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The Current State of Ghost

Almost a year later after it’s public release, we take a look at how well Ghost, the blogging CMS, is actually doing.

Back in the later half of 2012, John O’Nolan complained about the bloated features of WordPress, andannounced Ghost to the world. A year later, in 2013, Ghost was released to the public, and it has been going strong since then. The basic idea behind Ghost was to take bloggers back to blogging: simplicity and ease of use was the crux or core idea behind this minimal blogging tool.

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Today, almost over a year later, how is Ghost doing? In this post, I will attempt to answer this question.

Ghost: Just A Blogging Platform

Ghost claims to be a “powerful publishing platform”. It surely does live up to the claim.

In spite of its humble beginnings, Ghost has always had a very ambitious mission. It did not project itself as a ‘Me Too!’ blogging tool. Instead, it claimed to be an alternative to WordPress, seeking to bring something that WordPress had lost: ease of use with a bloat-free mechanism.

Quite obviously, it is only logical to have a great set of expectations from such an ambitious project. On one hand, there are fanboys and proponents of Ghost, who are ever-eager to pitch Ghost as the next best tool for content creation, whereas on the other hand, there are the orthodox users who are still doubtful about the chances of Ghost’s success.

Amidst all of this, how exactly is Ghost faring? The answer is simple: pretty good.

Ghost started off with a very limited set of features, and even more limited set of themes to its credit. Today, it stands with a high number of features
and settings, and more and more developers and designers are now offering themes for Ghost. As can be seen, Ghost indeed has risen in popularity, and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon.

Furthermore, Ghost currently offers two distinct versions: one is the free self-hosted version, wherein you download and set it up on your own server. The other one is the paid and hosted version, that is managed by Ghost itself.

Unlike WordPress.com, Ghost’s hosted offering does not have a free plan (there is a trial period, though), so it means that you are basically purchasing web hosting from Ghost itself. Plus, Ghost’s hosted solution does allow you to have your own extensions and themes of your choosing (again, unlike WP.com).

So all said and done, Ghost’s hosted offering is more of a bargain for folks who need $5 per month shared web space, but are unable to find one that supports Ghost already.

Next Big Thing?

Each time someone talks of Ghost, one discussion almost always comes up: is it ready to dethrone WordPress yet?

In fact, the tone in itself makes it sound like it is not a question of whether Ghost will dethrone WordPress, but instead, a matter of when it will do so!

To be honest, the manner in which O’Nolan announced Ghost to the world back in 2012 (as a complaint against WordPress) is partly responsible for such debates and comparisons. However, all things being considered, I personally highly doubt Ghost will replace WordPress as the apex content creation tool anytime soon.

Make no mistake about it: I am a big fan of both WordPress and Ghost, and I do believe that Ghost is doing very well in its own right. Yet, there are certain elements that are acting as *limits to growth* and working against Ghost.

First up, WordPress rose to popularity not because it was ideologically superior or had better publicity stunts at its disposal. It became popular simply because it was easier to use and implement. WordPress attracted converts from Drupal or Joomla! because it had PHP as its back-bone, making life easier for the developers.

Ghost, on the other hand, is trying to reinvent the wheel. The mere fact that it has chosen Markdown over WYSIWYG as the default option means not every set of end users will be desperate to try out Ghost. I like Habari a lot, but I generally do not recommend it to the average users. Same logic applies to Ghost as well — for the sake of intuitiveness and agility, Ghost is sacrificing ease of use. For the average user, usability comes first, UI and UI are secondary.

Even more so, Ghost itself does not seem to be in a hurry to grow anyway. Its hosted solution does serve as a handy offering, but in the absence of a very clearly defined and failsafe migration path from other CMSs, there is not much that it can achieve.

The readers of this post and myself — both of us can very well set up Node.JS and run Ghost, but what about the folks who cannot? Once again, I am a big fan of Node.JS, and I even talked about some of its capabilities and abilities on my own blog, but at the end of the day, Node.JS is still not the standard offering on most shared web servers, unlike PHP.

What does all of this show? The answer is simple: Ghost, in spite of all its awesomeness, is not going to kill WordPress anytime soon, so any talks of Ghost being counted as a viable antidote against WordPress are just fables.

Appraisal

Yet, that should not be deciphered as a failure on part of Ghost. To be brutally honest, Ghost does not need to tackle or chase WordPress anyway. Ghost has a very distinct and altogether unique section of audience that it can and does cater to: users who need a no-nonsense solution that lets them edit and publish posts without actually nagging them about tags, categorization, featured images, SEO meta boxes, sliders, and all of that.

Ghost is not the tool you would turn to when you wish to start a lifestyle magazine; it is, however, very clearly the tool you should consider when you are planning a blog for yourself, possibly in your spare time.

What do you think of Ghost? Ever used it or are planning to use it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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