When the blogosphere started to gain momentum in 2005, David Karp needed a blogging platform that allowed him to have an online identity to be proud of — so he created Tumblr.
Karp, founder and CEO of Tumblr, spoke at South by Southwest Interactive for a fireside chat entitled “Building Tools for Creativity.” The talk focused on the evolution of Tumblr and its role in allowing users to both create and curate content for the Web.
Karp began entertaining the idea of creating Tumblr when the blogosphere had started to take shape and become a part of people’s digital identities.
Karp said he tried other blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger, but was frustrated by the limitations imposed by them. Their formats were designed for writing and long-form editorials. Karp thought there might be other people like him who weren’t writers but wanted a space on the Internet that could represent them.
Tumblr consolidates photos, text, multimedia and other content easily into one place, helping the website become a tool for curation, which in itself can be a creative process. Most people aren’t necessarily painters, writers, musicians or photographers, Karp said. Those who are creative and talented are able to pass on the colors and words that people tell their stories with.
The reblogging tool, which clones a post and puts it on a user’s page, has led to a new behavior on Tumblr that changed the shape of the network, Karp said. There is now a core community of creators and a bigger web of curators slicing up content.
Some of the big social networks today like Twitter and Facebook are built around having common social interests. Tumblr is different in that a user may follow a few people they know in real life who are interesting or good curators. However, in general users follow people who create things they enjoy, Karp said. Tumblr is a place where users primarily create and make things, not share and like.
Karp said Tumblr allows for more creativity by giving users a way to personalize their blogs. Facebook, for example, gives up all creativity because “we are all a vanilla profile page in a big white directory,” he said. Tumblr gets back to the roots of the Web as an open, vast place where people can represent themselves by creating unique things.
Tumblr cherishes diversity and makes sure all communities on the network “have enough air and don’t get drowned out by one predominant force,” Karp said. He strives to make sure all mediums on Tumblr are appreciated.
“Images right now are first class citizens on the Web, and everything else is sadly a distant second,” Karp said. “That’s no good. I don’t see why this open platform should favor one medium and not the other.”
Despite this, Karp said Tumblr is now home to an eclectic set of talented creators aspiring to make it big in different careers like art, fashion and music. However, he said Tumblr users don’t necessarily have their sights set on fame and fortune.
“It’s a community of people with stars in their eyes, not dollar signs,” Karp said.