Ya-who? Flickr and Tumblr Were Lucky!

Huh. Verizon has sold what remains of Yahoo! and AOL.

For half of what they paid for them. 🤦‍♂️

To a private equity firm. 😬

Apparently the division formerly known as Oath and later as Verizon Media Group will be called Yahoo going forward, which is probably a good move.

I’ve got to say, though: Flickr and Tumblr really lucked out that Verizon sold them to companies that actually had something to do with their core service. Flickr went to SmugMug, a photo-sharing company, and Tumblr went to Automattic, a blogging company.

I’d like to think someone at Verizon put in the effort to find a good fit for each. It’s probably more likely that they just weren’t in a hurry at the time, since they still thought they could get something out of the rest of what they bought from Yahoo.

Thoughts on Tumblr’s Escape from Verizon to WordPress

Wow. Automattic bought Tumblr from Verizon for less than $3 million. Considering Yahoo bought it for $1.1 billion back in the day…

Yahoo really squandered it. And Verizon, I think, just wanted to get rid of it.

At least it’s going to an actual social media company not to another conglomerate. And one that’s more responsible than the big two! I was half expecting Verizon to try to monetize it into the ground and close it once everyone but the die-hard users had given up on it. But they found a blogging company for Tumblr, just like they found a photography company for Flickr. That’s encouraging. And Matt Mullenweg (who turns out to be a long-term Tumblr user as well!) understands that Tumblr and WordPress are different types of experiences, so they’re unlikely to try to merge them into a single service.

Though apparently they’d like to move the back-end to WordPress, while keeping the front-end experience of the Tumblr site and apps. I can sort of see the appeal: they’ve got over a decade of experience making WordPress scale, and they have to migrate Tumblr off of Verizon’s servers anyway. If they can run Tumblr on top of the WordPress infrastructure, it’s just a matter of adding capacity.

But it kind of runs the risk of creating a frankenblog. I guess it depends on how seamless the conversion is. If Tumblr looks and works the same from the user-facing perspective, it shouldn’t drive anyone away. If they try to turn it into a subset of WordPress.com…I’d expect another exodus.

Speaking of which, I doubt they’ll get anyone returning who left directly due to the adult content ban. Especially since they don’t plan on reversing it. But they might get back at least some people who left because they saw the ban as a sign of a dying platform. And they might be able to bring in new users, who knows? Having corporate overlords who actually understand and appreciate the space could be a big help.

Though frankly, even if all they do is keep it running in maintenance mode for those who are still there, that’s still better it would have been staying at Verizon!

As for me, I haven’t been active on Tumblr for a while. I took a final archive after cleaning up a bunch of old stuff, imported some posts here, and I’ve checked in to read maybe…once a month? I’m still in wait-and-see mode. We’ll see how the data migration goes, what they end up doing with the terms of service, whether they change the way ads and promoted posts appear.

But I am more confident that Tumblr will still exist next year than I was a few months ago!

Verizon is Already Trying to Sell Tumblr

Wow, that shoe dropped sooner than I expected. Verizon is already shopping around to sell Tumblr. I figured it would be toward the end of the year, not the middle.

After Tumblr’s ham-handed ban on adult content last fall purged a bunch of accounts, sparked a lack of confidence, and triggered an wave of users leaving in digust, it became clear that Verizon had no idea what to do with Tumblr (not that Yahoo! had much more). If they hadn’t already started the death spiral, they’d at least knocked it out of orbit.

I’ve never been super-active on Tumblr, but I interact with a few people, and I used to occasionally post things there that weren’t reposts from my blog, or Flickr, or Instagram, or wherever. So, just in case, I backed up a full archive, imported some of the original posts, and pared down all the old duplicates and outdated signal boosts so that when Verizon inevitably gave up monetizing the site, it would be easier to find the pieces I wanted to keep.

Honestly, I’d rather Verizon sell it than shutter it and sell off the data (you think Verizon wouldn’t?). But it depends on who buys it. If anyone wants it.

Here’s hoping Tumblr finds a suitable buyer who understands what they’re getting and is willing to invest in the community, not someone who just wants to squeeze out the last few drops of cash before sending it to join GeoCities in the great Internet Archive in the Sky.

Why I have more confidence in Flickr/SmugMug than Tumblr/Verizon

Last month, Tumblr and Flickr both announced policy changes that will impact a lot of users, and upset even more. Flickr announced that they’d be shrinking the storage offered to free accounts while adding features to paid accounts. Tumblr announced that all adult content was going to be banned, and immediately set about flagging posts and accounts. In the clumsiest way possible. With a lot of errors.

I feel like Tumblr has been knocked out of orbit, and it’s only a matter of time before it goes the way of GeoCities (or at least LiveJournal). But I actually feel more confident about Flickr. Why?

  • Flickr was bought by SmugMug, a company that’s all about photos. Tumblr was part of the Yahoo! package bought by Verizon, a giant telecom conglomerate that’s searching for a way to monetize users’s content.
  • Flickr has had a freemium business model as long as I can remember.
  • The new free tier at Flickr may be limited, but it’s still big (1000 photos), and it’s still more than they offered before the move to “Let’s get people to host ALL their pictures here!” a few years back (200 photos, IIRC).
  • And that limit is both clear and non-judgmental, not a fuzzy, badly-implemented line that on other social media sites has frequently turned out to be the first step down a slippery slope (like the “Strikethrough” episode at LiveJournal that ultimately led to a lot of fanfic writers and fan artists leaving LJ in favor of, well, Tumblr.)
  • Flickr’s customers are the paying Flickr Pro users. Tumblr’s customers are the advertisers.

In short: Flickr is focusing on their core. Tumblr just jettisoned a huge segment of their users and gave the rest a big red warning flag.

I’ve been a paying Flickr customer for years now, and I’m happy to renew. I still post galleries there, and and my better one-off photos.

Tumblr…I don’t have anything that violates the new rules, but it seems like they’ve taken a step towards self-destruction. Between this, Google+ closing, and the ongoing train wrecks of Twitter & Facebook, I’ve decided to pull back. I’ve downloaded an archive of my entire blog, and I’m in the process of clearing out all my share-posts, reblogs, mirrored posts, basically anything that’s not either original to that blog or an actual conversation. And I’m starting to import the original content here, where it’s under my own control.

It’s clear that Verizon has even less idea what to do with Tumblr than Yahoo! did. When they finally give up trying to monetize what’s left of the user base, they’ll have no incentive to keep it going. Or to respect all the user data they’ve amassed.

Truly Terrible Typo

Yesterday’s LA Times included a “Parent Reading Guide” sponsored by Verizon and the Reading By 9 program. Amazingly, it included a full-page ad showing the alphabet followed by this catchy headline:

Just 26 reasons Verizon is helping America fight literacy.  You can too.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?