In August of this year, Tumblr was bought at 0.27% of its 2017 value: only $3 million compared to once estimated $1.1 billion.
Founded in 2007 by David Karp, Tumblr is a platform where millions of users once found their niche communities. Hosting everything from entertainment blogs to fanfiction platforms to art communities, Tumblr was the hipster version of Facebook at one point. Under every tag lay a maelstrom of memes, clusters of creativity.
After being acquired by Verizon in 2017, Yahoo banned adult content on Tumblr in December 2018. A month prior, Tumblr was removed from the Apple App Store due to unchecked hosting of such content, which violated iOS rules. The ban led to a large drop in traffic to Tumblr; in February of 2019, only 369.6 million users were on Tumblr, compared to 568 million in September of 2018. Unfortunately, the ban also led to worse user experiences as Tumblr’s new algorithms deleted innocuous content that catered to the preferences of many.
Tumblr’s new owner, Automattic Inc., also operates WordPress. Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg says he seeks to continue the spirit of free creativity in Tumblr, calling it a “very tribal product” where one can connect “with all facets of [one’s] identity.” As with WordPress, Mullenweg aims to reinforce the simple power of blogging. In praising Tumblr’s ability to connect artists worldwide, Mullenweg appears to be trying to return Tumblr to its former status as the social medium for art.
As Tumblr drops in popularity, platforms like Twitter and Tiktok have exploded in web traffic. Yet these two platforms differ in the crux of their operations: Twitter users are limited to 280 characters, Tiktok stars to 60 seconds. In such a fast-paced environment, what gets attention, likes, and reposts are not long articles or intricate thoughts but rather the outrageous and the highly opinionated. In this vein, many users are still loyal to Tumblr because of its nurturing of thoughtful passion: the platform even has a “Keep Reading” button for long text posts, a feature most other social media platforms wouldn’t need. In a world rife with caustic Reddit threads and misinformation on Facebook, Tumblr, for many, has remained a haven of sincerity.
Tumblr fans around the world hope Automattic can bring back that feeling of community.