A couple of days ago Microsoft released an Alpha or test version of its first open source blogging engine Oxite! As one can expect this complete blogging system landscape is built on top of Microsoft’s bread-winning technologies such as MS SQL Server and ASP .NET (ASP .NET MVC, in fact).
It seems Oxite was originally developed to power one of Microsoft’s own tech portal Mix website that looks funky enough. But is the Oxite blogging engine good enough to take on popular blogging (if not CMS) platforms like WordPress? I seriously doubt that.
Reasons why Oxite may not become an immediate hit
The following are my arguments against Oxite and Microsoft’s proprietary technologies in the blogging space:
#1 The Cost Factor: The SQL Server, IIS and Windows Server landscape is pretty expensive and whether you host it yourself or via Windows hosting providers, it is going to cost you a lot. The FREE download SQL Express editions are available to host the blog metadata but it can hold only up to 4GB of data and hence hosting providers cannot really use them.
#2 Not a preferred technology: The LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) open and/or free platforms have already evolved into mammoth proportions and popularity that millions of people using them will hesitate to switch over. More over, the LAMP has been the foundation for platforms like WordPress, Drupal etc that are already established. Another reason to worry about is the number of people actually experienced in and willing to write .NET code (instead of PHP) to customize and extend the blogging features.
#3 Community: Of course, Microsoft has a great community (MSDN etc) and eco system around them but they have always been ‘grow and earn with Microsoft‘ communities and not those who are open enough to work with open source projects. Since MS is not used to this concept at all, they will have to really change their marketing strategies to established an open platform.
#4 Scalability: I am not sure how much will a Microsoft blogging stack will scale to support say a huge number of free blogs, for example, if they have to use this platform like WordPress.com free blog space. Personally, I hate ASP .NET though I have been a Microsoft platform based developer for many years.
#5 Microsoft’s hidden agenda: As usual, the hidden agenda behind any free Express edition or free blogging platform, could be the opportunity to sell more SQL Server licenses and web developer tools. The moment, people realize this, they might back out.
#6 Cost of maintenance and installation: I tried to get my hands dirty with Oxite this weekend and downloaded about 250MB worth stuff including Oxite code, SQL Express Edition (and its prerequisites), Visual Web Developer Express, .NET runtime environments. I failed miserably to set up the environment on my Vista PC due to .NET runtime installation issues. The same situation could arise with your hosting provider and your cost of maintenance could run through the roof.
A few good points about Oxite
Since platforms such as WordPress already set standards, Microsoft seems to have worked hard to make available all that WordPress already has on Oxite as well. So you can expect all basic features such as posts, pages, comment moderation, widgets, gravatars, pingbacks, trackbacks, admin panels etc on Oxite blogs. In addition Oxite boasts the following advanced or cool features.
- Multiple blogs per single installation of Oxite. We are yet to verify how it works and will provide updates later if my landscape works. If this is true they can easily come up with a Blogger or WordPress.com soon
- Advanced CMS options: Since it is more than a blogging platform, all features required by a Content Management System can be expected in Oxite. Please note that WordPress is yet to become a good CMS system that has advanced versioning features, document management etc
- Improved Syndication: This could be a really cool feature that Oxite provides RSS feeds at the page level which is a must to use it as an advanced publishing system
- Browser Integrated Open Search format: This sounds like another great feature whereby your blog search can be actually triggered from the browser’s search box itself. I have no clue on how it works, let’s wait for more information!
What could work?
I do not believe that Oxite, with all its proprietary baggage, will be able to make it big in the free blogging engines space especially with whole lot of established players around. However, hardcore Microsoft technology powered businesses might use this platform for their corporate portals, employee blogs etc. The other option for them is to make it as part of MSN live space, for example, and hope that it would not end up like Yahoo 360. But if they are positioning it as a great Content Management System and if it has good features, they could be really successful in that domain.
Blogs already running Oxite
on10 is one the other blogs (along with Mix itself that is running on Oxite already. Please note that since this is only an Alpha release of the product, at the moment only a few Microsoft and partner sites are using this new blogging & CMS platform.