Bought on a whim, for a song.
August 12, 2019 7:38 PM   Subscribe

The owners of Wordpress are purchasing Tumblr for less than $3 million. (Yahoo originally bought it for $1.1b.) Verizon is happy to offload it to the first bidder "have found the perfect partner in Automattic." WSJ notes that Automattic will keep 200 staffers; Ars Technica mentions that the porn ban will remain. (Previously. Previouslier. Previousliest.)

What's the proper tag for "Web 2.0 site once worth a jillion dollars is sold off for less than the price of a nice house?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom (82 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
Acquihired
posted by weewooweewoo at 7:47 PM on August 12 [8 favorites]


I would like to know where Dan Primack is getting that info seeing as he seems to be the only source for the $3 million number.
posted by solarion at 7:47 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


The fact that Marco Arment still codes for a living still makes me wonder how much he actually got in the Yahoo acquisition as the original CTO. He either really likes hawking podcast t-shirts as a hobby or he got massively screwed.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:53 PM on August 12 [6 favorites]


It makes me so happy that two major corporations now have profoundly failed to monetize Tumblr, all the posts I've seen about it have been celebratory and hilarious.
posted by drinkyclown at 8:09 PM on August 12 [24 favorites]


AFAICT Marco personally makes $1600 per ATP ad read so he’s still doing OK.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:16 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


If the porn ban remains, it will fail.

Also, Yahoo ruins everything. They're King Midas in reverse.
posted by dobbs at 8:16 PM on August 12 [35 favorites]


Uh I dunno about your feed, but for mine the porn ban has been... not that effective?
posted by drinkyclown at 8:24 PM on August 12 [13 favorites]


Given a long enough time horizon all internet companies valuate down to zero.
posted by gwint at 8:34 PM on August 12 [9 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the users who want to bring the porn back to tumblr could've whipped up $3M, kickstarter-style. Of course that doesn't account for operating costs, but still: 3 million is practically just giving up on your lemon vehicle, putting the pink slip on the front seat, and throwing the keys into the street, daring anyone to drive the car away.
posted by tclark at 8:36 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]


What's the proper tag for "Web 2.0 site once worth a jillion dollars is sold off for less than the price of a nice house?"

Yahooed.

I was on Tumblr long enough that I feel surprisingly happy that David Karp at least got paid. (This is terrible, I know, one should never wish rich strangers well. But. He seemed okay!)
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:37 PM on August 12 [9 favorites]


Uh I dunno about your feed, but for mine the porn ban has been... not that effective?

The porn ban removed the extensive legitimate porn community on Tumblr while doing nothing against the porn bots.
posted by zekesonxx at 8:38 PM on August 12 [54 favorites]


Metafilter: legitimate porn community
posted by Jacen at 8:50 PM on August 12 [10 favorites]


"Given a long enough time horizon all internet companies valuate down to zero."-- gwint

Wherein gwint espouses Marx's "Tendency of the rate of profit to fall".

That said, I think it's good. I guess? I mean Wordpress seems, AFAICT to be an OK steward who so far still seems to be rooted in the old school commons approach (which is much better than Yahoo (or especially Verizon)).

Yeah, the bots certainly are around, per my roomie who's a huge Tumblrista. I have one that I basically gave up on years ago, so I can't say anything more except I hear X-Kit is an essential resource for users of Tumblr.

That said I sure hope WP does a better job than either of the two behemoths.
I'm not sure what WP's general revenue model is (I mean I know they charge for WP hosting etc...) but I hope they're not publicly listed. If so, then I don't see much chance for Tumblr in their hands either.

If WP is private I can picture a better future. Like whatever happened to just having a goddamned competently run, moderately profitable business. Oh, maybe Tumblr isn't operating at a profit at all? Still at least without this ridiculous need to generate insane profits, maybe someone can finally put some care in that's not boneheaded and can tend to give it the nurturing it needs.
posted by symbioid at 8:54 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


Tumblr's porn ban is a colossal fuckup. All they did was piss off the legitimate community while doing nothing to combat effectively the Nazis, pedophiles, or porn bots. Maybe someone at WP will realize that and fix this mess.
posted by Ber at 9:00 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


Man. Yahoo. Woof.

It says something that as far as I can tell, Yahoo’s two remaining businesses are email and fantasy football...and their default draft rankings are all QB’s.

Recommending Jared Goff as the #3 overall pick is kinda a microcosm of the decision making process that loses a billion dollars on Tumblr.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:04 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


The porn ban removed the extensive legitimate porn community on Tumblr while doing nothing against the porn bots.

Oh that is true, you're right. It did do a lot of harm to communities like that, sorry to be so flippant. I meant, as far as removing porn in general.
posted by drinkyclown at 9:06 PM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Isn't it more of an "anything that could be construed as sexually suggestive" ban? I mean it probably included a lot of porn too, but I seem to remember hearing that anything in which so much as a nipple was showing got canned. Which... doesn't seem worth losing a billion dollars over, but hey, maybe that's why I'm not a billionaire.
posted by sfenders at 9:14 PM on August 12 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the users who want to bring the porn back to tumblr could've whipped up $3M, kickstarter-style.

Imagine I posted the ball pit.
posted by kafziel at 9:17 PM on August 12 [23 favorites]


Pornbots still proliferate, but the sort of sexually expressive, porn-adjacent LGBTQ community that existed was effectively wiped out.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:17 PM on August 12 [13 favorites]


tag: bargainbasement
tag: jumblesale
posted by jim in austin at 9:24 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I mean it probably included a lot of porn too, but I seem to remember hearing that anything in which so much as a nipple was showing got canned.

It was specifically "female-presenting nipples," which is an A+ example of how to use inclusive-sounding language in the process of excluding.
posted by skymt at 9:25 PM on August 12 [37 favorites]


Yahoo business plan: “Hey guys, let’s throw away a billion dollars because we’re scared of boobs”.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:29 PM on August 12 [16 favorites]


Huh. I'm still not sure how I feel about this. The sense I've got from my fandom communities for awhile is that Tumblr is just not very good at being a fandom space and creating community, a la LiveJournal was. I love the form factor and how easy it is to share everyone's creations, but it's a pretty broken platform in a lot of ways. (XKit is, indeed, absolutely necessary.) The keeping-the-porn-ban is...concerning, to say the least, and also quite dumb.

I'm also pretty concerned that they're keeping staff on. My (not-very-well-sourced) tea is that the culture at Tumblr-the-workplace is awful, the absolute worst of techbros, and everyone with any kind of skill gets out asap. This is reflected in their shitty product.

That said, I spend hours every day on said shitty product, so there's something there, if anyone wants to get it even halfway working.
posted by kalimac at 9:32 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


Yahoo did not enact the porn ban - that was Verizon.
posted by soelo at 9:35 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Tumblr is abysmal for fandom, but it's where I still am, and I have watched droves of my old friends bounce off of twitter and pillowfort and dreamwidth as they got their stuff deleted and denied by tumblr. I've tried to find new homes and new communities - I've tried to make them, and nothing is sticking. I told myself I'd just wiggle around on tumblr until folks ended up aggregating somewhere else organically, as long as it wasn't twitter. But nothing's popped up yet as the place. I'm not like, mad about wordpress people owning tumblr, honestly, but if I've learned anything from Ao3 it's that the only fan spaces that work are ones run by and owned by fandom. So it's just gonna be me floating around tumblr for another year as the wordpress people continue to fuck it up, I guess.
posted by Mizu at 9:50 PM on August 12 [10 favorites]


the price tag being that low suggests the value was actually in the red.. perhaps holding a lot of debt or other liabilities... which suggests the new owners will try to monetize it for scraps any way they can, maybe by data mining its users' info and selling it off.
posted by wibari at 10:27 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


I think calling it a porn ban is something of a misnomer. Just feeling beautiful naked and sharing yourself, especially if you are trans or disabled or black or fat, is a revolutionary political act, not a pornographic one, but one that Tumblr won't permit any longer.

Tumblr isn't dead, millions of people don't instantly go away. But it lost a lot of it's soul when it ostensibly banned adult content and nudity, and then did nothing to stop porn bots and white supremacy.
posted by gryftir at 10:37 PM on August 12 [21 favorites]


As a DeviantART lover who has dedicated countless hours to building my audience there, I was getting kind of nervous a few years ago when everyone seemed to be leaving for Tumblr. I always thought that Tumblr was terrible for artists, because ( and I could be wrong here,) things get noticed more by subject matter then by the artist who produced them -- i.e., yes, your one drawing of a popular character might get a trillion views, but all of those viewers won't really have the chance to "check out your gallery" or follow you as an artist, because that's just not how it works on Tumblr.

Plus, your work is competing visually with animated gifs, photos, and reposted screenshots from Hollywood movies. Flashiness and movement get rewarded, while everything else kind of fades into the background...

... like I said, that was just my impression from my very limited use of it.

In short, I am not that sad to see Tumblr fumble and see artists return to platforms like DeviantART.

^__^
posted by Chronorin at 11:39 PM on August 12 [7 favorites]


Oh no - I put much of my digital output on tumblr the last 10 years, including my main blog and 25+ other short-term gigs.
Every time I read about them, I worry about all that effort, which will be washed in the rain one day, like tears.
posted by growabrain at 12:41 AM on August 13


Automattic is still private and the founder is the CEO. He says he’s keeping it running and changing the back end to be more like WordPress and hasn’t made a statement yet that I’ve seen about content restrictions.
posted by cali at 1:05 AM on August 13


I hope that whatever executive decided to ban porn gifs on the premier billion-dollar website for porn gifs is seriously reflecting on their decision-making prowess at this moment.
posted by value of information at 1:12 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


This is one of those cases where abbreviating numbers really obscures the meaning if you're not paying close attention: Yahoo bought Tumblr for over $1,100 million and is now selling is for less than $3 million, or about 0.27% of the purchase price.
posted by shponglespore at 1:58 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


I'm not entirely sure what value Wordpress is going to get out of Tumblr. I want them to use their blog engineering expertise to turn the site around, fix all the annoying anti-features and give us back a real linear-timeline blogging service that doesn't require you to sign your soul to the commercial surveillance machine. But that would take a tremendous investment, not least a huge PR campaign to get the users to trust it again, and the site has proven notoriously difficult to monetise.

Are they just buying the IP? Does Tumblr have some patents somewhere that might look good in their portfolio?
posted by Eleven at 2:10 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I'd be astonished if Marco (original CTO of Tumblr) didn't get well into the six figures or low seven figures when Tumblr sold to Yahoo. I recall at the time that he said on a podcast that it was enough to make his life comfortable but he didn't consider himself rich, or something to that effect. That he's still coding is probably because he enjoys doing it, more than anything else.
posted by adrianhon at 3:06 AM on August 13


Similarly, I’ve heard that Arment made enough on the sale to allow him to do what he wants to do, and what he wants to do is code. IIRC it wasn’t going to let him live in the lap of luxury, but it would provide his family the financial safety net he needed while pursuing software projects that interested him.
posted by ardgedee at 4:08 AM on August 13


soelo: "Yahoo did not enact the porn ban - that was Verizon."

Yahoo hasn't really existed in two years, this is all on Verizon. Yahoo kept Tumblr mostly the same for the four years that it owned it.
posted by octothorpe at 4:18 AM on August 13 [6 favorites]


Maybe they'll kill the Verizon mandatory GDPR waiver anyone in EU IP space has to consent to to see Tumblr content.
posted by acb at 4:21 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


A reminder here that, despite dire predictions for 20 years that Yahoo had one foot in the grave, it actually did pretty well as a company. It merely failed to grow as aggressively as would be considered successful in Silicon Valley terms. Unlike most hyped technology successes, it spent more of its years in the black than Amazon has, its stock appreciated for years before it was finally broken up, and it did this without needing regular infusions of venture capital. When Yahoo was parceled out, it managed to do it on its own terms and as far as I can tell without shuttering any of their existing online communities.

Now if you want to argue that Yahoo had a tendency to find healthy online communities, acquire and destroy what was valuable about them, yeah I’ll take your side on that (though Tumblr was a significant exception). But even then, to their credit, Yahoo did seem institutionally to believe in remaining responsible in operating their services for the long haul rather than until they were no longer trendy or some exec got tired of them (cough Google). Flickr might have languished but it was never shut down or had its services degraded to deliberately drive people away.
posted by ardgedee at 4:39 AM on August 13 [23 favorites]


Answering my own thought, the eponymous Matt from Automattic has showed up in the comments of a Hacker News Post.

Apparently Tumblr's going to remain largely independent, and Automattic are planning to grow it through investment. They're also considering moving the back end servers from their current bespoke mess to something based on Wordpress.
posted by Eleven at 4:57 AM on August 13


I'm pretty sure the users who want to bring the porn back to tumblr could've whipped up $3M, kickstarter-style

Someone's already mentioned the ball pit, but I still have to emphasize what a bad idea this is. The only good thing to come out of DashCon was that no one tried again, although amazingly enough, someone did float a follow-up con, as if the whole thing were just an embarrassing episode of growing pains that they'd all laugh about some day. Them running the company would be a clusterfuck of proportionately greater size, unless it were done by real professionals, who would undoubtedly find a way to buy out most of the shareholders and sell them out again.

The sense I've got from my fandom communities for awhile is that Tumblr is just not very good at being a fandom space and creating community, a la LiveJournal was.

Sorry, was LJ considered a success? Even before the Russians hollowed it out, LJ was a mess of fanwank and bad decisions; the Strikethrough may have been an even greater debacle than Female Presenting Nipples.

A reminder here that, despite dire predictions for 20 years that Yahoo had one foot in the grave, it actually did pretty well as a company.

It had Alibaba propping it up, effectively acting as the rich uncle who paid the bills while it careened from one bad decision to another.

As for Tumblr itself, I'm still reading it, although it's been a while since I added anyone to my feed, and it takes a lot less time to get through updates than it used to. Deviantart isn't any better of a platform for artists just because Tumblr got worse, Instagram has always censored naughty bits, and Twitter is, well, Twitter. At least the better artists can publish what they want (and monetize it, to boot) on Patreon, and there's always still reddit for your porn gif "needs".
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:11 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


The Ars story also mentions that Mindgeek (the owners of the pornhub cluster) was interested. It seems like there was a deliberate intent on the part of Verizon to keep Tumblr in its current form.
posted by bonehead at 5:33 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


I keep seeing variations on this idea that Yahoo/Verizon took a billion-dollar company and drove it into the ground. It bugs me a lot, because as much as I love Tumblr, it was never a billion-dollar company to start with. The bad deal wasn't selling it for $3m; it was buying it for $1b.
posted by phooky at 5:44 AM on August 13 [39 favorites]


A reminder here that, despite dire predictions for 20 years that Yahoo had one foot in the grave, it actually did pretty well as a company. It merely failed to grow as aggressively as would be considered successful in Silicon Valley terms.
This is giving them too much credit: they were in the right position to capitalize on a once-in-an-era boom, which gave them the ad revenue they were coasting on for the next decade or so, but it would have been all over much sooner had Alibaba not been so successful. Buying that was a great call but there just isn’t much else to support the idea that they were good at making viable businesses, especially since Google was handily eating their lunch in the core businesses where they were reliably losing market share with no discernible strategy for becoming more competitive.
posted by adamsc at 6:05 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Honestly, I can't see the WordPress folks fucking up Tumblr any worse than Yahoo and Verizon have. As badly, sure, but it's not going to get worse under their ownership.
posted by SansPoint at 6:10 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I mean at least WordPress are in the blog industry
posted by Merus at 6:23 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


Sorry, was LJ considered a success?

As a communal space? Yes.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:24 AM on August 13 [14 favorites]


Fandom is in a rough place right now, especially if you want art. Tumblr is a ghost town. Many of my friends only occasionally posted racy art, but left on principle when the ban was instituted because of the language they used. Now it mainly seems to be a place where people complain and reblog lefty political posts, which is fine but not what I joined for, as I'm an artist myself. International artists are all on Twitter or Instagram, both of which I hate, but endure to look at the work that I'm interested in.

For a long time deviantArt was all I used--my account there is 16 years old-- but one day I logged out and looked at the front page and it was 75% mature-warned, most of it pornography of childrens' show characters and niche fetishes. It turned out that, without my carefully curated logged-in experience, it was something I didn't want to be associated with anymore. And there were quite a few kerfluffles back in the day where they deleted M/M pornography, ostensibly for lacking artistic value, but left up shameless refuse just because it had breasts in it.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 7:05 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


For a while, MartinWisse. As was Tumblr. (One of the reasons DashCon was considered such a spectacular failure was that a whole bunch of people were excited about an IRL meetup of people from that fanspace.) But LJ had its own serious, non-owner-created problems well before the takeover.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:07 AM on August 13


Sorry, was LJ considered a success? Even before the Russians hollowed it out, LJ was a mess of fanwank and bad decisions

LJ pioneered the circles model of privacy settings, which allowed nuanced setting of filters. This, plus the pseudonymous nature of the site, allowed people to explore their identities and forge communities in ways that had not been seen before.

Of course, this now also means that GRU has a lot of revealing and potentially compromising material on people who were of college age in the 1990s, including undoubtedly on some in positions of political or professional influence.
posted by acb at 7:25 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Some recent WordPress developments, for context.

In December 2018 WordPress was updated with Gutenberg, a new "block-based" editor. Gutenberg was released half-baked, with little notice and with a horribly obtrusive UI, leading to thousands of negative reviews, resentment from the community, and much #wpdrama. The Gutenberg developers also hamfistedly threw accessibility under the bus. The new editor has gotten a little better since its release, but the Classic Editor plugin, which disables Gutenberg, now has over 5 million installs and is one of the most popular plugins in the repo.

WordPress is ostensibly open source software (see wordpress.org), but its development is spearheaded by Automattic, which runs wordpress.com (they make money by hosting WordPress sites). There is a feeling in the developer community that recent decisions related to WordPress are being made largely to serve the interests of wordpress.com (Gutenberg is a visual editor, which lets wordpress.com better compete with Medium and other blogging platforms). The backlash to Gutenberg has resulted in forks such as ClassicPress.

I don't know what this means for Tumblr. But Automattic seems determined to "move fast and break things" these days, so who knows what they have planned.
posted by oulipian at 7:55 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Livejournal was the dominant english-language fandom platform for over a decade, so yes it was a success, whatever your personal issues with it. And all fandom spaces are masses of fandom wank, it's the nature of the beast, but due to LJ's design users could protect themselves somewhat from the sort of free-floating mob attacks that Tumblr enables.
posted by tavella at 8:02 AM on August 13 [8 favorites]


Sorry, was LJ considered a success? Even before the Russians hollowed it out, LJ was a mess of fanwank and bad decisions; the Strikethrough may have been an even greater debacle

Strikethrough took out many many communities and users and mortally wounded a thriving subculture.

The necessary precondition to destroying large communities and subcultures using your platform is...?
posted by praemunire at 8:20 AM on August 13


OMG THE PORN BAN-- oh, right, Metafilter is on it, good.
posted by Melismata at 8:22 AM on August 13


I'm super curious about the veracity of that $3M number. It only makes sense in the context of Tumblr's balance sheet.

Presumably Tumblr had few cash assets; the whole point of Oath and the Yahoo winddown was to strip all the assets out of Yahoo they could. But it has a lot of liabilities. 200 employees? That's on the order of $50M / year. There's also a hosting budget with, presumably, contracts for payments coming due in the coming months. Offsetting that is ad revenue. Which by all accounts was not great. Ads can be a sort of liability too, they may have made guarantees that are hard to keep.

Just saying I doubt that Tumblr is profitable as a standalone business. But I don't really know, since no one is saying. Anyway the purchase price may be the least of it.

As for porn, I miss Tumblr porn too. But now that they've gotten over the hump of removing it (more or less) I think it'd be a mistake to bring it back. Before the porn policy was put in place only something like 20% of Tumblr's content was porn. (I know, that surprised me too.) Now that is out they still presumably have a lot of content and users. And it's much easier to run an ad-supported business that's not porn.

I'm surprised no one has stepped in and built a fast-growing new porn-only replacement for Tumblr though. A bunch of folks have tried but last I looked they were all pretty tiny.
posted by Nelson at 8:28 AM on August 13


I'm surprised no one has stepped in and built a fast-growing new porn-only replacement for Tumblr though.

Surely the fringes of the fediverse (Mastodon/Pleroma/Pixelfed) would be the place to set up such a thing these days?
posted by acb at 8:40 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Uh I dunno about your feed, but for mine the porn ban has been... not that effective?

Well, if you consider non-porn posts getting constantly flagged and deleted, thereby annoying people enough to make them leave Tumblr to be effective, then, yes, it was effective. I checked my old URL, and it now automatically kicks you onto an off-Tumblr porn site. Great job, guys!
posted by LindsayIrene at 8:51 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


give us back the titties tumblr
posted by poffin boffin at 9:04 AM on August 13 [5 favorites]


Now that is out they still presumably have a lot of content and users

I think the ban had more impact on fandom communities than that. Basically zero of my Tumblr usage was me going looking for porn; but after the ban, my Tumblr dashboard steadily, gradually became less populated and less interesting as people decamped. Some didn't post anything racy but left on principle; some had content mistakenly censored; some only occasionally posted anything racy, but the ban dramatically decreased the utility of Tumblr for them; some were people like me who weren't really using Tumblr for porn but decamped gradually because the people they followed started leaving.

Tumblr has lost its one-step-from-porn people and two-steps-from-porn people and it's not going to get them back; and how can you build a fandom hub without them?
posted by Jeanne at 9:09 AM on August 13


I've been on Tumblr for a long time and the porn bot requests I've received since the ban has dwindled to nothing. There's still plenty of porn there too, it's just harder to find.

I'm mostly there to stay hip to the memes so I can communicate more effectively with my 13 year old.

And I'll forever miss LJ.
posted by Twicketface at 9:14 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Plus, your work is competing visually with animated gifs, photos, and reposted screenshots from Hollywood movies. Flashiness and movement get rewarded, while everything else kind of fades into the background...

Well a lot of that depends on who you follow. There is no animated anything on my feed of several hundred tumblrs because I unfollow anyone who posts anything animated in self defence because of my often horrible internet access.

I'm surprised no one has stepped in and built a fast-growing new porn-only replacement for Tumblr though. A bunch of folks have tried but last I looked they were all pretty tiny.

Keeping things separate is fine if you are either full on SFW or full on X-rated. If you were like me where my NSFW blog was maybe 10% NSFW and even that had a racyness level some around Page3/Sports Illustrated you don't want to either be on a 100% porn site or bifurcating your audience on different platforms.

Besides which the initial censor roll out was ridiculous; something like 1-2% of my no people, flowers and landscapes Daily365 blog got flagged by their system. It's all been restored now but it took hours of fiddling with, reviewing my back catalogue (because they intially didn't show you what had been flagged in one place so you had to revisit each image one by one) and launching appeals.

Verizon could have partitioned Tumblr into SFW/NSFW space that would have served their users but that wouldn't serve their advertisers so we got yet another American Morality play.
posted by Mitheral at 9:34 AM on August 13


In short, I am not that sad to see Tumblr fumble and see artists return to platforms like DeviantART.

Man, it's so funny because I went from DeviantART to Tumblr and never looked back. I don't want to look back. DA felt like constantly shouting into the void. I made real, actual friends on Tumblr, people who I've met in real life and who I still talk to to this day. For all of its just really bad, UX-hostile design, it was a great place for artists.

It's not entirely empty, but most of the people I loved there are on IG or Twitter now. One of my sites keeps getting followed by MAGA CHUDs, which makes me think I should shut it down forever rather than continue to block them. Occasionally I'll get a porn bot following me, but they have tapered off some. It's just really sad. Its slow death feels like watching an old friend die. You'll never get what you had with them back.
posted by gc at 9:38 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I want my femdom gifs back plz
posted by fluttering hellfire at 10:05 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


WRT the porn bots, there aren't quite as many, and they've switched their Meet Singles in Your Area pitch from being accompanied by GIFs of people having sex to selfies of women in their underwear. Otherwise, they're just the same.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:24 AM on August 13


I've been on Tumblr for a long time and the porn bot requests I've received since the ban has dwindled to nothing.

i block about 20 new follower pornbots a week, which is 2x more than before the ban.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:25 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


"Uh I dunno about your feed, but for mine the porn ban has been... not that effective?"

I dunno, haven't used my feed in years. However, there are a few tumblrs I check and go through for inspo and such. The Bristol Board is a favourite of mine, no porn at all, never had it. Yet, going through the archives there are countless posts flagged and deleted. There was never porn there! It was shit from, what I once thought was a puritanical past, and still passed muster under those absurd standards. Yet yahoo, is like, no way, there's part of a titty in that artwork!

I wish that a) We had a trustworthy and healthily functioning government and b) there was a public platform to share art, photos, creations, prose, thoughts, etc not subject to the whims of a bunch of business jackasses feedback looping one another's stupid fucking ideas in their mad-hatter tea party conference rooms.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:31 AM on August 13


I'm surprised no one has stepped in and built a fast-growing new porn-only replacement for Tumblr though. A bunch of folks have tried but last I looked they were all pretty tiny.

There were several adult-friendly replacements that popped up, but none of them were adopted by very many people. A lot of the people who were using tumblr either seem to have vanished into thin air, or disappeared into the chaos of Twitter.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:42 AM on August 13


Are they just buying the IP? Does Tumblr have some patents somewhere that might look good in their portfolio?

Eyeballs in the attention economy and the actual volume of traffic combined with Wordpress might be enought to get them peering someplace VS having to pay for the transit.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:47 AM on August 13


Wasn't the porn ban an attempt to "clean up" the platform precisely so they could sell it? (Yes, I agree it was stupid.)
posted by pelvicsorcery at 11:32 AM on August 13


I think a big part of the porn ban was just trying to put a lid on spiralling hosting costs, theres a lot of porn photos still hosted on Tumblr, but videos and animated gifs, no matter how innocent, largely seem to have been deleted - a big part of Tumblr culture was the animated gifs.

1.1 billion loss over 6 years is $3.5 Million per week. Perhaps if they waited another week the value would have hit zero!

Also I read somewhere that Tumblr costs around $1 million /week in hosting costs alone. If anything kills the platform it will be the running costs.
posted by Lanark at 12:11 PM on August 13


animated gifs, no matter how innocent, largely seem to have been deleted

One thing I noticed before I killed my Tumblr account was that if a gif that I'd made became popular as a reaction gif, it would end up getting deleted, with copyright violation given as the reason. (Tumblr is nothing but one big copyright violation.) That must have been the beginning.
posted by LindsayIrene at 2:51 PM on August 13


I think a big part of the porn ban was just trying to put a lid on spiralling hosting costs

People don't want to accept this, but a big part of the porn ban was avoiding liability for child pornography, which was being distributed, and not having the resources to dedicate to any less ham-handed moderation methods.
posted by praemunire at 11:51 PM on August 13 [4 favorites]


People don't want to accept this, but a big part of the porn ban was avoiding liability for child pornography, which was being distributed, and not having the resources to dedicate to any less ham-handed moderation methods.

Yeah, that's not true. The porn ban was about selling ad space to advertisers who they wanted to attract in order to monetize tumblr's social justice community, and was in the works for half a year before it was announced. Apple banning the tumblr app from the app store because of the presence of child pornography on a social media platform simply upped the timetable. It's all well documented, and this wasn't a matter of "not having the resources", it was a matter of not wanting to devote the resources because that wasn't the goal.
posted by kafziel at 12:23 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]




Oooh that Mullenweg interview is meaty. Among other things he talks about how Tumblr still has a lot of usage, even after the porn ban. Also implicates the Google/Apple app store policies in why the porn ban may need to persist. He's also careful to speak respectfully of Tumblr's staff and even Verizon. Mostly he comes off as more ambitious and with a bigger picture than I realized; I always thought of Automattic as a one product company. Even if it already isn't.
posted by Nelson at 8:13 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


From that article: "They have more daily active users than WordPress.com has monthly active users." Wow, that surprises me, even though I am a weekly Tumblr user. I know I have looked into wordpress before and I found it too complicated to set up. Tumblr and Blogger before that were very easy to get set up.

It also says that the impetus for the porn ban was the Apple and Google app stores. I buy that, I even accepted it back when the ban happened, though I find it disappointing that those two companies care more about porn than nazis and calls to violence.
posted by soelo at 8:17 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


I find it disappointing that those two companies care more about porn than nazis and calls to violence.

They're both American companies, and America treats child sexual abuse much more harshly than hate speech, or most other crimes, for that matter.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:19 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Automattic — the maker of WordPress.com — has purchased Tumblr, some well informed speculation and collection of quotes by Brian Krogsgard.
posted by Nelson at 9:00 AM on August 14


This story from 2016 is making the rounds again: How Yahoo derailed Tumblr. Specifically for this baffling bit
Khalaf fumbled communications with the team at times, causing some to wonder if he fully understood the platform he was tasked with overseeing. “One time he came to an all-team meeting and told us we were going to be the new PDF,” recalls one former employee. “It didn’t make any sense. We’d walk away scratching our heads.” A source close to Yahoo says Khalaf was trying to compliment Tumblr's potential on mobile.
The thing I love best about this is the idea PDF is a success you'd want to emulate.
posted by Nelson at 3:32 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]


this wasn't a matter of "not having the resources", it was a matter of not wanting to devote the resources because that wasn't the goal.

Human moderation, even good automated moderation which is only a stopgap without the former, is quite quite expensive. If your corporate parent is unwilling to sink into you the revenues that you are wholly incapable of raising yourself to undertake that (it's not clear to me that Tumblr ever turned a profit), then you don't have the resources. Literally. Where do you think that money was going to come from?

selling ad space to advertisers who they wanted to attract in order to monetize tumblr's social justice community

That's your idea of a well-documented rebuttal? One disgruntled anonymous engineer on Vox? It's no use fighting the folk narratives, I guess.

Verizon could not function with a subsidiary being openly and notoriously used to distribute child porn. That is the kiss of death. If you don't understand this, you are completely out of touch with reality. (Note, though, that I didn't say this was the only reason.)

It is also well-known that many advertisers don't want to run their spots next to porn generally, or solicitation. Sure.

But Verizon was not also going to deploy a Youtube-scale moderation operation (and how well that works...!) to screen out both the illegal and the "undesirable" content for a subsidiary that was not making money.

Hence: a shitty auto-moderation system in an attempt to salvage something from the mess without sinking a lot more money into the project.

Didn't work, which was entirely predictable at the time. But, even as someone who used/s the site, I find the indignation about tumblr not being able to go forward being known as a service that pro bono distributed child porn and also other porn to such an extent that it interfered with its ability to actually make some money more than a little silly. No, it wasn't some puritanical crusade. I was on LiveJournal during Strikethrough; puritanical crusades aren't that hard to spot. This was literally "our users are committing crimes and also generating a ton of content that render it impossible for us to make money, and we've been trying to work around this for years and make a profit but it hasn't happened." Their hack of a solution didn't solve the problem either, and so here they are...but, in the end, it's just another company. I feel bad for a number of the communities who dissipated in the face of the moderation, but if the platform goes away because the company is shut down, you get the same result. This is why trying to build anything unconventional on a for-profit platform ends up a fools' errand.

(God, though, the idea that "tumblr's social justice community" represented some great treasure of potential monetization...)
posted by praemunire at 4:13 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


The puritanical part comes in when they banned only female presenting nipples. The baring of which is legal in my country (and many others) anywhere male presenting nipples can be bared. Not only is it sexist it opened a huge can of worms while they attempted to define female presenting at a time of rising trans rights and acknowledgement generally that male/female are just two anchor points on a fuzzy spectrum.
posted by Mitheral at 4:20 PM on August 14


Also implicates the Google/Apple app store policies in why the porn ban may need to persist

Sites like Reddit and Flickr get away with having accounts that are flagged as NSFW and shown only on an opt-in basis, and both have apps in the App Store.
posted by acb at 2:55 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


The issue isn't so much that Tumblr has banned "porn"; most places ban "porn." There's some drama over the fact that Tumblr used to welcome "porn" as long as it was legal, but deciding, "nope, this makes the site unmarketable" is reasonable.

The problem is, they haven't banned "porn." They've banned "things that our AI bots think might be porn." And they've locked accounts to NSFW-ness if the the bots say they're NSFW, even if there's no specific "porn" that's been identified. NSFW blogs not only can't be found via Google, they're not subject to internal searches - that person is stuck with direct like/reblogs as their only way of being found. Like most algorithmic identification of "NSFW" content, they grade LGBTQ+ content as more extreme than straight, and they include sex ed and health topics in "sex-based content." And of course, "female presenting nipples" includes a whole lot of classic art that has now been labeled NSFW, despite the initial announcement saying specifically that that woudn't happen.

They also tend to label blogs with a lot of content related to "pain management" and "chronic pain" as NSFW, because apparently some people use those labels to seek drugs. They hide a lot of tags that someone believes are related to NSFW content... but you can still find Nazis! Those are totally safe for kids!
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:18 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


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