Late last week, David Karp announced a number of changes to Tumblr triumphantly billed as “An upgrade, years in the making…” In order to make room for “BIG new” features, such as customizable drag-and-drop photoset creation, faster uploads, and inline reblogging, he said, “we’ve reduced creation on Tumblr to its essence, while carrying over every single feature.”
But a number of Tumblr users–more than 18,000 of them, in fact–don’t see the change as an improvement. They’ve signed a petition on Change.org–a platform more typically used to advocate for social justice–to “Undo the 1/24/2013 update that screwed up the posting procedure.”
Ah, the Internet, always taking everything in stride!
According to the petition:
“With this update, the Tumblr staff have succeeded in alienating their entire userbase. The Tumblr staff have added features that make it more like a fully-equipped Twitter ripoff than the actual Tumblr site now. People once used Tumblr to AVOID having to deal with the interface of Twitter or Facebook, but that is a thing of the past now, apparently.”
Both in the comments of the petition and on Tumblr, users have also mentioned the negative effect the upgrades have had on popular add-ons like Missing e, Tumblr Savior and Xkit. (We’ve reported Tumblr’s contentious relationship with Missing e developer Jeremy Cutler in the past.) Under “reasons for signing” the petition, a user named Leonor Verissimo wrote:
“This update isn’t handy at all. Not only does it make useful plugins such as Tumblr Saviour and Missing E glitch, it has removed and/or complicated functions that were previously fine. If this is an attempt to “compete” against those plugins, maybe the staff could incorporate similar functions into the website that can be toggled by the user instead of trying to make them completely unusable.”
The petition mentions “RP” (roleplaying) and story blogs in particular, perhaps because consistent reblogging and replies in fandom Tumblrs rely on Missing e.
In response to questions from Betabeat about whether Tumblr was taking a swipe at browser extensions with its latest upgrade, especially considering the burden on support staff, spokesperson Katherine Barna said, “Absolutely not, the purpose was to create a more streamlined dashboard experience, where you’re creating posts the same way you’re viewing them,” adding, “We’ve already fixed most of the bugs and omissions users reported and are continuing to look into any other issues that arise.” That might be why signatures on the petition have hovered just above 18,000 since yesterday.
Tumblr has faced this kind of backlash against new features and their effect on add-ons like Missing e in years past. Right now, the company, which had revenues of $13 million last year from 80 million Tumblr blogs, is likely more focused on advertising and its goal of being profitable in 2013.
As for Mr. Cutler, he recently moved from Toronto to New York City to take a job as a software engineer at Etsy. In an email to Betabeat, he said he hadn’t yet had a chance to go through the update.
“It is no secret that Tumblr has has a rocky relationship with API developers and extension developers, and I certainly have questioned some of the decisions they have made,” he said. However, he added, “I don’t want to assume that anything Tumblr chooses to do is intended to antagonize any of its users, but I hope that if they are taking cues from Missing e, it is to add functionality that a large segment of their user base seems to desire. As Tumblr hires more and more talented developers, they seem to be moving away (albeit slowly) from the centralized decision-making that has held the site back for too long. If this results in more iteration in their updates and more open communication with their users, then Tumblr will just get better. As much as I enjoy working on Missing e, I dream of a day where it won’t be necessary.”