8 years of indie — Ghost 4.0

Hey hackers!

We're almost a decade into the indie journey and today we shipped Ghost 4.0.

Ghost started out as a non-profit, open source startup over 8 years ago and we still operate in the same way today. No outside funding or shareholders. We focus on building the best product possible for our users, and give away our product under a free, open source licence.

Today we announced that our native memberships and subscriptions features are officially out of beta, with an extremely long list of new stuff to help creators and publishers build subscription businesses.

In fact, creators building indie businesses with Ghost last year are already making more than $2Million per year in annual recurring revenue, so we've come full circle!

Ghost itself is now a team of 21 people with over $3.3M annual revenue, and while that's a lot bigger than it used to be (2020 was our fastest ever year for growth) we still operate based on the same philosophies of independence and the open web that we started out with.

Read more at https://ghost.org/changelog/4/

I'll be hanging out all day, and happy to answer any questions about the journey so far -- if anyone has them :)

  1. 6

    Good shit, John, well done! What are your thoughts on the "creator economy" blowing up this past year, and even Twitter getting into the game and working on paid subscriptions?

    Also, good lord is the Ghost Koenig editor great, how do I get that for Indie Hackers 😂

    1. 8

      Well it is all open source so we can probably make something happen with that editor ;)

      Creator economy gold rush is in FULL swing right now. I think the hype is both overpromising and underpromising the reality. When we first started out with Ghost in 2013 Facebook and Twitter said they were getting into blogging back then, too. Early moves by big companies sometimes turn out to be significant, other times not so much.

      I think a year or two from now the creator economy is going to be a lot less frothy, and many of the companies in the space today will have already moved on - but the ones that remain will be slowly and steadily building momentum of something real. We plan to be in the latter group :)

  2. 5

    I think ghost is the most beautifully designed open-source product ever 😅 keep it up @johnonolan and all the best!

  3. 4

    Wow, the landing page and UI looks awesome 🤩 Congrats on the launch!

  4. 3

    The Ghost UI and overall feel is so good I can't wait (literally) to install it and play with it -- my gf is starting a blog.

    Stripe level of quality and execution. (Top notch I mean)

    1. 1

      High praise! Thank you

      1. 1

        Well deserved! Good luck!

  5. 2

    Great journey. Best wishes for the journey ahead. It's wonderful to see startups like yours. Inspirational!

  6. 2

    Massive congrats John! 💯

  7. 2

    That Inter var typeface looks ffffresh! The the site design scales up real nice too. Well played team. And of course a huge congrats on v4.0 upgrade, like you threw out the 'ol kitchen sink and replaced it with a modern functioning restaurant ;)

    1. 2

      Yesss, we moved everything to Inter - it's wonderful to work with :)

  8. 2

    Hey John, congratulations! You shipped a lot of amazing stuff today! Really impressed.
    I’m going to be that guy who asks you about future features 😂
    Will we ever see a page builder? I know many bloggers who stay with WP because of Elementor.

    1. 2

      We will continue to make the editor more powerful so you can do more with it, but we're unlikely ever to make a page builder. I think if you want a page builder there are lots of other great products for that, it's not what we specialise in so it wouldn't make too much sense for us to try and compete there :)

  9. 2

    Here's to the next 8 years John. Massive congrats!

    1. 1

      Thanks Christopher! :)

  10. 2

    Fantastic product, Ghost. Congratulations!

  11. 2

    Congrats @johnonolan ! Looks amazing. ⛵️

    1. 1

      Thank youuu! Where are you nowadays??

  12. 2

    Congratulations on Ghost 4.0 @johnnolan and team!

    I didn't realize Ghost "only" has 21 team members. Have been using Ghost since early 2020...look forward to trying out the subscription thing with The Leaf Node site as soon as update my self-hosted version and integrate mailgun.

  13. 2

    Wow! What a journey! As someone who uses Ghost (for work) I am excited about the new version. I also think your about page should be made into an industry standard https://ghost.org/about/ - it's so perfect in all aspects - for fast remote teams!

    1. 1

      Really appreciate it! That page is probably due for a bit of a refresh. Looking a little long in the tooth :)

  14. 2

    Congrats! Can't say how much I love Ghost! The new UI looks gorgeous BTW. 😍

    1. 1

      Really appreciate it! 🙌 our design team has been growing

    1. 2

      Thanks so much! We packed an insane amount into 2020 considering, feels good to share it all 🤗

      1. 2

        Stoked for the future of creators and Ghost :)

  15. 1

    Love Ghost since day 1 :) I hope you will add some features for flexibility in pricing tier for memberships (more than just 2 tiers), and 2 step verification for email sign ups, so the emails don't land up in spam.

    1. 2

      I'm not sure if you read the post or used the product - but multiple tiers is mentioned in the changelog link I shared, and 2 step verification for email signups has always been implemented as the default and only way to sign up for members, since day 1 ;)

      1. 1

        Hi John! Thanks for the revert. Yes I did read the changelog end to end....I was referring to the membership tiers on my publication in Portals on Ghost admin...as of now there's only a single monthly & single yearly plan we can offer to our subscribers. It would just help if we can add more tiers based on offerings or features etc, to cover a more diverse target audience. Not sure if this is on your radar...please correct me if I am wrong.

        For the 2 step verification, I'm sorry, my bad. But my emails are still landing up in people's spam, and I have no idea why.

        Once again, I'm really excited about all the new features on Ghost. It just keeps getting better :)

  16. 1

    Congratulations, John. I'm a big fan of what you do with Ghost and wish you the best!

  17. 1

    Wow congrats - did not Ghost was an indie-hacker product! It really has been blowing up and I've heard such amazing things about it.

  18. 1

    Congrats John.. The Ghost 4 is awesome. Almost seven years ago I was board with the interface, & plugin dependencies of WordPress & I found Ghost. It was something like I never Saw & the perfect tool for publishing without any gibberish things like WP has. Using it since then & Made lot of money by proving the ghost services as well.

    Thanks a lot to entire ghost team for making such wonderful product.

  19. 1

    Congratulations John! The site design is looking great and the new ghost features sound awesome.

    As a NodeJS dev, it’s super cool to see an open source NodeJS project like Ghost that is doing well, and that the hosted service business model is working for you.

    Since Ghost is a classic database backed web framework / application, I’m curious to hear your thoughts about statically generated websites.

    What do you think about the recent Jamstack websites trend?

    1. 1

      We made Ghost fully JAMstack compatible a couple of years ago, and even migrated Ghost.org to be a static front end backed by various APIs. Honestly the whole experience and market has been pretty underwhelming. I'm a fan of the overall concept, and it can work well for small sites - but the drawbacks of reverse engineering servers as build processes which quickly spiral out of control are real.

      Overall, I think it will become interesting in future and has lots of potential - but at the moment a straightforward Varnish cache is infinitely more usable and powerful for 99% uses cases beyond "a few pages of static content "

      1. 1

        We made Ghost fully JAMstack compatible a couple of years ago

        Can you elaborate a bit?

        What I like about jamstack sites is the possibilities it opens up for collaborating via Github, and being able to use Github actions etc.

        I do like having a database backed site too though.

        I don’t know what the answer is longterm, I guess I want to be able to do a bit of both.

        1. 1


          What I like about jamstack sites is the possibilities it opens up for collaborating via Github, and being able to use Github actions etc.

          JAMstack really isn't realated collaborating on GitHub or using GitHub Actions - you can do exactly the same thing with any Ghost theme and have CI/CD to deploy a new front-end via the API:


          1. 1

            That’s true for site development, I’m more interested in the possibilities for collaboration on the content creation side.

            I’m thinking there might be interesting ways to combine Ghost/Wordpress and static sites to get the best of both worlds.

            1. 1

              Oh I see what you mean now, but I think that workflow is more suited to docs, than posts, personally :) have tried both extensively, just my experience

              1. 1

                They are definitely great workflows for docs sites, but I think there’s a lot of cool workflows that could be built for ‘post’ style content too, especially when there is collaboration happening.

                Having review and approve steps, user submissions, and lots more becomes possible when the content can be connected to a workflow engine like GitHub Actions.

                I don’t have a clear vision of what it would look like, though I know from experience that the content editing experience with static sites is lousy.

                I think eventually most serious users of a publishing product, will want to hook into a workflow tool. I run a developer focussed newsletter on Substack, and it’s great but it’s so laborious, and I know that if I could automate things a bit it would be so much easier, but they have no API and don’t support Markdown posts.

                1. 1

                  All I can tell you is that after 8 years of running the #1 CMS on GitHub with several million publishers - nobody has ever asked for it. We do have some fairly "serious users" ;)

                  1. 1

                    “Serious users” was probably a poor choice of words on my part.

                    In any case, there are users building advanced workflows like the ones I described, using static site generators, I think it would be neat if there was a better way for these different types of sites to be used together.

  20. 1

    Looks amazing! Thank's for the awesome work! I've been a happy user since many years 🤗

  21. 1

    Congrats on the launch John! Is there a reason why custom domains no longer appear in the Ghost dashboard?

    1. 1

      Just an artefact of rolling out some new systems, the UI will be back within the next week or two.

  22. 1

    Awesome work, still can remember our conversation back then in Linz after you launched the Kickstarter campaign in 2013.

    Also great to see how the platform itself and the whole industry evolved over the years.

    1. 1

      It's definitely come a long way since back then! Great to see you :)

  23. 1

    Wow just wanted to say that I decided to give Ghost a go :)

    I'm super impressed by the progress you guys have made over the last few years!

  24. 1

    Such an awesome milestone – BIG congrats! We actually just started migrating our blog over to Ghost last week and can't wait to launch soon. Incredible platform you and the team have built so far. Keep up the stellar work!

  25. 1

    I think I have 3-4 paid Ghost blogs right now. Super fan and junkie. Will your API ever include sales metrics? I was just looking it over and didn't see any endpoints for it? @johnonolan

    1. 1

      Unlikely - because Stripe is planning to roll this out themselves, and it makes much more sense to use that vs anything we make, in terms of sales metrics API :)

  26. 1

    I started using ghost last year for my blog. Absolutely love it. Keep it up!

  27. 1

    @johnonolan is it possible to offer coupon codes on subscriptions/memberships to users at the checkout screen? It was the one thing holding me back from using it for a project as coupons were a big part of my marketing plan. I recall you mentioned in 2020 that Stripe was beta testing.

    4.0 looks great!

  28. 1

    Nice! I have tried Ghost out a few times, but always seemed to run into some missing feature that I wanted. Will definately check out v4!

  29. 1

    I think, i will left WordPress soon for my next peoject.
    Ghost interested me.

  30. 1

    Congrats on the launch John and team! Looks great 👏

    1. 1

      Really appreciate it ✊

  31. 1

    Congrats John, looks great. Ghost has changed a lot since I joined a year ago! As a creator, it's great to see memberships/subscriptions... I'm hoping to use 'Portal' when I re-open my memberships soon.

    1. 2

      Cheers Jas! It has definitely evolved a lot since the early beta :)

  32. 1

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