mBlog Users - Beware!

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I've heard of mBlog mentioned every now and then in the MT Forums without knowing exactly what it was. Until now, I thought it it had something to do with "mobile blogging", which it does:

mBlog combines the latest in Internet and wireless technology so that you can post Text and Multimedia to your live journal.

But it is way more than that.

I got my first hint in a comment by Phil Ringnalda:

But there's no question in the license: you may not "Use the Software to provide hosting services to others." Given how fuzzy the line is between your reasonable sort of hosting and the complete fricken' nightmare that's mblog.com, with their "unlimited free signups, virtually no support, no way to actually control the software, but a prominent link to the support forum" approach, I can see why 6A would want to absolutely prohibit any hosting (other than hosting they approve of, since the pricing page does imply that there are or will be hosts that offer MT preinstalled).

Today in the MT Forums, Phil fully explains what mBlog is:

mBlog is a hacked up version of Movable Type, which violates the MT license agreement, and the stream of people it sends over here asking questions without realizing that the answers won't work for them because they are using a hacked up and feature-limited version is very probably one of the reasons that the new MT license is so much more strict than the previous versions.

I wondered if this could really be true. Would someone actually be dumb enough to so blatantly violate MT's license?.

The answer to that question ("Yes") is on mBlog's about mBlog page:

What's 'under the hood'?
mBlog is driven by the award-winning open source MovableType (MT) personal publishing system. mBlog consists of various modifications to the MT source as well as integrated custom modules developed in order to provide this free service to you. mBlogs mobility features are derived from modules designed using Perl and Simplewire's SMS/MMS API.

Movable Type is not open source software. Just because MT's code is viewable does not make it open source.

There's probably a dozen different license violations here, most prominently the "no hosting" clause:

"Prohibited uses include, without limitation... hosting, or offering to host, the Software, on any basis..."

I wondered if Six Apart was aware of what mBlog was doing. A little searching on Google turned up the answer:

Over on the KSmith blog, Mark suggests in a comment that new bloggers use mBlog. I checked it out and was surprised: its guts are simply a poorly hacked up version of MovableType. I know running a bloghosting service is strongly against MTs terms of service, and the software's implementation just seemed too shoddy to have been a result of striking a legit deal with Six Apart.

Anyway, after trying to find the answer everywhere, I just emailed Anil Dash who replied with:

They're not authorized, and they are blatantly violating the license. We are aware of them and I'm sure we'll be dealing with them, but in the interim, I'd recommend steering clear of them. TypePad's not free, but it is only a couple of bucks a per month, it does support the development work we do, and it's not going to go away.

So there you have it. mBlog: too good to be true.

I strongly recommend that bloggers stay away from mBlog. If you have a blog there, export your data (if you're able to) and go somewhere else while you still can. A short letter from Six Apart's attorneys to mBlog's hosting provider may be all it takes to turn out the lights on mBlog, potentially leaving mBlog's users stranded with no way to get a copy of their weblog data.

Now that I know what mBlog is, the only "support" I will be providing to its users is to tell them the mBlog service is a gross violation of MT's licenses. As far as I'm concerned, mBlog's users should not expect nor have any right to any support in the MT Forums.

Update: mBlog shuts down!

2 TrackBacks

mBlog: too good to be true from John P. Hoke's Asylum on June 20, 2004 7:09 PM

Well the next Blog-Melt-Down will probably be when Six Apart rakes mBlog over the legal coals for multiple violations of Movable Type'sLicensing Agreement. This comes from a great post over at The Tweezers' Edge. mBlog is a hacked up version... Read More

mBlog Users - Beware! from Neil's Smaller World on June 20, 2004 11:57 PM

mBlog, the MT-based moblogging portal, actually violates the MT license agreement. Avoid it.... Read More

7 Comments

From their response to my mentioning to them that they were obviously in violation of the license:

There is just one MovableType installation which we are not collecting money for (in fact its costing us an arm and a leg) so we are not in violation of their terms. In fact we believe that this may be a prospective opportunity for MovableType to be competitive with Google in blogging communities.

To me that sounds like the all too common attitude people seem to have developed somehow, that if they want something or want something to be true, then it is. Doing support, you've undoubtedly seen it, where someone asks "how do I make a post so actual pieces of moon rock come out of the reader's display?" and you explain that it's physically impossible, and they reply "okay, but how do I do it?"

The rest of the email wasn't very interesting, just them responding to several incredibly serious security holes (imagine what you could do with a totally unconstrained Archive File(name) Template on a shared site - and note that the hosted sites are just directories off their main site, too ;)) by saying, roughly, "yeah, well, we're kinda busy but we might get around to fixing that in a few days." I haven't had the heart to log back in and see whether or not they have, in the intervening four months. However, I don't really expect they'll be going away soon, since it has been four months (that I know of). They certainly could go away, at any second, but I've lost hope that they actually will.

Yes, after I emailed them ages ago (after a number of their users came to the forums when their database went boom), and basically got a "we're not doing anything wrong". Morons. I just skip those support threads now.

That's funny, Phil. I must have missed the license clause that says if you're not making any money, you can ignore the other terms of the license and do anything you like with the software.

I did notice that the weblogs are common directories off the main site. I was tempted to sign up for an account just to see what it looked like (i.e. how bad it was) on the inside, but then I wondered if I would be violating MT's license by doing so. I also looked for a "Terms of Service" page - there's not one available unless it's inside the registered user's area.

I wish I read this entry sooner.

Lost my blog at mblog. Being the novice that I am I didn't have back up. Too good to be true indeed. :-(

I to lost my site when mblog shut down, and as I had never had a problem AND being a near computer illiterate had not backed up my archives to disk. I find it unconscionable that, not only did mblog shut down without giving some prior warning, but thay have the gall to try to charge a $35. fee to recover our archives. I feel that my archives are MY intellctual property, and to try to charge me for their return is nothing less than extortion.

We are trying to get a number of ex-mbloggers to sign a protest of these practices to mblog.

It may do no good, but at least we will have made our voices heard.

Same story here, like delftsman3 I feel very reluctant to pay $35 ransom money. Happy to sign your protest if you let me know where.

all those who lost their sites, have u tried google/yahoo cache? two of my friends lost it too and found all the imp stuff from cache...