I feel bad for the person who developed the “most popular” browser extension Tumblr is “forced” to support.
I sat down with David Karp, founder of Tumblr to discuss how the company has dealt with massive growth. I asked about the missing-e and brands who feel they’ve been neglected. I’d love to hear what you think.
I’d hoped there would have been more, but… from the article:
In addition to dealing with disgruntled brands, Tumblr has felt some backlash from how they’ve dealt with a browser extension created by developer Jeremy Cutler, called “missing-e” which layers in functions not available within the normal Tumblr experience. Some of these features includes ways to customize the visual display of the “Dashboard” which is the interface where Tumblr users post and “reblog” content from the people they’re following. Tumblr has obviously been paying attention to the “missing-e” since they’ve integrated some of the features offered by the extension since its release, such as carrying over tags from posts that were reblogged.
When I asked Karp about this and told him that I find “missing-e” to be a useful product that enhances my experience with Tumblr, he told me that people using the extension assume that the issues that creep up are not from the extension but are caused by Tumblr, adding unnecessary burden to their support staff. According to Karp, the “missing-e” is one of many extensions, and not even the most popular one, that Tumblr is forced to support.
Although this argument against Missing e is entirely valid, in every communication I have had with Tumblr staff it does not seem to be the main issue. It is quite unfortunate that users who install Missing e sometimes run to Tumblr support when an issue comes up.
However, users who install browser extensions should be aware on some level that the tool they are using is not created by or supported by Tumblr. Dealing with incompatibilities that come up is the result of becoming an extremely popular platform. People are going to tweak it, that’s a given. One of the first steps for diagnosing an issue with a website interface is to disable extensions. There are plenty of browser add-ons and extensions that, not even explicitly targeting Tumblr, can screw up the interface. If the Tumblr staff’s alternative is shutting down personal blogs in order to quash development of any browser enhancements, there’s a gap in understanding about the company’s rights with respect to in-browser extension development.
I might also mention that when there are Tumblr issues (and there are many, temporal and otherwise), I also deal with an increased support load with users coming to me assuming the problem is Missing e’s. I’ve had to explain countless times on many occasions why some part of Tumblr is broken and how Missing e is not the cause of it.
The arguments that Tumblr has brought to me regarding Missing e could very well be simply means to an end in an effort to reduce their support load. It may just be that I have not been given this as the central reason.
It is also quite possible that Tumblr desires to dictate exactly what the user interface should look like and how it should function. The same arguments regarding “violations” of the API License Agreement can also be used to rid themselves of anything that takes any part of their complete and direct control of their UI/UX away.
The central problem I have with Tumblr’s approach to shutting down Missing e is that they claim violations of the Tumblr API License Agreement, but that agreement, itself, does not provide them with an effective recourse to force me to stop development. Since Missing e does not use the Tumblr API in any fashion, revoking my API key (a special code needed to access many API features) will have no effect. Instead, they refer to their Terms of Service (though they are not specific as to which sections) when claiming their right to shut down my personal account as a punitive action if I do not stop distributing the browser extension.
The Terms of Service and Content Policy documents could be interpreted in such a way as to give them the right to shut down not specifically my account, but that of anyone who is using Missing e. That they have narrowed their gaze to me seems to concur with my belief that this action is being used as an alternative to disciplinary actions allowed under the API License Agreement which I assume they recognize as ineffectual in this particular case.