(Founder Stories) Why David Karp Started Tumblr: Blogs Don't Work For Most People

In the never-ending debate between blogging and micro-blogging, Tumblr usually gets lumped in with Twitter and Facebook on the micro-blogging side. But Tumblr is actually somewhere in between the status bursts of Twitter and Facebook and the long-form publishing of WordPress-style blogs. If anything, it is more accurately described as micro-blogging than Twitter or Facebook because you actually produce short blog posts filled with images, links, and videos. But the key to Tumblr’s incredible growth—it’s adding a quarter billion pageviews a week—is how easy it makes it to post something and reblog what your friends are posting.

Tumblr CEO David Karp recently sat down with Chris Dixon for a Founder Stories interview in which explains how he started Tumblr four years ago as a reaction to other blogging tools out there. “All blogs took the same form,” he notes. “I wanted something much more free-form, much less verbose.” People wanted to express themselves and blog, but he felt that the standard blogging platforms available at the time—Wordpress, Blogger, TypePad—were too complicated. “These tools I just don’t think worked for most people. It’s a commitment, you need to sit down for an hour and hammer out a post.”

He is quick to add that “WordPress is the best tool in the world for that” kind of publishing. But for someone like him who “doesn’t enjoy writing,” it was the wrong tool. So he created Tumblr instead, which is designed to help people get their thoughts and images up as quickly as possible, and to lower the barrier to publishing even more.

But don’t Twitter and Facebook lower those barriers even further? They do, but they lack a strong expressive identity, argues Karp. “They are not tools built for creative expression,” he says, adding: “Nobody is proud of their identity on Facebook.” Okay, he’s got a point there. Tumblr, in contrast, is built to be a place you can be proud to call your online home. It’s very design-oriented and you can customize your Tumblr to reflect your personality, but not in a cheesy MySpace way. For Twitter and Facebook, “expression isn’t necessarily something they care about.”

Update: Watch Part II , III, and IV of this interview.