For many years now, some of our most venerable social applications have stayed very much the same. Sure, the large developer communities have always beavered away, creating new plug-ins to extend and enhance our discussion forums and our blogs, but the likes of vBulletin and WordPress have remained the dominant figures in the industry for some time now, with the core functionality in each product remaining largely static during that time.
It seems however that this is all changing. Earlier this year I wrote about Discourse, a new discussion forum platform that is aiming to change how we approach online communities and forums. Discouse is an “attempt to reimagine what a modern, sustainable, fully open-source Internet discussion platform should be today – both from a technology standpoint and a sociology standpoint.”
Taking on WordPress, the blog king, is an even bigger challenge though. WordPress is said to power something like 18% of all websites, but that level of traction is not stopping a new app from trying to topple the king. The app, called Ghost, has taken Kickstarter by storm. The developers initially hoped to raise £25,000 for the project, but investments currently stand at around £170,000 and counting.
It’s perhaps not surprising given the form of John O’Nolan, the founder of Ghost. O’Nolan is an active member of the WordPress community, having worked on the blog platform since 2005. He believed that the growth of WordPress has made it overly complex and caused it to lose focus on the blogging that was once at its core.
Thus it was decided to try and develop an open-source platform that focused purely on writing from within a clean and simple user interface. Whilst initially the plan was to build Ghost on top of WordPress, that has since shifted to see it as a pure, standalone project.
O’Nolan does however want to retain the ease of developing themes and other plug-ins that has made WordPress the star it is. They already have a couple of commercial WordPress theme developers signed up to do themes for Ghost, whilst they’re offering plug-in developers free lessons in Node.js to help them develop plug-ins for the app.
With the sale of Tumblr to Yahoo fresh in everyones minds, O’Nolan is also adament that he wants to keep the project on a non-profit basis, with the software freely available on Github.
He writes on Kickstarter:
“Ghost is a non-profit. We’ll make money from our premium hosted service, but we’ll use 100% of the money to make Ghost better and pay people to work on it. We won’t distribute any profits to shareholders, because there won’t be any shareholders. A non-profit has trustees who don’t own shares, they just oversee the company. We literally won’t have anything for Yahoo! to buy.”
How big an opportunity is there for Ghost? WordPress is obviously hugely popular, whilst the Tumblr/Yahoo deal showed how valuable that platform is. Where does Ghost fit into the mix?
At the moment it’s very hard to see the site making much of a dent into the WordPress market, but all projects have to start somewhere, and given the pedigree of the founders, Ghost is certainly something to keep an eye on. They’re promising investors in the project one year of free hosting. If the project appeals to you, you have a couple more days left to join in.
You can find out more about Ghost on their website