this excerpt from the press release gives you an idea of what to expect:
"Combining the weblog publishing power of Six Apart’s popular TypePad service, the community aspects of its LiveJournal offering, and the years of insight garnered from Movable Type, Project Comet will enable aggregation of content from different blogs and unparalleled ease of use. The new platform builds on Six Apart’s vision of offering an open platform for users to create add-ons and very simply hook into any application."
I see this as a two-pronged strategy against their competitors. Firstly Six Apart wants to shake off open source freebie Wordpress as a competitor and lift themselves to a new level - hence all the platform talk and the integration of all their product line. Wordpress has all but eaten Movable Type's lunch amongst the developer community as a blog publishing system. With Project Comet, it looks like Six Apart is moving on from that battle and focusing instead on mainstream users. But no doubt the "open platform" will be a carrot to entice developers.
The second prong in Six Apart's strategy, according to your humble blogger, is to offer a more sophisticated and feature-rich mainstream product than Google, Yahoo or Microsoft. Six Apart will add to the mainstream blogging mix: more community, privacy features, multimedia, and aggregation of content (which they call "multiple streams").
Google owns one of the major tools Blogger. Microsoft’s MSN Spaces is a simple but effective service with social networking features, as is Yahoo 360. Those are all fairly 'mainstream' blogging systems - which is to say most geeks don't use them. Six Apart seems to be trying to one-up all those systems. I think Google's Blogger will be its toughest competitor, as it's a very simple product to use yet has nice design flourishes - e.g. the great selection of templates designed by gurus in the web design community. And it has the largest user base of all blogging systems.
Project Comet is an ambitious move to develop "the next generation blogging platform", but one that is necessary for Six Apart to undertake in order to stay competitive. They don't have the sheer bulk of a Microsoft or Google or Yahoo, so they need to innovate. Good luck to them. As a fan and user of Movable Type, I for one am looking forward to seeing Project Comet hit the earth with a bang sometime next year.