Ghost: The New Blogging Platform, and Why it Matters

Ghost LogoGhost is a new blogging platform that aims to do one thing and do it well: blogging. Its developers want to recapture the spirit of blogging that was present in the earlier days, when it was all about writing and publishing long-form content. A return to the blog’s roots. Ghost has no complex content management features that add bloat, and no Tumblr-like microblogging tools that encourage the reposted image echo-chamber that Tumblr has become. Just a minimalist, distraction-free writing environment, where you write in Markdown, with a live preview. (It also features a slick dashboard that resembles a classier version of Windows 8’s Metro UI.)

Ghost is simultaneously an attempt to mesh blogging’s roots with the state of the art. Eschewing PHP, Ghost is a Node.js app built upon the Express framework. All of the blogs I’ve visited thus far that are running Ghost have been very speedy, a feat that is difficult to pull off with WordPress, in my experience.

The Story

Ghost is the brainchild of John O’Nolan, former Deputy Head of the WordPress UI team, who last year put together a series of wireframes for a conceptual blogging platform that focused purely on writing and publishing, rather than enabling the management of any type of website under the sun.

…it’s about publishing—which means writing—rather than mashing a few buttons to make sure that everyone can see and appreciate your latest funny picture/status, which is surely the most funny picture/status you’ve ever posted. — John O’Nolan

Just a few months later, the project was announced on Kickstarter. It raised over 196,000 pounds during the campaign, well over the 25,000 pound goal.

Fast forward to the present and Ghost is finally nearing its public release. If all goes well, it should launch on October 14, 2013. It’s still a work in progress, and some things like the dashboard aren’t fully implemented yet, but the public will finally get to kick the tires and participate in the development.

Ghost Editor

Why I’m Excited

  • I like Markdown. It’s a great way to write. I’ve tried Jekyll, and while there’s a certain allure about static blogs, there’s a slightly larger barrier to getting your post out than typing it in and pressing a button. I have a pretty good workflow set up for my personal blog, but it’s still enough of a hassle to annoy me at times. Ghost has a beautiful editor that works exactly like Mou the two-paned Markdown editor I wrote this post in.
  • I like the idea of a platform that is minimalistic, with plugins providing more functionality. It keeps the core leaner, which can only be good for performance.
  • Let’s face it, WordPress is full of cruft. The codebase is pretty clunky, mostly in the name of backwards compatibility with ancient (i.e. terrible) plugins that the core team doesn’t want to break. It has its own implementation of Magic Quotes since recent versions of PHP ditched it, for crying out loud! The developers can redesign the interface all they want, but the kludgey codebase still lurks beneath.
  • While WordPress started out as a blogging tool, it’s become more like Drupal and other CMS frameworks that want to be the be-all, end-all tool used for managing complex websites. If you want a straight-up blog, it’s overkill. (Plus, I’m becoming more and more dissatisfied with PHP for various reasons.)
  • There are several major companies backing Ghost. Envato and WooThemes, to name the two that I find the most intriguing. There have been many upstarts in the blog platform arena over the year, but few have had major industry leaders backing them right out of the gate. That’s a pretty big deal.
  • It’s new, and I want to get under the hood and play with it!

Ghost Dashboard


But…What About Shared Hosting?

The biggest recurring criticism I’ve seen voiced about Ghost is that it’s built on Node, while most of those cheap shared hosting offers from places like HostGator, GoDaddy, and their ilk are PHP-only.

Here’s the thing: cheap, commodity PHP hosting is—or should be—a thing of the past. Why pay $5-10/month for space on a slow, oversold shared server? You can pay $5/month for a VPS from DigitalOcean with 512MB of RAM and 20GB of storage on an SSD. $10/month will get you a gigabyte of RAM and 30GB of storage.

For equal pricing to shared hosting, you can get a virtual server with guaranteed resources and full control over the box. It’s a no-brainer.

Sure, some people might not be comfortable setting a VPS up, but

  • They can learn. It’s not difficult. You just need to run a few commands to install packages, maybe edit a few config files, and you’re done. If you can learn to install WordPress and use it, you can learn how to apt-get install [whatever]. Or in the case of businesses, hire someone who does.
  • Someone else can do it for them. I imagine this is often the case with people using shared hosts, anyway. Some shared hosts even use things like “Fantastico” to automatically install popular PHP scripts on their customers’ accounts. Such a thing could be offered for a JavaScript-centered hosting environment as well.
  • A user who doesn’t need the flexibility of a self-hosted system can use a hosted solution. Just like many WordPress users opt to use, so may Ghost users. O’Nolan plans for such a service to be offered, eventually.

Mark your calendars!