Early on, in the mid to late 2000s, I was a self-hosted open source WordPress user and making sites using it for customers. I have an account on tumblr, post a few things, and thought it was cute but not powerful. A self-hosted WordPress however is a wrench with Swiss Army Knife (or Leatherman for Mericans out there) for handles. You can literally build any sites with WordPress, from generic 5 page + contact form site, to full on e-commerce site, to a groupon clone.
How cool is that? A wrench turn sideways to be use as a hammer. The problem arises when you need to hammer in a few nails everyday for the foreseeable future. The custom WordPress site that were hack together with spit and duck-tape becomes a pain to use and maintain. Security updates literally mean sleepless weekend powered by Doritos and Coke.
By the time I decided to get my own domain and have my own blog, the open source WordPress is no longer an option, even though technically I could just use WordPress without plugins and custom codes, but I know the programmer in me would succumb to the temptation.
First thing I attempted was of course build my own blogging platform. The php code just get a
read-only MySQL access, so it’s 100% secure. Disqus for commenting system. Write posts directly through
phpmyadmin. And phpmyadmin turned out to be a horrible way to do a blogpost, and I need a wonky way to post some pictures where I need to upload them with ftp first then add them later, and there were no way to preview the post. Needless to say, it was a failure.
So I went shopping for options. I’ve looked at a hosted Joomla, Drupal, MovableType, TypePad, Expression Engine and a few more that I can’t seem to recall.1 None of them seemed to be the exact fit for my need, and yet most of them were overkill for a blogging platform. So I drill my options down to two. WordPress.com and tumblr.
As Arment pointed out in his recent post about tumblr’s acquisition;
David and I were like-minded in prioritizing user-, geek-, and designer-friendly needs. Our priorities, free custom-domain hosting, and full HTML-template editing made Tumblr a big hit among creative people from the beginning.
That. The free custom domain option was the only reason I try tumblr first and never look back. Until today, I believe tumblr stroke the perfect balance of simplicity and power, vis-à-vis the iPhone. I don’t think things would have gone any differently had WordPress.com have a free custom domain option. I’d just arrive here a few months later than I did.