Static versus dynamic publishing

Now that **Movable Type 4** has been released and leaped ahead of **WordPress**, the old discussion of static publishing versus dynamic publishing shows up again. Movable Type by default uses static publishing — it generates static HTML files with are served to the visitor — while WordPress uses dynamic publishing — all content is served directly from the database. What method is better?
As usual, the answer is: it depends…
Static publishing requires less server resources per visit, but it takes longer before updates (entries, comments and template changes) are visible. With dynamical publishing, your changes are immediately visible to your visitors, but you’ll need more power to serve those pages.
**For most bloggers it won’t make any difference**, as they hardly tweak their templates and receive few comments and visitors. However, if you like tweaking your templates, you might want to go dynamic, and popular blogs are better off going static.
But wait, I can hear you think: _there are some very popular blogs using WordPress…_ That’s right, and without exception they use some kind of caching method to lower the server stress. On the other side, Movable Type can also run in dynamic mode (which is what I use for this blog), and you can specify for each template whether it should be served statically or dynamically, allowing you to optimize your site’s performance.
_Conclusion_: for low-traffic sites, it doesn’t matter whether you publish static or dynamic. If you have many visitors you probable want to use static or hybrid publishing.

4 thoughts on “Static versus dynamic publishing”

  1. You say: “Usually the application server can handle most requests no matter how many visitors the site has, and usually you don’t see “nice URL’s” – so the content comes directly from the DB”
    That is because most application servers have a built-in caching mechanism 🙂
    Remember, an application server = web server + database server + application logic. The application logic produces the final output, but hardly ever directly from the database.
    There is absolutely no relation between caching and ‘nice URLs’. The default WordPress installation does not have nice URLs, but produces output directly from the database. On the other hand, there are many, many sites which don’t have nice URLs but which present cached content.
    There is absolutely NO major site with dynamic content working without caching. eBay, Amazon, Google,… they all cache. Caching is the only way to handle big amounts of visitors without bringing the servers down.
    And yes, web standards is definitely the way to go, but unfortunately many site owners don’t care…. There are some good examples such as the sites you mentioned, but there is also way to much spaghetti code still being produced today.

  2. Jeroen, I don’t quite agree in the fact that most large websites use caching, at least not of my own experience. Usually the application server can handle most requests no matter how many visitors the site has, and usually you don’t see “nice URL’s” – so the content comes directly from the DB. Anyways, it is something to think about, the webstandards thing, because many large sites actually have changed. Look at ESPN, which has very heavy traffic, but has diminished it’s footprint regarding traffic significantly by adopting webstandards. And the new Dutch Wehkamp website (internet webstore), which even received an award for it’s webstandard approach. Here in the Netherlands we see it more and more – a new website entails in 95% of the cases a webstandard solution. Hooraay 😉

  3. Yes, I was talking about blogs, but the same principles can be applied to any web publishing platform. Yes, most large websites serve database-driven content, but as far as I know, they all follow the WordPress way and have implemented a caching mechanism, so they are in fact serving most request from static files.
    And believe me, web standards are no problem for them. They only care about one thing, and that is revenue. If their visitors have troubles shopping on the site, they will fix it, if not, they couldn’t care less about it. Web standards is a designers’ issue, as it makes work a lot easier. Customers only care about web standards as the TCO of a standards-based site is lower.

  4. Hi Jeroen,
    I assume your statement is regarding bloggers only? Because almost all large websites in the world running a true application server, serve database-driven content. For those websites traffic isn’t the problem, webstandards are more of an issue 😉

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