Ghost: Can It Compete With WordPress?

Ghost is a new platform that promises a more simplified approach to blog publishing that WordPress was originally designed for before evolving into a more comprehensive CMS. The creator of Ghost, John O’Nolan, was the ex-deputy head of WordPress’s User Interface Group. From 2009 to 2011, O’Nolan helped design the user interface of WordPress and he was also one of the first developers to adopt WordPress in 2005 for creating websites. It is fair to say he made a lot of money building sites for corporate clients using the WordPress platform. He toured around the world, promoting and educating people on how to design WordPress-powered sites.

Ghost Platform Logo

 

So Why Did John O’Nolan Create Ghost?

When explaining why he created the Ghost blogging platform he said “At the highest level, the design problems which Ghost addresses came down from my own frustrations and use cases for WordPress as a blogging platform….Full content-management systems excel at cataloging and posting stories, but when it comes to composing posts and tracking their performance on the web, serious bloggers are forced to turn to other tools. Where WordPress was and is fantastic at being the platform for generating the website itself, I would consistently go elsewhere for those primary two functions.”

WordPress, in John O’Nolan’s viewpoint, has grown too complex and too reliant on third-party tools for effective blogging. Many would agree he is right to a certain degree as 10 years after its debut, WordPress is now akin to a Content Management System (CMS) that’s focused on creating sophisticated corporate websites and ecommerce shops. He believes WordPress is no longer fit for pure blogging and needs a replacement.

Is WordPress Now Too Complicated For Bloggers

WordPress was primarily designed as a simple blogging platform to enable mass digital publishing on the internet. However, due to the flexibility of its API, third-party developers have made WordPress into a fully-fledged CMS like Joomla and Drupal. The people behind WordPress also embraced this and heartily supported a more powerful, feature-rich platform.

This growth has been beneficial to some but also detrimental to less technical-savvy users. Many in the creative writing community became somewhat intimidated by the increasingly complicated WordPress versions that got released. Bloggers abandoned WordPress and turned to simpler micro-blogging platforms like Twitter, Medium and Tumblr.

To date, WordPress has won 54% of the enterprise CMS website market share and 20% of all global websites are powered by WordPress. Despite this success of his former employer, O’Nolan still felt the blogging community deserves a new blog-only platform that is similar to WordPress’s original basic blog-centric version.

Ghost is the perfect tool for straightforward blog publishing. Like the “ghostwriter” term, this new platform acts like a ghost publisher that offers creative people an effortless web publishing experience. Writers can focus on writing and not learning complex CMS commands or understanding third-party widgets.

O’Nolan describes Ghost as WordPress Lite, less features but more efficient for creative bloggers. It was built using Javascript and Node.js, a radical departure from the standard PHP/MySQL engine used by WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Ghost offers certain advantages over WordPress and other blogging systems that new and veteran bloggers alike can appreciate:

  • Split View Content Management – Managing posts is painless and quick. The split view allows direct preview of each post without having to repeatedly click the Edit button or loading another browser tab. Aside from the title post, category, and publication date, Ghost also shows how many times a published article has been read. This method makes blogs with multiple authors easier to manage.

Ghost Platform Split Screen

  • Split View Content Writing – Using the Split View concept again, authors can focus more on writing and less on repetitive switching between clicking the mouse and typing on the keyboard. The side by side view shows the live preview of the current article being written. On-the-fly formatting in Ghost means authors can avoid wasting time on click-formatting every other sentence.
  • Markdown Replaces HTML – Writers are not programmers. Even the easy markup language of HTML is daunting to ordinary bloggers. Ghost replaces WordPress’s HTML formatting with the more normal-like tag structure of Markdown. HTML, CSS, and PHP are complicated languages that very few bloggers bother to learn. Ghost’s use of Markdown means it will immediately appeal to novice bloggers.

Ghost Content Editor

  • More Functional Dashboard – Many bloggers do not like WordPress’ reliance on clicking on several third-party plug-ins like Google Analytics and Yoast SEO to see how their sites are performing. Ghost’s upcoming dashboard offers an all-in-one display featuring all relevant information. No more shifting around browsers tabs to check on your blog’s SEO, most read and shared articles, social media and site traffic statistics. The dashboard of Ghost can be customized too.

Ghost Platform Dashboard

Can Ghost Entice Bloggers Away From WordPress?

Over the last 10 years has grown exponentially and is recently surpassed its 72 millionth installation. It has tens of thousands of themes & plugins developed by a huge global developer community who struggle to meet the demand of an ever growing user base. In contrast, Ghost is so new it is still in beta stage and less than 48 themes have been created for it at Themeforest.net.

The current stats show how mis matched the two platforms are but many say it is only a matter of time before Ghost starts eating away at the market share of WordPress. Ghost, a Kickstarter-funded project, has already attracted support from big corporations such as Microsoft and Envato. Tellingly a plugin has recently been released that that easily converts WordPress content to Ghost.

In my opinion, Ghost has a good chance of competing with WordPress in the blogging niche. It offers a more streamlined method of publishing and managing blogs. Less than a year after its conceptualization, thousands of bloggers have already downloaded the beta version of Ghost. The reviews have been mostly positive.

The only thing that can slow down the adaptation of Ghost is its market relative newness and lack of themes. New platforms always experience adoption difficulties. Another issue likely to put a brake on its adoption is the fact that it cannot run on cheap shared hosting plans because they require  root-level server modifications. Therefore, as it stands, Ghost blog hosting is more expensive because it can only run on a VPS or dedicated server.

Ghost can run on self-hosted servers so if your home or office internet is fast enough, it can be used to host Ghost. Just download the Bitnami all-in-one package for it and install it on any unused desktop computer. Ghost doesn’t require top-end computer specs thanks to its lightweight JavaScript-coding.

Summary - Flash In The Pan Or Next Big Thing?

Once the industry and influential bloggers become more familiar with Ghost and more web hosting companies start offering cheaper hosting plans for it then I believe it will be adopted by the critical mass necessary to see it grow significantly. As stated by O’Nolan, his non-profit www.ghost.org team is also planning to offer the same hosting services that WordPress.com have. If Ghost can gather enough support from web hosting providers, it has a big chance of repeating the early success of WordPress in the blogging arena.