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Some Early Thoughts on the Differences between Tumblr and Twitter

I recently started using Tumblr about a week and a half ago on the recommendation of my friend, Hiten Shah. I have to admit, that I was really skeptical about whether I would need / enjoy / find use for another microblogging or content sharing service. I was also perplexed how Union Square Ventures could invest in both Tumblr and Twitter without any conflict of interest. Having used both products now, I can say that they are in fact pretty different. In a lot of ways, I think about Twitter as social networking status updates + a filtered RSS reader whereas Tumblr is really more like lightweight blogging / microblogging focused on sharing media items.

This is not a comprehensive analysis, just my early thoughts.

Twitter is for sharing links, Tumblr is for sharing media – With all of the caveats that apply about anecdotal information, my experience has been that my universe of people on Twitter use the service to do a few discrete things – they share links to interesting content (basically a filtered feed reader on steroids), they share interesting quotes / comments that they encounter in their everyday lives, and they use it as a way to share social kudos with others via re-tweeting and public @messages. My usage of Tumblr is totally different. Whereas the call-to-action when you log into Twitter is to tell the world what you’re doing or what’s going on, the CTA on Tumblr is really different – check out the UI you encounter when you log in:

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The prompt for Tumblr is to share something, but they present you with a myriad of different kinds of content types that you can choose – pictures, text, quotes, audio, video, etc. The well-done iPhone application also gives you the same experience. The only conclusion I can draw from this, as a user, is that Tumblr is about sharing media, not just links. And that’s what I’m using it to do.

Twitter is about trying to spark a reaction or conversation, Tumblr feels more about self expression – A lot of what I see on Twitter is people sharing things (links, comments, quotes, pictures, etc) that they want to see distributed more broadly. Whether it’s a blog post, a news article, self-promotional / brand building plugs, startup advice, historical quotes, or whatever, the goal is the same – to launch it into the Twittersphere and have others spread the word via RTs and @ messages.

The UI of Tumblr really seems to de-emphasize this idea of re-sharing content. Sure, they have a “reblog” function that allows you to post something that you find to your own tumblog. But it’s not a front-and-center feature nor does it appear to be a big part of what I see people doing on Tumblr. The UI of Tumblr also is heavily oriented toward customizing your theme, which is not something Twitter pushes nearly as heavily.

Do you use both services? What do you think?

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