“I wanted an identity to be proud of,” said High-School dropout, David Karp, founder of the internet sensation, Tumblr, when asked why he chose to pursue his idea in Tokyo at the young age of 17. “I was so silly – I tried to be very formal and put on a deep voice to clients over the phone so I didn’t have to meet them and give away how young I was.” Now 28-something and the successful frontman of one of the world’s most impressive internet startups, it’s hard to believe Karp had such a bashful start.
Founded in 2006 and officially launched in 2007, Tumblr was the first tumblelog (short-form blog) of its kind to really hit it off with the general public. Within two weeks, Tumblr had already gained a user-base of 75,000 users and on May 20, 2013 Tumblr was acquired by Yahoo! for $1.1 billion. The company is still headquartered in New York City and Karp remains the CEO.
Tumblr is a “microblogging tumblelog” (try to say that ten times fast!) – the third of its kind. A German teenager named Chris Neukirchen was actually the first to spark the idea of a micro-blogging platform that allowed readers to view a string of blog posts, not exceeding one paragraph; short and sweet. He named it Anarchaia. Later, two Chicago friends Marcel Molina and Sam Stephenson created their own spin-off, Projectionist, which had a much more visual identity. Full of little tidbits of quotes, video, gifs, paragraphs, imagery, look at Projectionist and you’ll see what looks like a cryptic, ancient version of Tumblr; maybe in some ways, it was! The issue? Neither Anarchaia or Projectionist allowed users to submit their own microcontent, which was a major loss in the internet world of hyperinteractivity and the culture of sharing vital to its operation.
Why is it called Tumblr?
Tumblr was designed to help users get their thoughts up and out there as quickly as possible, without all the fuss of a full-fledged blogging platform like WordPress. The name summarizes just how the site operates and where the idea came from: users literally tumble through jumbled bits of information that they enjoy. Here’s the story directly from the man himself:
“Back when we were starting Tumblr, there was a burgeoning movement in the blogosphere towards a format called “tumblelogs” [a variation on blogs that tends toward shorter stream-of-consciousness posts, often with mixed media]. These are where the initial inspiration for Tumblr came from. We wanted to be the first and best platform for “tumblelogs,” so the name seemed appropriate.”
Karp once said in an interview, “The product is amazing and beautifully designed, but what makes Tumblr Tumblr, I think, are the people who are signing into Tumblr every day and sharing themselves and the things they make and love!” You can customize Tumblr to fit you and express something you care about or find amusing. And Tumblr has quite a fan following; so much so, that Tumblr HQ pins all of its best fan letters and drawings to the company fridge. How fun is that?!
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From Gaga to Obama, and everyone in between, Tumblr is full of an incredibly thrifty mix of creatives, and on the outside, the company as a whole seems to reflect this same attitude: there’s no real monetizing business model, nobody’s constantly clamoring for a buyout. In an interview with The Guardian, Karp stated, “There are a lot of rich people in the world, but there are very few people who have the privilege of getting to invent things that billions of people use.” Minimalism is the key to Tumblr’s freedom, and the reason why the simplicity of its visual intuition and core friendly community spirit just can’t be overwhelmed. It may sound a little counterintuitive, but maybe the key to a future buyout is to pass on the early pennies and instead focus your efforts on building something worth talking about.
Here’s what Tumblr user Ruby had to say about the beloved Tumblr on Hello Giggles: “Tumblr makes it possible to follow people who like super-specific things, like pugs! And being an awesome person and Ryan Gosling! I mean, when Adam Yauch died, I went to the Beastie Boys’ Tumblr hoping to hear something from AdRock or Mike D. And I did. And I still felt sad of course, but it helped to hear from them. And when I’m having a tough day IRL, I can go to my own Tumblr page and find something that someone says somewhere in the Tumblr-verse that cheers me up!”
It doesn’t get much better than that! Do you use Tumblr? Do you find its minimalism to be positive or negative? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading “Why is Tumblr Called Tumblr?!” #WhyIsItCalledTumblr
Lauren Cosgrove is a freelance writer passionate about branding, global issues, and the world’s little mysteries. A Pacific Northwest native, Lauren can be found hiking the great outdoors, practicing her dance steps, or illustrating children’s books.