On December 23 London-based Ghost announced the opening of their hosted blogging platform to the public.
Back in April, Ghost CEO John O’Nolan launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a new blogging platform. They reached their goal in 12 hours and ended up raising $300,ooo during the 30 day campaign. (We’ll call it a crowdfunding success.)
O’Nolan and development lead Hannah Wolfe got to work, and in October they launched the platform.
So, what is Ghost, and why do we need another blogging platform, exactly?
According to O’Nolan, who was a former WordPress employee, most blogging platforms have gotten away from their original purpose: publishing. In the quest to optimize for every kind of content, systems like WordPress are confusing and difficult to use. They interrupt the flow of a writer’s work and make it harder to do the things many writers already struggle with (like inserting graphics).
Ghost isn’t like that. With a two-column presentation, you can type in the markdown column and see how it looks in the preview column as you go. The dashboard is gorgeous and allows you to see all the analytics that matter to you in one place. “Free. Open. Simple.” it says on the Ghost about page.
The blogging platform released in October, and hosts like Rackspace soon had plugins that made it easy-ish to get up and running. But, the team at Ghost wanted it to be even simpler, and behind the scenes they were working on a Ghost hosting platform that will make the whole process of getting a blog on the Internet super simple.
Last week saw the public release of that hosting platform as a premium service.
Wait…premium? Didn’t the website say it was “free”?
So, here’s the interesting thing about Ghost: they’re a nonprofit. They don’t have millions in the bank, and they aren’t taking investor meetings. They don’t plan to exit and profit in the billion dollar range. They’re just building a blogging platform.
(I know, it’s shocking. Take a deep breath. It’ll be okay.)
The Ghost team will use proceeds from the hosting platform to fund the rest of the project. And, in return, users get a simple system that makes blogging easy again.
“Do we want to make millions and sell to Facebook? Or do we want to make something that’s genuinely good and serves its users, not its investors and shareholders,” O’Nolan says in the Kickstarter video.
However, while they claim to focused on users, it’s only possible to type your posts in markdown, making it more developer-user friendly than writer-user friendly. And, as far as I can see, they don’t offer a cheat sheet for those of us that aren’t familiar with writing in markdown.
Still, that’s an easy fix, if they choose to make it. The platform is beautiful, and Ghost will be a fun project to watch in 2014. The future of big journalism may be unknown, but the fate of bloggers looks pretty good.