Emerging Technology

BEST OF THE WEB: Tumblr’s Gen-Y entrepreneur and the blogging revolution

Patrick Stafford /

It’s easy to forget just how fast Tumblr has grown. But over the past few years its 25-year-old founder, David Karp, has transformed the site from a humble blogging platform into a network worth nearly $US1 billion.

Just as Facebook and Twitter experienced rapid success, Tumblr has now reached more than 14 billion monthly page views, with its 36 million users creating over 42 million posts every day.

And as this Wired profile on Karp shows, the network has succeeded because it fulfils something Facebook and Twitter cannot. It allows its users to express themselves creatively, rather than just providing private information or photos. Tumblrs are now made to share creative paintings, photographs and writing, on subjects ranging from the humorous, to the serious, to the downright weird.

And as the piece shows, its success is intrinsically linked to that freedom.

“Tumblr is extremely easy to use as a free-form blogging platform, but has also developed into its own social network. Users follow other tumblelogs, whose content appears in their dashboards, not unlike Facebook’s newsfeed; hitting the “reblog” button publishes that post to their own blogs, a feature Tumblr put out two years before Twitter introduced its own retweet button.”

Behind all this is a 25-year-old entrepreneur named David Karp, who created the platform in 2007 as a 19-year old. A child prodigy, he learned to code at 11, but states he’s “always self-conscious about my age”.

But his dedication to the platform is intense. “We’re striving towards perfection,” he says. “We’re trying to build the iPod.”

Investors have noticed. Tumblr won investment rounds worth $US9.5 million back in 2010, and soon after won $30 million from Sequoia Capital. Last year, it raised $US85 million, valuing the company at a massive $US800 million. The piece suggests there were offers that created higher valuations.

Between taking advice from Mark Zuckerberg and investor Richard Branson – who offered Karp the chance to become an astronaut – he’s focused on making the network as big as it can be. But he’s also having to deal with the site making him a celebrity, when he hasn’t been a particularly social person.

But he has big ambitions. “We’re going to turn it into a product-orientated company more akin to an Apple or a Google”.

How Zuckerberg is keeping Facebook in his control

Facebook filed for its IPO last week and the industry has spent days pouring over the details, discovering little tidbits of information about who owns what and why. But there’s a much more interesting story about who actually has control of the company.

Chief executive and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has kept Facebook under his control over the past eight years, and that’s not going to change. As the filing shows, Zuckerberg holds a massive 60% of the voting power.

And as this New York Times piece explains, that’s far more than Bill Gates had when Microsoft went public, and also much, much more than the Google co-founders had.

The message is simple – Facebook remains Zuckerberg’s vision. In the filing itself, he explicitly explained Facebook will continue to do what it has always done, even at the expense of short-term financial gain.

“Mark has retained nearly absolute control over his board of directors,” former Harvard roommate and founder of the app “Causes”, Joe Green, says. “Facebook would have been sold a zillion times over if not for Mark. Especially as you hire older people with direct financial needs, you get a lot of pressure to get liquidity. But you need Zen-like self-confidence to turn down a billion-dollar acquisition offer.”

Whether or not Zuckerberg’s control will harm the company remains to be seen, but it’s an interesting management situation nonetheless.

The historian embracing Wikipedia

Wikipedia has received a fair bit of criticism for its inaccuracies and sometimes questionable editing practices. But an historian in the United States has now advocated that everyone embrace the user-edited encyclopedia as the next big thing in academia.

“Wikipedia provides an online home for people interested in histories long marginalised by the traditional academy,” American Historical Association president William Cronon said in the association’s publication, according to The Atlantic.

“The old boundary between antiquarianism and professional history collapses in an online universe where people who love a particular subject can compile and share endless historical resources for its study in ways never possible before.”

Wikipedia has been used for a long time, but if this letter is anything to go buy, we may start seeing it become more accepted in professional circles.

Apple TV and the problem of exclusive content

It’s becoming clearer and clearer now that Apple is working on a new television set, and that this will come with some form of paid content.

But as analysts have pointed out in the United States, this is a problem, considering the structure of the paid television industry is much different than the music industry was when the iPod first launched.

As a result, Apple is going to need to make some deals with exclusive content. That’s a hard task, but as this Fortune article points out, it could work. It references a report from Peter Misek at Jefferies International which spells out five different scenarios.

One of these includes partnering with carriers that offer video including AT&T and Verizon, while another would see Apple work with carriers for non-exclusive deals with content owners.

This is an interesting look at what is likely to be Apple’s biggest challenge after Steve Jobs’ passing.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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