David Karp: Tumbling into Blogging

Posted on November 5, 2011


What do you get when you cross the stream of mini-updates that is Twitter with the long-form confessionals of WordPress and stir in just a splash of Facebook’s status updates? Assuming you have coated the finished product with a lacquer of attractively simple efficiency, you would probably get something remarkably like the social networking and blogging site Tumblr. Founded in 2007 by then-nineteen-year-old David Karp, Tumblr was designed as a way for people to connect and share short-form blogs.

What began as a two-man operation has grown to a fifty-two person team of programmers, designers, marketers, and support staff serving over thirty-two million blogs — which are themselves comprised of almost twelve billion posts. The Tumblr platform allows users to follow any other blog, whose posts then show up chronologically in a user’s dashboard. If a user likes something, he or she can either “like” it or reblog it so the post will appear on his or her blog. Posts can also be replied to. Or any combination of the three. Karp’s vision for Tumblr has always been that of flexibility, not only in the types of content that may be created but what kind of interaction is available between people.

A fervent devotee of computer programming from the age of eleven, David Karp, in concert with the platform’s simplicity, wanted to allow users to customize their blog — and their online identities — in ways places like WordPress or Facebook would not allow. Each blog begins with a standard template. The user can then either choose from a different template or create one with custom HTML. In sign-up, there are no fields asking for personal information — aside from an email address — so each user is free to decide how much or how little to divulge.

Even though the numbers of Tumblr users continues to swell, David Karp takes care to keep the core of the program the same when it was founded. For instance, in order to preserve its simplicity, the team takes away one old feature for every new one that is added. While that might sound counterproductive, especially with a large user base that gets used to a removed feature, it ensures that Tumblr won’t fall into what Karp sees as the trap that other social networking services fall victim to: trying to do everything so they do no one thing really well. Tumblr does microblogging really well, simply.

David's Log

Posted in: Entrepreneurs