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In the early 2000s, restless writers could exhale on their LiveJournal. Then Tumblr burst onto the scene as an efficient form of pinned content, and as a reaction to the age of social media. Pillowfort, a new platform molded after its forebearers, wants to make blogging personal yet community-driven again.
Pillowfort is commonly described as a hybrid between LiveJournal and Tumblr by those on Twitter, and it’s “made by people who grew up on” those blogging sites. The site, which was created in 2015 by Julia Baritz and is in a closed beta with 10,000 users, is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to make its idea a more robust, fully featured reality.
“We’re creating Pillowfort.io because we are avid bloggers ourselves, and have long dreamed of a platform that would bring together all the best features of the various platforms we’ve used over the years, allowing each user to customize their own experience,” founder Julia Baritz writes in the Kickstarter. Baritz is the site’s primary workhorse, but a rotating group of volunteers also helps her out.
The site borrows Tumblr’s basic structure and the ability to reblog posts, while from LiveJournal it takes the ideas of threaded comments, communities, and privacy settings for posts.
“I think the main drawback of social media nowadays, at least on Twitter and Tumblr, is that the lack of privacy and control over user content leaves people very open to attack and harassment,” Baritz told the Daily Dot via email. “Anything you post can be seen and shared to strangers, which makes people very afraid of sharing their honest feelings lest they get publicly mocked.” Pillowfort aims to solve these issues by letting users decide who can see their posts—the public, just followers, or only trusted mutual contacts. If you delete a post, it removes all reblogs as well, helping eliminated the unwanted sharing of something you no longer want out in the world (unless it’s been screengrabbed). Users also have the ability to delete comments on their posts.
With an infusion of $39,900 from a successful Kickstarter run, Pillowfort aims to bring on two part-time web developers, fix bugs, improve security, and set a moderation system in place. In the longer term, the Pillowfort team hopes to build a sustainable revenue stream from a mix of paid premium account features and opt-in advertising services.
LRT Pillowfort is a lovely website, I highly recommend everyone back it if they can!! Really reminds me of a marriage between 2013-era Tumblr and old school LJ as quite a few have noted.— Clean Energy Car Creator, Elephant Tusk (@thedreamcreek) July 29, 2018
However, realists have found a number of flaws with Pillowfort. In one Twitter thread, @sassbandit outlines a number of problems with the project, including the fact that it’s trying to raise so little.
I have so many opinions about the Pillowfort kickstarter, starting with "you have NO IDEA what it takes to create and run a website like this, do you?"— sass as a service (@sassbandit) July 25, 2018
To develop a site of Tumblr or LiveJournal proportions, it’s true: Pillowfort is going to need a lot more than two part-time developers working 10 hours a week and funding totaling less than $40,000. Baritz has a reasonable explanation for that: “We’ve seen many wonder why we’ve asked for such a small amount and it’s because we have to keep our expectations reasonable with regards to Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing policy,” Baritz explained in a Tumblr post. “We could have asked for $100,000 or even more, sure, but then we’d run the risk of only earning say $50,000, failing to reach our goal, and not being able to keep any of what we’d raised.”
And it’s true, Baritz is not an experienced Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur, but rather a blogging fan who learned to code at a boot camp and wants to turn the project into something real. She’s certainly not the first to do so: Plenty of sites big and small began with entrepreneurs with little to no real-world experience.
In terms of a Kickstarter, it is a bit of a risky bet, but with every $5 donation, you’re guaranteed a registration link for the site which will grant access to the beta. (If you’re curious to try it out, you can even log-in as a demo user here.) In that regard, you’re sure to get something for your money—compared to a supporting a hardware Kickstarter that may or may not survive the production and manufacturing process. As Baritz notes, your donation also doesn’t go through unless the project meets or exceeds its full Kickstarter goal.
And it seems that since @sassbandit posted questions about the project on Twitter, Pillowfort has addressed many of them on its Kickstarter and in blog posts. The business is incorporated as an LLC, it has a rudimentary business plan, and it has monetization strategies—all good steps toward becoming a legitimate platform.
At the time of writing, the project has raised more than a third of its $39,900 goal and has 927 backers with 23 days left of the campaign. If you too have become disenchanted with today’s blogging options, you can give the demo a whirl and decide for yourself if it’s a project worth contributing to.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.