Six Apart's paid, hosted blogging service, TypePad, is getting improved community features. The first thing most users will notice is a new blog commenting system. It has both a cleaner display of comments (with icons for the comments, WordPress-style), as well as a simpler comment entry interface. Users can also reply to particular comments and the system supports one level of threading.
The updated comments service hooks into TypePad's new profile system. Commenters with TypePad IDs get a place that collects all the comments they leave on all TypePad comment-enabled blogs, and users can add feeds from their accounts on Flickr, Twitter, Friendfeed, Digg, and about 45 other services. That makes the profile pages a lot more dynamic and interesting.
The TypePad comment system can be embedded on non-TypePad blogs. The service can automatically install on WordPress.org, Blogger, and Tumblr sites. HTML code is provided to put the comment system on other blogs.
This new comment ecosystem is certainly an improvement over the previous version. But bloggers have other very good commenting systems to choose from. I favor Disqus, for instance. Although I do like the new TypePad system, I don't see a reason to install it on my WordPress blog ProPRTips, (and actually, I couldn't if I wanted to--users of WordPress.com-hosted blogs can't get far enough under the hood to make the switch; bloggers using WordPress.org software hosted elsewhere can, however).
The new system is certainly an improvement, and more than that it's interesting to see Six Apart continue to spin core functionality out of its paid products and offer it to the world for free. Previously, of course, the company made Movable Type open source and free. The company clearly hopes that exposure to these products will make revenue-generating products more attractive. Whatever the motivation, these are serious and full-featured products, now available for nothing, and I'm cool with that.