From Andrew Watts’ insightful piece, I couldn’t be more satisfied with this perception of Tumblr:
Tumblr is where you are your true self and surround yourself (through who you follow) with people who have similar interests. It’s often seen as a “judgment-free zone” where, due to the lack of identity on the site, you can really be who you want to be. The only Tumblr URLs I know of people in real life are my close friends and vice versa.
Plus, it’s simple in Tumblr to just change your URL if anyone finds you. Your name isn’t attached to that profile at all so without that URL it is pretty difficult to find you again, especially for the typical parent snooping around. This really helps make the site a place where people can post and support others posts.
This is exactly as we designed it, and exactly as we hoped it would be used. To understand why, it helps to remember the social-web context of 2007, when we made the core social features: MySpace was still very popular, Facebook was taking off, and social networks were it. And social networks want your real name, photo, and as much personal information as you’ll give them.
Social networks are designed around who you are and who you know. They’re for 24/7 contact with your family, classmates, friends, bosses, coworkers, ex-classmates, ex-bosses, ex-coworkers, ex-friends, ex-family, and exes, in a medium that doesn’t leave much room for humanity, filtering, subtlety, and nuance. Some people love it; I only see the irrelevance, drama, and baggage that comes with it, and being politically impossible to un-“friend” many of them.
As a teenager, I escaped from these real-life people, problems, and social statuses to the internet — the last thing I wanted was to be surrounded by them there, too.
Tumblr didn’t start as a social network — it was only a blogging platform for its first few months, and blogging was still the primary focus for its first few years. The blog world was always merit- and interest-based, with one-way following (and minimal focus on follower stats) and easy availability and widespread acceptance of pseudonyms and anonymity.
Tumblr was designed around what you say and what you’re interested in, and it lets you choose whether, how, and how much to reveal your identity on a per-blog level. That was a deliberate, designed decision because that’s the kind of product David and I wanted.
I’d hate to ever have a world in which traditional social networks are the only option, leaving no refuge for people who want or need to escape.