Warning: This post will sound far more self-centered than usual, and that's really unavoidable. Apologies in advance if you can't stand chest-thumping and overdramatization of the past. ;)

Tabulas has been sold. For seven years, this project has been mine, and mine alone. To me, there's a romanticism to it - I went at this whole thing alone - cut the code, did the designs, and built the community. In an age where you rarely see projects launched and succeed by individual developers ... this project harkened back to the more amateurish hobbyist days. Now everything is so ... professional. Ah, the evolution of any industry.

Tabulas defined me - it represents the arrogance and naivete which marked my early twenties. In a way, selling is a way of shedding that past and moving on.

Did Tabulas ever set out on its original goals? I'd say not. I made a lot of correct assumptions - the rise of personal publishing platforms, the importance of a hosted service, the importance of social networks that were open yet had privacy settings (something Facebook came and demolished me on), and the importance of APIs.

How did I fail? Clearly I had the vision, I had the drive, and I executed to the best of my individual abilities. Well, let's look at the turning point.

The history graph of traffic (fortunately I started using Analytics before the massive growth):

At its peak, Tabulas was serving around 1.8 million visits per month. So what happened? What was the turning point?

Personally, I was working my ass off at MT. I pretty much stopped development on Tabulas. And guess who launched the News Feed in September of 2006? That's right, Facebook.

Facebook clobbered Tabulas. It's as simple as that. Facebook killed Tabulas from the social networking angle, and then Twitter came alone and took all those casual bloggers and made them into microbloggers. The rise of WordPress.com as a superior product (perceived, anyways, I still think Tabulas is better than WordPress) also made it hard for Tabulas to complete as a pure blogging platform.

How could I have avoided it? I took the success of the site for granted - instead I should have used the success to find ways to continue to accelerate that growth. I'm still convinced that a social network site could succeed today - Facebook is no longer serving its users, but rather marketers. End-user oriented products always win (until they get acquired). If I had been less arrogant, I would have brought on more people to help grow out the site. Ah, the things I could have done.

. . .

For seven years, this has been a part of my life. It's weird letting it go. Tabulas is a 2nd grader. MindTouch isn't far behind - it's in kindergarten (celebrated my five-year at MT in March). To be honest, the sadness hasn't really hit yet. It probably will when I try to go in one day to fix and bug and won't be able to.

. . .

The thing I'm most scared about? Where the hell will I write? I realize now that the reason why I could write so freely on here is that I knew that I controlled the code, so the privacy settings were solid. In some ways, Tabulas was more about me being able to share my thoughts with my friends that I opened up to other people.

I'm not sure if I'll keep using Tabulas. I just exported all my entries - and they are over 20MB in pure text.

Using your own server... is a pain in the ass (and kills the sense of community). I've always loved being able to write friends-only posts for you guys. To share all the shit I go through and to get your thoughtful comments.

. . .

I still strongly believe there is a place for a social network to displace Facebook. It's gotten too big, too unwieldy. Nobody i know uses it to really express personal feelings and thoughts. It's too public. There always needs to be a place for strangers to reach out to others to express their darkest fears and their inspiring hopes under the veil of anonymity. It's therapeutic. And who are the players in this space? Vox? Livejournal? Uninspiring.

The closest player is Tumblr, and they're doing a pretty damn good job.

. . .

I absolutely love my job at MT, but I definitely wish I had built out a team with Tabulas and had been relatively successful. My dream is to work on a financially successful site for everybody - a site that everybody LOVES to use and uses on a daily basis to change their lives. Something beautiful and useful. And on a daily basis for me? Have a wonderfully smart, small team of people who love the same things and pursue that perfection - day in, and day out.

Maybe after MT, that's what I'll do. Oh, MT...

. . .

Tabulas, goodbye.

Posted by roy on May 6, 2010 at 08:27 PM in Personal, Tabulas | 11 Comments

Related Entries

Want to comment with Tabulas?. Please login.

Comment posted on May 19th, 2010 at 03:22 AM
SO if Tabulas has been sold, will we be finding out to whom? I mean, what happened to the forums? Is there any form of communication happening with users that I am missing out on?
Comment posted on May 11th, 2010 at 06:27 PM
This comes as a such a shock, just as I was redefining my way of utilizing my tabulas account. I know I hadn't written in it much lately, but it wasn't because FB/Twitter or any other social site... they can never hold a candle to what Tabulas is, or what Tabulas offers to us as writers.

So what happens now? What will become of our journals. I've just spent days modifying mine and do hope I won't have to scrap it all.

And what will we do without being able to read about Roy? Via your blog, I've watched you grow up so much over the years, and it is very sad to think I will lose touch with you, and with my other friends here.

While I know you've done what you felt was good for you regarding Tabulas, it really is a shame because no one else will take as much pains and care of this little gem as you have done. Thank you, Roy, for creating this, and for letting us share a little of your life.

Please let me know what is going to happen regarding Tabulas, so I can start searching for other options if necessary. Thanks.
Comment posted on May 10th, 2010 at 09:21 AM
Wow Roy, that is shocking. I've known tabulas since it's birth, but it's this journal here that I've grown attached to. Everything you've ever written I've loved to read and learn from. Please don't lose this journal!

Regardless, thank you for the years of tabulas and bravo on making the decision. Surely in the long run this is for the greater good.
Comment posted on May 8th, 2010 at 05:55 AM
what will happen to our journals, roy? :(
Comment posted on May 7th, 2010 at 09:58 PM
The million dollar question that will never be answered, how much?
Comment posted on May 7th, 2010 at 10:02 PM
It was a pittance not worth mentioning.
Comment posted on May 7th, 2010 at 10:06 PM
Everybody's definition of a pittance varies. If it wasn't worth mentioning why did you do it?
Comment posted on May 7th, 2010 at 10:08 PM
To move on. Tabulas has always been a bit of an albatross on my neck - freeing myself from it means I don't feel so guilty watching the product wither.
Comment posted on May 7th, 2010 at 07:13 AM
Who did you sell to? Please say it's an American.
Comment posted on May 7th, 2010 at 03:56 AM
How sad. Tabulas is still one of the best blog sites ever. You've made us a place that is relaxed and comfortable, I hope they won't make too different. :)

You did good. Thanks for everything.
Comment posted on May 6th, 2010 at 10:08 PM
This cannot be true.

Basically, though, how will this affect the users of Tabulas?