The Good and the Bad about Ghost

ghost

Recently, there have been many publications on the Internet about Ghost being the “next big thing”, “WordPress killer”, etc. Another thing that brings the words Ghost and WordPress together is the name of the former WordPress UI team member – John O’Nolan, whose brainchild Ghost is. This is why we decided to review Ghost and the hosting options you have if you want to start blogging with it.

What are the advantages of Ghost

happyGhost is making quite a lot of buzz lately and there are definitely some great things worth mentioning about this software.

Ghost is crowd-powered

One of the most interesting things about Ghost is that it was actually a Kickstarter project. It has gathered 5,236 backers and a total of £196,362 while pledged only £25,000. This approach is great because it instantly creates an ecosystem of few thousands of people that will try this platform. It managed to produce an insta-community and only the time will show whether those people will stay for good or not.

Another thing that distinguishes Ghost from other start-ups is that it already have a lot of designers working to create themes for it. One of the biggest theme marketplaces – ThemeForest, have already opened a section for Ghost themes on their website which is not something we’re used to see every day.

Blog-o-centric

WordPress is much, much more than a blogging platform and that’s a fact. Actually, nowadays it’s more of an application framework that can be used to create almost anything. However, with the introduction of more features it is becoming a bit more difficult for the regular blogger that won’t use even ten percent of the default WordPress functionality. This is what Ghost is exploiting quite well – it’s designed to be a purely blogging platform. Nothing more, nothing less. Using it is quite simple – you just choose a design and start typing your blog posts which is ultimately what people that want to share their thoughts without any special knowledge want.

This Ghost is going bigger

Another positive of Ghost is that it’s growing really fast. We’ve contacted John O’Nolan and he was kind enough to provide us with some up-to-date data about the application adoption rates. On February 1st 2014 the official Ghost.org website has a new signup roughly every 3 minutes and a total of 120,000 registered users in the self-hosted platform for about 3 and a half months that the project has been live. The Ghost.org site itself gets approximately 2 million pageviews and there are already about 25,00 active ghost blogs out in the wild so far. You have to agree that those are some pretty impressive numbers!

What are the disadvantages of using Ghost

sadGiven that Ghost strives for simplicity and ease-of-use, it’s major draw-back is that it’s not that easy and cheap to get it to play with.

Hosting Ghost is hard

You can’t simply install Ghost and try it out in your existing shared hosting account. The thing is that Ghost heavily relies on something, called Node.js to operate. Node.js is not just another JavaScript library like jQuery, Prototype or DOJO for example. Node.js is working server-side, which means that your hosting provider has to have it installed on their servers.

It’s not something so unusual, but the thing is that Node.js was not designed to run on shared servers in first place. In addition to my own research, I spoke with my partners from SiteGround.com, whose opinion I value when it comes to technology in the hosting industry. They helped me understand some of the problems a shared hosting provider would face when implementing Node.js and why they in particular are not ready to take Ghost on their shared platform but will nicely invite you to go to a cloud or dedicated server if you want to try it, where they will set up the Node.js for you.

  • Not Secure – Node.js was not designed to work on a shared hosting environment and this leads to serious security problems. It does not have an isolation mechanism built-in which means that if there is no additional hacks, one user with the right knowledge may access the content of other users that use it on the same server. And this is bad. Really bad.
  • Resource consuming – The good thing about Node.js is that it takes away most of the load on the visitor’s computer for compiling the JavaScript and does it on the server. Unfortunately, on a shared hosting environment that causes a lot of load on the servers. The more users are using it, the worse it becomes.

All of the above lead to the fact that there aren’t many shared hosting providers that you can host Ghost on. Actually, right now ASmallOrange seem to be the only hosting company that has Node.Js on their shared servers. I have made it a point to test their solution. But, until I can verify how that works for them, I am gonna say that if you want Ghost, you either have to go with a VPS or dedicated server where you can have someone install Node.js and Ghost for you, or try the Ghost hosted solution where prices seem competitive with the standard shared hosting rates.

Ghost is Only a Blogging Platform

It’s a plus and it’s a minus. When you start a new blog, it may sound as a great idea to have a platform that does this specifically. However, many people start with blogs and then evolve their sites to much more than that – paid registrations, online stores of digital and physical goods, galleries, forums, you name it… With Ghost, when you start a site you basically agree that it’s going to be only blog and nothing more. And if at some point in the future you decide to turn your site into something else, you will be facing a really, really difficult migration process.

Conclusion

Well, obviously Ghost is still a new project, but it has a clear vision of where it’s heading in terms of functionality and business purpose. For now, it seems to be shying away from traditional hosts as a channel for growing its user base, whether because its creators want to position the software as superior worth paying a premium for it, or because they want to close the cycle and concentrate the affordable hosting segment into the hosted Ghost platform. In any case, I am curious to see if hosts will start modifying their platforms or creating environment suitable for Ghost at some point, which will be the true indicator of the Ghost’s market worth.

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