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Tumblr Founder David Karp: Android “Absolutely Sucks To Develop For”

L-R: Erick Schonfield (TechCrunch), David Karp (Tumblr), Kevin Systrom (

New York, NY

Eric Schonfield, Editor at TechCrunch did a quick panel session on Hockey Stick growth with Kevin Systrom Founder of and David Karp the founder of Tumblr.  Both companies have seen a lot of success in a short period of time. Tumblr, which has been around longer, is of course a lot bigger.  Systrom credits part of their growth to the 2010 holiday season when people received iPhone 4’s which have a better camera than previous models.

Both Karp and Systrom talked onstage about growth and scaling both technology and infrastructure. Karp admitted that he had a problem letting go in terms of handling different problems.  Karp and his engineering partner liked to engineer themselves out of most of the technology problems that came up in the first couple of years of Tumblr. Now though, Karp delegates to his operations team.

Tumblr has a native Android app that they have produced in house and has very similar features to their web-client and is easy to use.  Systrom told a reporter for Inc magazine that they are still just a staff of 4 but Android was in their crosshairs.

Just before exiting the stage and after Systrom answered the Android question Karp was quick to add that Android “Absolutely Sucks To Develop For”

Update: April 2012, Systrom sold his company for $1 billion to Facebook, very impressive, considering the heavy-lifting was done mostly by the original staff of 4, which “ballooned” all the way to 13 employees at the time of acquisition.

  • Georgiajonesx

    Oh no, the Fandroids will get you now…

  • Anonymous

    I wonder what he meant.

  • Gordon McAlpin

    I wish he’d have… y’know, explained WHY a little bit.

  • Anonymous

    ‘sucks’ means good, right? Isn’t that what the kids are saying?

  • nick

    Tumblr outsourced both its iPhone and Android apps. What authority does Karp have on the subject?

  • Anonymous

    Then why does the article state “Tumblr has a native Android app that they have produced in house and has very similar features to their web-client and is easy to use.” ?

  • Anonymous


    “Tumblr has a native Android app that they have produced in house and has very similar features to their web-client and is easy to use”

  • Ywvnylngleu

    I have to agree.  Android development is a total pain.

  • scottelkin

    I am guessing it is because of the different OS versions and capabilities of Android.

  • JayKay

    Google ppl know that already, thats why they bribed developers with tab 10.1 and upcomming release of chrome book, i guess it will work, fact is no matter how much it sucks or not, its a huge market for developers which they dont wanna miss.

  • nick

    That conflicts with Tumblr’s own staff blog ( “Introducing: Tumblr Android App 
    Built by the same brilliant team behind the Tumblr iPhone App, v1 of the official Tumblr Android App is ready to download!” The team it references is Mobelux.

  • Ricardo

    Don’t know much at all about Twitter, but judging from what I see down there in the “Reactions” section I think staying away from it has been the best choice.

  • Anonymous

    “Absolutely sucks” needs no qualifiers.

  • Anonymous

    From the mobelux site: “As users of the platform, Mobelux designed and developed Tumblrette, the unofficial Tumblr app as a personal project. It was acquired in 2009 by Tumblr, Inc. and re-released as Tumblr for iPhone.”

  • Anonymous

    Mobelux, the company that made the original Tumblr iOS app (which is now owned by Tumblr), is practically a part of Tumblr, Inc. They’re even based out of Tumblr’s Virginia office.

  • Steven Fisher

    “People disagree with me. Therefore, the entire medium must be useless and I will remain ignorant of it.”

  • Anonymous

    That’s true of the iPhone app…they don’t say the same about their Android app, however. Certainly conflicting information here.

  • Paul Eccles

    It’s all kinds of things. Yes that is a factor. Also, with iOS development, you do get a somewhat richer and more integrated development environment, combined with a platform that’s got some really mature and sophisticated API’s.

  • Rob Moir

    Not when you’re discussing sports in the bar, no. When you’re at work disucssing something relevant to your profession then actually it probably does. It’s more fun to hear the detailed gossip, if nothing else.

  • Chuck Dick

    He is wrong. The correct answer is “Android does not suck to develop for.” This is a fact. Look it up. 

  • nick

    bengold says, in another fork of this thread, that Tumblr bought Mobelux sometime after it developed the iOS app, which might be the piece missing.

  • nick

    That said, I can’t find anything that says Tumblr owns Mobelux.

  • Idon’t Know

    You need help in reading and comprehension.  They did not outsource their Android client and it does not say that.  Try again.

  • Kane Gruber

    How does one look that up, exactly?

  • Vera Comment

    uh. maybe that’s WHY they outsourced it?


    His authority on the subject is still credible as he had to deal with creating apps, outsourced or not. He’s certainly more involved than we are as commenters on a tech blog, so I trust his opinion more than I trust you, for instance.

    He was likely close to the creation of the apps, and in the loop about how things were going during the development, and that’s likely the time he formed his opinion.

  • Jessica Darko

    To be honest, any good software developer who looks at the android platform (especially having seen the iOS platform) knows immediately what he’s talking about.  From the choice of Java as a language to the poorly thought out and not very rich APIs….

    It is not exactly a secret, but it is just overshadowed by the constant “android is more open!” (its not) “apple is evil!” (they’re not) BS From freetards— the vast majority of which are actually not even programmers. 

  • Jessica Darko

    not if the freetards get you first!

  • Rob Berends

    He didn’t meant it littery… (!)

  • Macneil Shonle

    A friend of mine at a start up develops for the Android. His company needs to spend $4,000 for the phones alone, and $1,000/month for carrier plans. It’s a major pain to develop for, because the “write once, run anywhere” concept just does not hold. If you want to make a quality product, you’ll have to test and develop on many different phones.

  • Eric Swinson

    correction it doesn’t suck.. it blows

  • Anonymous

    Android ABSOLUTELY SUCKS to develop for.

    Words to live by.

  • Anonymous

    Android ABSOLUTELY SUCKS to develop for.

    Words to live by.

  • TJ Luoma

    No matter who did their iPhone app, they ought to be embarrassed by their efforts. It crashes regularly, has glaring bugs which have existed since 1.0, it hasn’t been updated since August 23, 2010, and there’s STILL no iPad version.

    The entire thing reeks of “Hey, we got paid to do this and the contract ended, so SEE YA!”

    (Next up: ask some developers who have tried to work with the Tumblr API what they think of it. Just be sure there are no easily impressionable children around, else they might learn some new words you rather they not say in polite company.)

  • Michael A. Robson


  • Jesse Stuart

    I love android. I love coding. But eclipse is ugly as hell compared to Xcode.

  • Michael Müller

    Full ACK.

    The android ports usually take about as long as all the portable+console ports (psp, ios, wii, ps3, xbox) combined.

  • Anonymous

    As an Android developer who came from iOS, I disagree. Java is far from an ideal language, but it beats Objective-C hands down. It’s 2011; there’s no reason we should be dealing with manual memory management, header files, or primitive types. The Cocoa API is better designed in some areas, but I’ve yet to see anything you can’t do in Android.

    “android is more open!” (its not)

    Yes, it is. You can argue how open it is in absolute terms, but it’s objectively more open than iOS both in policy and architecture. Google doesn’t prevent you from running apps from outside the store, or require buying a certificate to run your own code on your own device, and Android allows customizing or replacing components like the home screen and dialer that iOS doesn’t.

  • Rima Gerhard

    Wow has he seen Flash Builder 4.5? Makes Android app development a breeze.

  • DarkReaper

    That’s why at the Google I/O keynote, they aimed to unify everything with the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich.

  • Dirk

    Then don’t use Eclipse. Use any other Java IDE you like. Or a text editor. Or use XCode.

  • Anon

    There’s “no reason we should be dealing with … primitive types” in 2011?  Yikes.  No wonder most Java apps are so slow.

  • android tablets

    No way android never sucks it just the rivalry for iOS fan…

  • Hanii Puppy

    That’s exactly the same point in his post that I started to think “She doesn’t really know what she’s talking about, does she?”

    It doesn’t matter what programming language you use, what platform you write for, which APIs and Libraries you use, you are always going to have to deal with with primitive types. Working with primitive types forms a pretty damn large chunk of the foundation of what you should know as a programmer. I’d be interesting in finding out how you plan to work with data, use loops, test for things (courtesy of Booleans), etc. without using any primitive types.

    Saying you shouldn’t have to work with primitive types in programming is like a baseballer saying that they shouldn’t have to swing the bat to hit the ball, or an art critic saying they don’t necessarily need to be able to see to critique a painting.

  • Hanii Puppy


  • fatderp

    android still sucks to develop for. its API is not that well documented and methods they have samples for tend to have overly complicated “better methods”, but no samples. somehow google think that fragments are better in the easiest of use cases. old methods are fine for simple use cases.

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