It's been a whole year since my last look at the state of blogging, so I figured it was time ti check to see where things are at.
Tldr; It’s still kinda fucked and nothing has really changed.
It’s weird to think blogging has still changed so little over the past year. The most exciting news is the company behind WordPress bought tumblr. And then quickly made sure to note they still won’t reverse their “no porn policy”. Besides that, WordPress is still the annoyingly the best for professionals who want customization. Medium still sucks. Micro.blog is…kind of a thing, I guess? Gatsby is pretty cool for a bloated static blog. And Ghost went headless. But the ecosystem of blogging? With the focus still on podcasts and social media, little innovation has happened.
We’ve had a full year of Gutenberg, WordPress’s new editor. And…it’s fine. I’ve seen more clients and other WordPress developers embrace it, but still often times fall back to the classic editor when things go sideways. Writing Gutenberg blocks also now requires you to be a front-end developer with React knowledge (unless you’re using ACF) on top of PHP, a vast departure from shortcodes.
The next year will be interesting to see how WordPress plans to expand and solidify Gutenberg, in an effort to disrupt itself. In order for WordPress to stay relevant though, the future of the platform will need to rely more on the ease of allowing other services and frameworks, ones that are not just PHP-based, to interact with the platform. We don’t need yet another reinvention of the editor. WordPress needs a front-end disruption to match its backend. The API is there, the community exists, we just need a quicker way to get started. Something like Underscores, but for React and Vue developers. An official Headless theme.
Instead of new features, most of 2019 saw Ghost’s internals rearranged and reworked into something new. On its surface, it’s still the same thing. Taking a deeper dive, they completely decoupled their CMS with the frontend, allowing content to be served via API. What you do with the content is up to you. It opens the possibility to create front-ends in any language, for any platform or host.
But it’s not all great. Ghost’s PR kinda really sucks. The community is sparse compared to WordPress, and it feels like everyone is stumbling around in the dark. Take Dev.to for example. There’s over 600 posts for Wordpress, and not even 20 for Ghost. It’s forum is mostly unanswered questions and feature requests. I desperately want it to succeed because it’s the exact type of platform that developers want and need.
WordPress’s parent company Automatic bought tumblr from the flailing Verizon Media company. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon which is great. But none of the changes (like the ban on porn) are being reversed either. Tumblr was great because it was weird. Now it’s a shell of its former self.
My hope is with new management, we’ll see an open source version of Tumblr sometime soon, with the ability to connect self-hosted tumblr blogs similar to WordPress and Jetpack. If federated blogged ever takes off, it will be lead by the Tumblr community and someone like Automatic…If they want to.
Medium still sucks. it’s only good for growing your content hosted elsewhere. The company’s focus is about making money, and not making a publishing platform people want to use. If you have absolutely no coding and/or just want to write, it’s probably a slight step up from the Blogger platform. It’s also still another source of getting new users to see your content, and sometime in the last year made it easier to add canonical URLs to posts.
If you already have a blog, it’s at least worth it to look into cross posting to Medium for the views.
Gatsby and Static Sites
With a static site generator, there always is the issue of collecting data from user interactions like forms, but thanks to third party apps and modules like Axios, connecting to an API or Headless CMS is possible.
Tell your story however you want to tell it.
At the end of the day, what really only matters is sharing your content how you want. There’s no right platform. No one is doing everything better than another, and it’s really hard to say where we’ll be even two years from now.
Where ever you publish on, just make sure you are writing in a format that can be moved across platforms (markdown foe example is still great for this), and stored somewhere safe. Whether that’s saving to Google Docs or that single text file you’ve been backing up for years. While video, podcasts and other media become more and more prominent, its a good reminder that blogs still aren’t going anywhere.