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Verizon to Sell Tumblr to Automattic (wsj.com)
878 points by minimaxir 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 449 comments
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I'm super excited to have the Tumblr team and product join the Automattic family. We've been evolving Automattic to be more of a Berkshire Hathaway-inspired model and businesses with a lot of autonomy, and this continues that trend.

I was very impressed with the engagement and activity Tumblr has continued to have, and I hope that with this new ownership and investment the product will blossom.


According to this article [1], you plan to move Tumblr's backend onto WordPress. Considering that Tumblr's infra stores over 1 trillion distinct product objects, this would be one of the most technically ambitious migrations in history. Can you share any thoughts of how it will be approached? Will you be pruning/purging old content or inactive users?

[1] https://poststatus.com/automattic-has-purchased-tumblr/


That's an excellent question! I don't want to be so presumptuous as to define an exact approach before the technical exploration has started, besides saying it'll be done incrementally and in an easily revertable way to be invisible to users, just like the big datacenter migration Automattic just completed a few weeks ago.

At the point when we start this the Tumblr team will have been part of Automattic for the better part of a year if not more, so there will be a lot of learning and evolution of the products on both sides to make any migration easier.

I promise we'll write about it afterward for anyone who is curious.


    I don't want to be so presumptuous as to define 
    an exact approach before the technical exploration 
    has started
The same could be said of deciding such an absolutely massive migration is even beneficial/necessary in the first place, before a technical exploration! And yet apparently, that part has already been decided?

I am, of course, completely ignorant of how WP and Tumblr's infrastructure works. I'm not saying the migration would be a bad idea, technically or financially. Or good. Just honestly curious.

    I promise we'll write about it afterward for 
    anyone who is curious. 
Definitely looking forward to that. Best of luck. (That's not sarcasm. Honestly, best of luck!)

I've often decided on technical decisions with incomplete information. Here's an example of how it works (translated to this analogy):

1) You come up with a working (if expensive or otherwise imperfect) technical path 2) You define a half-dozen other potential (less expensive, more practical) paths 3) You announce the decision 4) You complete due diligence, and take the best path

There are other ways as well. Announcements and plans aren't binding; they occasionally change. You can make an announcement when you're 98% confident you'll do something. You can pivot if it doesn't work out. There are places this doesn't work (e.g. customer promises), but on something like an internal migration, this is a-okay.


If "Wordpress" (which I reluctantly use for our corporate branding site and blog--very carefully managed and controlled) is a better architecture than what Tumblr is using now, what they have now must be truly awful! Wordpress really doesn't scale very well, and you can easily have massive security problems.

Among Tumblr users, the basic incompetence of @staff in constructing a functional website is legendary. I would not be surprised if the backend were far worse than you're supposing.

The funny thing is, the incompetence of @staff is the value proposition for Tumblr, as a user - because Tumblr's backend is a rickety tower of matchsticks and paste and the devs couldn't program themselves out of a wet paper bag, it means that they haven't been able to implement - for instance - algorithmic non-chronological timeline ordering, or competent data harvesting / robomarketing. And the comically broken search tools actually give a reasonable approximation of privacy for discussions. The user experience is firmly stuck in the mid-2000s, when social sites were for communities and discussions instead of data farming.

Don't get me wrong, Tumblr's user experience is also awful - search sucks, tags suck, moderation EXTRA sucks, the website's still overrun by pornographic spambots even after the Great Titty Purge - but any development team competent enough to make real improvements would also be one competent enough to squeeze out what makes Tumblr work.


Generally before a company buys another company, there is some amount of due diligence done beforehand, so I wouldn’t presume there hasn’t been a technical exploration.

You should almost make it a documentary.

Yes! I’d pay more for real world business documentaries than anything on netflix.

Please actually do this.

Find a way to get Verizon to sign off on this, and then get in touch with an established documentary maker. Pair them with an engineer and follow the story of the migration efforts. It will take time, and it'll certainly have a narrative.

Nothing like this has been done before. I struggle with making what I do relatable to people, but having a technical or semi-technical documentary following this large project would be eye-opening.

We'll even crowd fund this if you give us the chance. I'm not kidding.

Please, please, please make this migration a documentary film.


From the documentaries I've seen, its lots of people walking to a meeting, meetings themselves, etc. For that kind of documentary, probably people walking into servers rooms, or having heated discussions.

In Automattic, we basically evolved to remove all that :) There would be basically zoom calls and slack discussions. The most ambitious project I worked on in Automattic were just me, looking at the code and trying to understand why something is happening. Or looking up Stripe documentation.

We get to sit in front of our laptops in nice places though :)


We don't need server rooms.

We need discussions about how to untangle integrations of your user model with Verizon/Yahoo's auth system, how you'll consolidate all the microservices, which ongoing migrations you'll halt, the puzzled looks you'll have at undocumented code that performs nested eager-loaded lazy migrations of data, etc.

I've been involved in a multi-year migration effort. I expect this may be the same for y'all. It'd be fun to have an account of something that is so prolific and well known.


This would be an interesting new type of documentary. A few shots of people with laptops on beaches around the world to establish characters, then just animated slack chats, terminal sessions and whiteboard sessions.

Follow-up: these are two of my most upvoted comments. A lot of people want to see this. :)

Actually, you could pitch the idea to Netflix. It sounds like something they might do. And, yes, I would watch it. :)

Verizon wouldn’t risk having negative publicity from a documentary. Not to be a buzzkill but seems too left of center for them.

As a software engineer and independent filmmaker, I fully support this idea of creating a documentary (if one hasn't already been started).

This is a fantastic idea. I imagine similar form to "Some Kind of Monster", the documentary about Metallica. It's mostly the band meeting, discussing ideas, playing some music, struggling with internal tensions and personal issues etc. I'm not even a huge fan of the band, but it was a very entertaining watch and I think it would be almost guaranteed that such a massive project will result in many interesting stories.

Or disaster movie.

I have no idea precisely what we're going to do or how, but if I were spitballing, I'd think something like ...

Currently I think Tumblr stores all posts across all sites in one big table? WP.com does different tables per site.

I also think Tumblr's post ids are often above php's int max for 32-bit systems ( 2,147,483,647 ) -- I know I've seen some issues trying to parse tumblr's post ids to integers rather than strings on some old servers years ago.

For an overview of how our systems are run here's Barry, our head sysadmin, talking about six years ago on how the wpcom infastructure is structured:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57EJ8KDDBH0

It's changed somewhat, but not much conceptually. It's a really fascinating talk and I'd encourage anyone curious on massive scale data to give it a look, and see precisely what can be managed with determination and mysql and coffee.


Close; For the most part, to the application the Posts appear to be from one table since the lookup interface is the same (externally), but in reality at this massive scale, it just wouldn't be possible in a single MySQL table and database, even if you had a huge number of replicas. Tumblr's posts are spread across MANY "shards" which are actually different servers, each running a chunk of posts, shared by the blog owner. e.g. Blogs 1 - 10,000,000 on Shard 1, 10,000,001 to 20,000,000 on Shard 2, etc. More in depth talk here http://highscalability.com/blog/2012/2/13/tumblr-architectur... and http://assets.en.oreilly.com/1/event/74/Massively%20Sharded%... though it's from 2011/2012, but the overall ideas still hold. At the time of that post (7 years ago) there were already 200 Database servers.

Thankfully nothing is 32-bit so no worries about integer overflows. That would cause huge headaches everywhere on the PHP side. In MySQL, a regular unsigned INT column does have that limitation (roughly max 4.5 billion for unsigned, 2.2 signed), so BIGINT must be used there (Twitter had to do the same). Where it gets interesting is PHP doesn't support unsigned integers, so with 64 bit your max integer in PHP is 9,223,372,036,854,775,807, whereas in MySQL an unsigned 64 bit int is double that. I think it's safe to say though that neither Tumblr nor WordPress, even combined, would ever have more posts than atoms on Earth =)


> I think it's safe to say though that neither Tumblr nor WordPress, even combined, would ever have more posts than atoms on Earth =)

If my math is correct, you're a wee bit off.

9,223,372,036,854,775,807 is 2^63, which is roughly 10^19. The Avogadro constant, which is about 6 * 10^23, is the number of particles (atoms / molecules) in a mole of substance, which for atoms amounts to (atom number of element) grams of mass (so e.g. 12g of C12 is a mole).



The fact that they are already planning on making changes seems to run counter to the idea that they would be taking a "Berkshire Hathaway" approach. In my understanding Warren Buffett's current philosophy is to buy companies that need his capital, potentially his name, but definitely not his intervention.

I'm curious: What approach, if any, would you take?

I'm sure you have an interesting prospective based on your experience working at MySQL-friendly shops, in addition to being an engineer at Tumblr once upon a time.


Thank you for asking, but I probably shouldn't get into that :) I'm inherently conflicted / biased due to designing a solid chunk of Tumblr's backend, and also previously worked for another Automattic competitor (Six Apart, the defunct company behind Movable Type).

Edit to avoid anyone misconstruing, I'm not trying to imply one thing or another, just that I can't approach this impartially. And in any case, I wish everyone well on both sides of this acquisition. I'm just genuinely curious how they plan to proceed from a technical standpoint, as it's a really interesting challenge.


Just curious about your just curious; what is the architecture of the current Tumblr back end?

This appears to be 6 years old. Is it still relevant?

http://highscalability.com/blog/2012/2/13/tumblr-architectur...


Ehhh parts of that article were never accurate, especially the stuff about having an hbase-powered dashboard feed.

Primarily the product backend is monolithic PHP (custom framework) + services in various languages + sharded MySQL + Memcached + Gearman. Lots of other technologies in use though too, but I'll defer to current employees if they want to answer.


Fantasy big data: let's use Hadoop and Kafka!

Reality big data: Let's shard it across Mysql.


Not exactly. Tumblr has a pretty huge Hadoop fleet and decently large Kafka setup too. It's just a question of OLTP vs OLAP use-cases being powered by different tech stacks.

My answer above was limited to the product backend, i.e. technologies used in serving user requests in real-time. And even then I missed a bunch of large technologies in use there, especially around search and algorithmic ranking.


That's kind of the point though. Everyone has a Hadoop/Kafka, but when it comes to actually getting things done, good ole MySQL to the rescue.

I honestly don't see the draw for Kafka. And by all means I get it, I just don't buy it. Maybe I'm just holding it wrong or something.


It really depends on the task at hand. I'm one of the most vocally pro-MySQL commenters on HN, and have literally built my career around scaling and automating MySQL, but I still wouldn't recommend it for OLAP-heavy workloads. The query planner just isn't great at monstrous analytics queries, and ditto for the feature set (especially pre-8.0).

For high-volume OLTP though MySQL is an excellent choice.

Regarding Kafka: in many situations I agree. Personally I prefer Facebook's approach of just using the MySQL replication stream as the canonical sharded multi-region ordered event stream. But it depends a lot on the situation, i.e. a company's specific use-case, existing infrastructure and ecosystem in general.


I don't think youre quite getting my point.

Kafka is not going to replace MySQL specifically because it depends on the task at hand.

If you can't replace MySQL with Kafka, then why not just stick with whatever queue/jobs/stream infra you had before kafka. At least those solutions are quite limited in scope and easily replaceable.

At this point Kafka is a solution looking for a problem.


My feeling about Kafka is that it's a useful tool to solve the "we MUST get this data to reliable storage IMMEDIATELY" problem. And to greatly mitigate the "each item must be processed and shown to be processed, exactly once" problem.

But there are relatively few situations where that's absolutely vital. And you can solve it with good ol' SQL.


You’re being generous. Most of that article was a pipe dream that never came to fruition.

That's a really underrated statement - as a lot of "scale blogs" are often referred to as fact. I'll have to reconsider a lot of those in hindsight.

Cool, thanks for the answer.

Wow, that sounds insane

I'm curious why you would choose to maintain Verizon's policy changes that alienated the majority of the user-base.

Adult content is not our forte either, and it creates a huge number of potential issues with app stores, payment providers, trust and safety... it's a problem area best suited for companies fully dedicated to creating a great experience there. I personally have very liberal views on these things, but supporting adult content as a business is very different.

> it creates a huge number of potential issues with app stores, payment providers, trust and safety...

I completely understand that “Adult Content” can cause a ton of headaches for a business but Tumblr’s current definition of “Adult Content” is very broad and I hope when the transaction is complete you’ll at least be open to reviewing the scope of the definition. Right now it includes many things that aren’t adult at all, like “female presenting nipples” which could be seen by children on many beaches in Europe and even on the streets of Boston and New York City. It also includes illustrations of genitalia or sex acts which can be found in biology textbooks and many magazines like Cosmo. The instruction leaflet that comes in a box of tampons wouldn’t currently be permitted on Tumblr. That doesn’t seem right to me nor does it seem like that sort of content would pose any risk to Tumblr’s operations.

I understand where you’re coming from with the adult content but I do also hope you’ll consider liberating the definition a bit. I actually think Tumblr is pretty well positioned to be the “next Instagram” for many young women today who would really appreciate a major social media platform recognizing that Kama Sutra illustrations or a photo of a woman’s nipple is no big deal, it’s just natural.


I don't know if you've ever been to Europe, but the number of topless beaches are low and you won't see women walking around without a top on the street. It's not taboo-less, nipples are still sexual.

Nipples seems a pretty silly thing to start focusing on when he clearly said they weren't interested in adult content.


I'm from Europe and I've visited quite a few countries in Europe, and to me it seems like it's pretty normal to be topless on _any_ beach... Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Greece...

Add Belgium to the list. And East Germany.

EDIT: Generally I'd say in Europe while women's breasts are sexualised, they're not considered sexually explicit. The US is exceptionally prudish in comparison and for well-known historical reasons, too.


UK. Not so much so here, so it certainly isn't universal. Though we don't usually have the weather for it anyway!

UK is not Europe and shares a lot of values with puritanical USA. Culturally you're not really part of the mainland.

Sounds like a classic case of No True Scotsman to me.

You'd have to explain more, given that he listed Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Greece, and others have listed more below. All of them true Scotsman where topless is totally a fair thing to see on any beach. Hell, I had a French ex who took her top off to tan when visiting the States and had to be told by friends that it wasn't an acceptable thing to do.

Portuguese, and can confirm it's absolutely normal in every single beach.

Italy as well.

I have been to Europe. And I’ve taken my bathing suit top off on several beaches there. In my experience they don’t really have “topless beaches” so much as they just have beaches.

If you re-read my comment you’ll see that my point of starting with nipples is precisely because they aren’t the adult content that Automattic is understandably interested in avoiding. Why are your nipples nbd while mine are adult content? That seems “pretty silly” if you ask me.


There literally are beaches/sections of beaches in Germany where you have to be nude.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freikörperkultur


The man likes a good nipple. What ya gonna do.

>which could be seen by children on many beaches in Europe and even on the streets of Boston and New York City

Also seen by young children when they, ya know, eat.


AFAIK "female presenting nipples" is banned from Apple's App Store in non-17+ apps. A huge company such as Facebook could maybe fight it, Automattic certainly can't.

Wait, are you saying Apple actually does allow any kind of NSFW content in the app store?

I mean… reddit’s app pretty clearly allows NSFW subreddits. You have to check a setting on the web to search for NSFW content, but that’s not actually in-app so it’s a-ok.

Money talks bullshit walks

Rules aren't for moneyed interests, they are to ignore the masses, gatekeep more simply, “read the sign”


I appreciate the perspective, but let's be honest.

What you're essentially saying is 'Adult content is hard because the US government is willing to lean on payment providers to enforce quasi-legal, anti-free speech policies.'

Have you considered adopting a federated corporate structure that would legally firewall off a "tumblr-for-porn"?

Most of the goodwill bonfire seems to have been caused not by Tumblr treating adult content differently, but by not even putting up a fight to provide a space for it.

Having a mirror world Tumblr that adult blogs could be kicked to would earn a lot of that back, while presumably amortizing platform development and ops over a larger userbase.

Surrendering because free speech is hard is never a good look.


> Have you considered adopting a federated corporate structure that would legally firewall off a "tumblr-for-porn"?

That is literally the convoluted situation photomatt was trying to avoid.

I also think that the suggestion is hilariously naive. Presumably the founder/head of the company has considered a variety of incorporation structures.


> Presumably the founder/head of the company has considered a variety of incorporation structures

One would think, but apparently neither Yahoo nor Verizon made any effort in that direction.

To the tune of putting approx $1 billion through the corporate paper shredder.

Given that track record of handling, and an ostensibly similar approach, I thought it was a valid question.


> To the tune of putting approx $1 billion through the corporate paper shredder.

Arguably, that happened June 20th, 2013, the day the Tumblr acquisition was closed.


Arguably, it happened throug gross miss-management. Can you think of one good decision they made?

Who is they in this case? Tumblr leadership, Yahoo! leadership, Oath leadership, or Verizon leadership?

Yes.

I can think of a few good decisions the former half of that list made. Later half, not so much.

If you expect Tumblr to have a lot of autonomy why not let them handle what used to be their core competency?

> best suited for companies fully dedicated to creating a great experience there.

Sorry for being so blunt but I couldn't agree less with. If you leave this to "big porno", you will get the same exploitive, generic bullshit you get anywhere else as well. It's a shame that nobody dares to touch that who isn't in the porn industry already.


be that as it may, the current automated flagging system is abhorrent and pretty much killed all confidence in the platform especially among artists. why would anyone take invest the time and effort to build a gallery & maintain a presence on tumblr when it feels like you're playing russian roulette with every (non-nsfw) image you upload? 4chan recently was split into separate domains for sfw/nsfw boards, maybe tumblr could go in a similar direction?

> it's a problem area best suited for companies fully dedicated to creating a great experience there

That's exactly what Tumblr's ex-users don't want, however.

Those Tumblr users want a place to freely exchange what they like, whether that's cute cats or hardcore porn.

That's what made Tumblr so beautiful. I'm sad to see it (apparently permanently) go.

Then again something nice is coming out of it as well: The main competitor is now the non commercial, federated, ActivityPub based Fediverse, frequently referred to as Mastodon.


err twitter?

Then why was Yahoo able to deal with it?

They arguably weren’t: they no longer have tumblr.

They also neither have Flickr; a similar hotbed of porn. Surprised SmugMug haven't started a purge there, yet.

Was that sarcasm or is there really (public) porn on Flickr?

Why would they?

They only paid $20 million.

Buying a brand name and some domain relevant developers for that little is probably a good deal.


They paid something closer to $3MM according to Dan Primack (but also took on the employee payroll).

What a steal!

Talent, a brand, and eyeballs. Even if the ship can't be turned around in the end, presumably all the new hires are top notch.


wow, that's less than the $35m MySpace went for in 2011, amd it could be argued that MS was even more of a ghost town then than Tumblr is today.

For the ones that don't know you, you are the CEO and founder, Matt Mullenweg [0].

I am curious to hear more about the: "...to be more of a Berkshire Hathaway-inspired model and businesses with a lot of autonomy". Could you share some details?

Thanks for building Wordpress. When I used to be a prolific blogger, it was my platform of choice.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Mullenweg


We've found the model of strong CEOs or GMs, combined with a great culture and shared platform, can be really magical. It doesn't need to be complicated, but it's also not easy.

It would be nice if investment in Tumblr is made to create a privacy focused social network for those who have or would like to remove FB from our worlds.

it's probably not economically feasible to have a privacy-respecting app that's also funded by a programmatic targeted advertising network.

even if it was, people have shown over and over that they prioritize convenience over privacy, and businesses simply aren't conscientious enough to try a different way.


You are entirely right! However, they are entirely different monetization business models that we are offering our WordPress.com users. Our Simple Payments block for example let's you sell directly on your site: https://en.support.wordpress.com/wordpress-editor/blocks/sim...

People are extremely creative in how they use it, basically turning sites into stores or kickstarter-like campaigns with that little feature. We are looking into extending this functionality.


Why didn't Pornhub acquire Tumblr?

Could you give us more information about this, since Pornhub once said they wanted to acquire Tumblr.


Hmm, this raises the question: why hasn't Pornhub (or anyone) started a successful X-rated Tumblr clone yet? The demand seems to be there.

Is there a demand for an NSFW-only Tumblr alternative, or was it the mix of content that made Tumblr popular?

I mean personally I think if e.g. pornhub were to launch a product like that, they should make sure that it's not associated with PH or pornography directly. That creates a stigma - "oh, it's that porn blog" - which in my outsider's perspective was never Tumblr's identity.


Anecdotally, the only people I know that used tumblr used it exclusively for porn, lewds, kinks, etc.

Yeah, I was thinking exactly the same question.

This also raises other questions:

What is the difference between Pornhub and a pornographic Tumblr? What is the essential demand behind the demand for a pornographic Tubmlr?

A very interesting phenomenon is that since Tumblr announced the ban on adult content, many bloggers have turned to Twitter instead of Pornhub.


The difference is that each tumblr was curated individually and there were also lots of image focused/exclusive tumblrs. This curation by hand + sometimes extremely narrow definition of a tumblrs content allowed one to find exactly what one wanted.

Pornhub is like a swamp, content wise.


I think the difference is in branding/positioning, and therefore the mental state of the person engaging with the site and creating content.

Porn = male gaze-y[1], intentionally and overtly about sexual gratification, less about exploration

A free-wheeling blog site = a place open to the exploration of a number of different aspects of identity, of which sexuality is one of them.

In short: If Pornhub were to create a tumblr clone, they'd inherently be enticing people to _produce porn_ rather than producing content which might happen to be somewhat pornographic. There's a huge mental barrier there for lots of people, even if they happen to enjoy viewing porn or producing sexually explicit imagery.

[1] Yes I know women watch porn, the default assumption of porn viewership is still a cis male audience


There have been multiple.

Who's paying for it?

Users. Paid porn is huge, I'm sure they would have no problem providing it as a paid service. They already have pornhub premium which is apparently very successful

>Pornhub Premium launched in 2015, and now has more than 1 million signups. That's nearly the number of people who subscribe to the Showtime channel's streaming service.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/10-interesting-things-might-n...

>According to various reports, currently, the porn industry’s net worth is about $97 billion. This money is enough to feed at-least 4.8 billion people a day. Every year, Hollywood releases roughly 600 movies and makes $10 billion in profit. And how much porn industry makes? 13,000 films and close to $15 billion in profit. The porn industry makes more money than Major League Baseball, The NFL and The NBA combined.

https://medium.com/@Strange_bt_True/how-big-is-the-porn-indu...


Will you be able to bring back the inclusiveness Tumblr used to have for LGBT, Sex workers, etc ?

As he said above, he's very liberal in his views, except when it might affect the money in any way.

That's an uncharitable interpretation.

Craigslist went through legal hell dealing with NSFW content because of puritanical US States Attorneys. See any remaining dating links on CL?

Matt doesn't need that either.


>puritanical US States Attorneys

Yes, Kamala Harris in particular.


I wish you and the team the best of luck. Tumblrs first downfall was partly because the autonomy it was given to a team that had no idea how to grow the business. Karp had zero idea how to grow the product or the revenues past the initial vision. D'onofrio is an operator, likely not the best fit for leading a vision of what a new Tumblr with a new mandate should be.

Does that mean we can expect tumblr to get porn back?

Thanks for making a website that works nice without Javascript :)

Sounds cool! Are you hiring?!


What's your plan to wind down Tumblr?

We are planning to do the opposite: excited to invest into the platform. The web needs open and independent publishing and social media more than ever.

Does it? There are an awful lot of platforms that support the kind of content Tumblr supports now. How is this meaningfully different from a WordPress account, or a user subreddit, or a Medium blog, or even Facebook? How is Tumblr going to provide a platform that is substantially different from those?

There are more open platforms. There are more popular platforms. There are more independent platforms. How is the new Tumblr going to improve on the existing options?


The future needs to be distributed. Less Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter and more ActivityPub/Mastodon/Pleroma/Pixefed .. when people get use to federated networks, they'll understand how they work. They'll understand how it's like hosting your own game server, and everyone can do it, and you can ban servers you don't like without having those servers really go away to anyone but you.

The future is not centralized. The future is distributed.


> The future is not centralized. The future is distributed.

been hearing this promise for so long, it's becoming a meme like The Year of Desktop Linux


Some things happen on a larger scale than several years.

Funnily enough the Linux desktop appears to be slowly but surely catching on.

I want to believe that the future is decentralized but I'm convinced of the opposite when it comes to online media, primarily because spam, abuse and content moderation are expensive functions to perform in which there are strong scale effects, and they are critical not just to ad-based monetization but perhaps also to broad societal acceptance of technology.

Yeah. Unfortunately... yeah.

The dream of decentralized everything sounds wonderful, but there's an implicit assumption that most folks involved are good actors.

It quickly becomes untenable when corporate-backed or state-backed bad actors are introduced.

Here's a very simple thought exercise for anybody who disagrees. Imagine a modest social media team of perhaps 10 paid employees. That's 24,000 people-hours' worth of content generation per year... and it is perhaps multiplied by a factor of ten if they're sophisticated enough to put some work into tooling to automate their work. Russia alone reportedly had hundreds of people doing this sort of work, and surely they're not alone.

Now imagine 10,000 of those teams around the world. That's 240,000,000 people-hours of span and/or bad-faith social media posting. And that's probably an extremely conservative estimate.

How would a decentralized social network possibly combat this?

It's a life-or-death struggle even for a company with deep pockets (and huge cubical farms full of human content moderators) like Facebook to combat this sort of thing.

If one of the decentralized solutions ever reaches any sort of critical mass, it will have to confront this in a hurry, and it will not be able to.


The same analysis makes it untenable for centralized platforms, as you noticed yourself.

It's arguably harder to do it on a decentralized platforms since they are... Well, decentralized. Those 240,000,000 people hours are then spread over all of the decentralized platforms instead of being focused on one or a few. Also, the cost of moderation is spread over everyone instead of a single entity having to pay for all of it.


    The same analysis makes it untenable for centralized platforms, as you noticed yourself.
Strong disagree, though I certainly hope that I am wrong and that decentralized platforms are more viable than I suspect.

It is not easy, but it is most definitely tenable for centralized platforms with sufficient funding and motivation i.e. Facebook, Google, etc.

They have:

1. Many millions (billions, in Facebook's case) of users, some percentage of which are willing to click those "Report..." buttons

2. Their own farms of in-house workers

3. Their own bespoke tools and heuristics to identify trends and more easily identify malicious actors/content, for review by the human moderators. this would presumably incorporate reports from users.

    It's arguably harder to do it on a decentralized platforms
Again, I really can't agree but hope to be wrong.

How does a malicious social media team "attack" Facebook? For the most part, they produce content that winds up being spread virally. They don't spead the information around Facebook; the users do. This would function largely the same way in a decentralized network.

Keep in mind that today's decentralized networks are a bit like the Usenet was before "Eternal September."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

In other words, these decentralized networks are currently populated primarily with relatively savvy users. Not perfect by any means, but on average, more savvy than your average FB or Twitter user who will eagerly share articles and links without even a cursory vetting. That will change in a hurry if any of these decentralized networks ever gains critical mainstream mass.


To me it seems that ad-based monetization is untenable. The more obnoxious it becomes, the more people are enticed to learn about and set up adblockers.

Maybe they mean, "a better future _would_ be distributed"...

To be honest, I cannot think of any other large social media platform that has anything close to the sheer expressiveness of Tumblr.

Are there any plans to improve the automated porn flagging system which seems to have a very annoyingly high false positive rate at the moment?

I can imagine that false positives are incredibly frustrating for legit creators, and something we will try to eliminate.

Ha, claiming liberal viewpoints and then lets the mask slip by describing creators of adult content, sex workers etc as outside "legit creators".

Legitimate content creators would be frustrated by being flagged as posting illegitimate content would they not?

Or are you just trying to take this out of context because of a casual tone?


Reading between the lines... Was Facebook/Instagram also in the market for Tumbler or was it just Verison getting close to killing it off and fishing around for a last minute buyer?

Good luck with it anyway - we need more independant platforms rather than a few mono-cultures.


Thanks! Hope you guys can turn it around. Good blogging platforms are better for evolving ideas than Twitter.

I guess my rather naive question is "if the platform is to accept only the same kind of safe content then what is its USP compared to Facebook/Instagram/Reddit/etc?"

How can you claim to embrace "open and independent publishing" while doubling down on the world's most widely-mocked censorship initiative?

made me lol

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

More advertisement real estate space. Not that Wordpress.com was already not littered enough!

The heydays of "blogging" was/is all BS.


We? So I take it you work at Automattic? Any insights about the decision to buy Tumblr?

photomatt is Matt Mullenweg founder and CEO of Automattic.

photomatt co-founded automattic. https://ma.tt/

He's the matt in Automattic.

Who are the auto and ic then?

The origin of the rest of the name is lost to time. One of the great mysteries.

Based on his profile, he's the founder.

Huh, I never even thought to check the profile. I learn something new everyday.

Classic HN strikes again.

So, the real question is: are the censorship policies going to be reversed?

To be specific, is adult content going to be kosher on Tumblr again? Because if not, I'd have very little faith in the platform (and I do have an account there).


Nope.

>Mr. Mullenweg said his company intends to maintain the existing policy that bans adult content. He said he has long been a Tumblr user and sees the site as complementary to WordPress.com. “It’s just fun,” he said of Tumblr. “We’re not going to change any of that.”


That choice boggles the mind.

If you're worried about cross-links between non-adult and adult content tarnishing the platform, add better features for user flagging.

They (before the Yahoo and Verizon cluster&#-1s) were essentially sitting on a gold mine of training data, and ongoing training data generation, for an industry-leading porn detection engine.

A subscription filtering product that would be worth $$$.

Throwing that away because of some overly prudish concept of brand identity is hilarious.


Well remember what actually happened. Apple removed their app! That's a bigger problem in general (I think at some point, legislators will need to force Apple to allow 3rd party installs without jailbreaking a phone).

Tumblr had issues with jailbait and childporn. Even with a lot of moderation and policing, it was difficult to keep under control. As an interesting consequence, people who use scripts to rip entire blogs, may have underage selfies and other pics they're not even aware of. It's a strict liability crime in the US, so even having huge Tumblr dumps can be risky!

There were a lot of factors involved in the censorship, and it makes me thing the future of the open web needs to be more federated/distributed. Sites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook need to lose relevance.


> Tumblr had issues with jailbait and childporn. Even with a lot of moderation and policing, it was difficult to keep under control.

That's because they had crappy design:

* How does one report a post? Click the share button (I'm not clicking something labeled share on child porn).

* Can moderators delete posts and the comment chain that allows for coordination? Nope, just the images.

Doesn't matter how moderation one does if the tools aren't there.


Apple specifically removed it for child porn, and once Tumblr took care of that (before removing adult content in general), Apple added them back to the store.

Taking care of it on an ongoing basis might have been too great a burden for the (assumedly-understaffed) team, or they had too few tools to deal with it and no incentive or manpower to create new ones that worked with the existing adult content system.

Simply banning adult content en masse allows them to use heuristics to identify nudtiy and genitalia in images.

Previously, they would have had to make a judgment call on whether those depicted were of adult age. By banning all of it, they no longer have the responsibility to make that choice.


> or they had too few tools to deal with it

That wasn’t the case. They had the industry standard tools (PhotoDNA + partnership with NCMEC), but I can’t say how well they were being maintained at the time of the situation with Apple.


And at the time, HN roasted Apple pretty roundly for the decision: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18494137

There was some great snark about Safari being next on the ban list.


The thing is, a naked 17-year-old and a naked 18-year-old look fairly similar. One is a felony; one is not. It would be evry difficult to distinguish between them. Apple probably wanted to head off the outrage which some person would drum up, and passed to tumbler. Tumbler figured it was easier to classify all inappropriate content, as there's no real way to classify something so fuzzy with the requisite accuracy.

Other porn sites with user contributed content exist. This is not as big a problem as you make it out to be. Not to the extent that a big company like Automattic wouldn't be able to solve it and keep that quite profitable interest group on board. The reason they won't is because they don't like to go against the grain of the currently advertiser-mandated vision of an exclusively family-friendly internet — where 'internet' here means the ad-supported part of it; i.e., all of the bigger commercial content silos.

The outrage comes when people stumble upon photos of minors in the early pubescent or even prepubescent stage of development intended to titillate. That is, content that is fairly consistently classed as child pornography, and no apparent action is undertaken to purge that content.

> […] as there's no real way to classify something so fuzzy with the requisite accuracy.

For the odd case where an account is uploading content that looks like it might involve a minor nearing adulthood, a platform privately and confidentially asking for proof of identity and age is reasonable enough. It's a fair solution for, to name just one example, the odd flat-chested twenty-something exhibitionist of Asian descent.


> sites with user contributed content exist.

Very true, but there's a notable distinction: they can devote 100% of their expertise to moderating such nuances. It would be costly for a company such as tumbler (one which is not built around inappropriate material) to build out and maintain such expertise.

> The reason they won't is because they don't like to go against the grain of the currently advertiser-mandated vision of an exclusively family-friendly internet — where 'internet' here means the ad-supported part of it; i.e., all of the bigger commercial content silos.

Are you surprised this is the case? What brand wants to be associated with that sort of stuff?

> The outrage comes when people stumble upon photos of minors in the early pubescent or even prepubescent stage of development intended to titillate. That is, content that is fairly consistently classed as child pornography, and no apparent action is undertaken to purge that content.

There have been quite a few instances of prosecuting minors due to sending pictures of inappropriate content, taken by themselves: https://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2010/03/21/is-sexting-c...

> For the odd case where an account is uploading content that looks like it might involve a minor nearing adulthood, a platform privately and confidentially asking for proof of identity and age is reasonable enough. It's a fair solution for, to name just one example, the odd flat-chested twenty-something exhibitionist of Asian descent.

I'm sure there was a more polite way to phrase that. Regardless, much of the internet consists of downloading and re-uploading media. This would remain difficult.


>Other porn sites with user contributed content exist.

I bet that those sites also hosts vast amounts of illegal material as well. The law isn't fully enforced because doing so would have so many people arrested that it would lead to invalidating the law.

As you said, the outrage doesn't really exists in those hard to tell cases, but the law isn't written to align with the outrage. So the content is largely ignored unless a specific case happens to get popular attention.

Overall the standards are about as sane as our standards around other similar topics, which is to say not at all.


> That choice boggles the mind.

Serving ads is hard when there's porn on the site.


If you've got porn on a domain, it doesn't matter if you show ads on porn or not, it doesn't matter if you require age verification, nothing you do will likely matter.

What if there was a way to "ban" something by changing it's domain? What if there were two web apps with a linked backend? Let's say:

    tumblargh.com
    tumblarghR.com
When something is "banned" from tumblargh.com, it remains on tumblarghR.com, which is otherwise a mirror of tumblargh.com.

isn't this what 4chan did with 4channel.org?

4chan split into two sites because PayPal stopped working on the main domain, but similar idea.

How about Imgur? And Reddit?

Reddit runs its own ad network.

And has famously had issues monetizing itself.


Partially. Reddit also has the usual DoubleClick/Adsense ads too.

That boggles the mind as well. The purpose of an ad is to be seen. Whether it's seen next to porn should be irrelevant.

I guess, because prudery.


>Whether it's seen next to porn should be irrelevant.

It does not work that way. If some average person sees some brand advertised on WSJ and FT, and another competing brand on PornHub he will attach more 'premium' value to a first brand, and will pay more for owning product from this brand. It's only normal and a part of human nature.

People enjoy content from PornHub, but they want to be associated with something advertised on WSJ/FT/NYT/etc. People want to signal status, not just own a good stuff.


>It does not work that way. If some average person sees some brand advertised on WSJ and FT, and another competing brand on PornHub he will attach more 'premium' value to a first brand, and will pay more for owning product from this brand.

That doesn't explain the connection of "porn" with "less than premium". You call it "normal and part of human nature" but looks like totally cultural.

Historical prudery, and a past that associated looking at adult content with "low status", lesser citizens (and not what the "proper people do", does explain it.

(While we of course know that people of all statuses and walks of life look at porn, from the industrialist, to the bank executive, to the judge).

>People enjoy content from PornHub, but they want to be associated with something advertised on WSJ/FT/NYT/etc.

I'd understand it if we were talking about high status ads, yaugt ads, hi-fi ads, expensive clothes ads, and so on. But most people don't read or care for WSJ/FT/NYT -- that's a small minority. Most people read magazines just as popular/mass market as People, Reader's Digest, CNN, FOX, USA Today and the like, and advertisers have no issue advertising at those.


There is still massive stigma around consuming porn. Less than half of Americans think that watching porn is morally acceptable. https://news.gallup.com/poll/235280/americans-say-pornograph...

Brands don't want to be next to content that has that stigma.


The people with that stigma aren't going to be looking at that content anyway.

They think it's immoral but they definitely still look at that content. For advertisers it's about brand perception and not appearing next to immoral content.

No, but they will gladly indulge in a bit of pitchfork-and-torchery when someone shares a screenshot on Facebook of a Proctor & Gamble ad for baby powder next to a young woman with pigtails and tube socks in the questionably named 'teen' category getting spit roasted.

Oh yeah, nobody would do something they say is immoral, especially when it comes to sex.

> people want to signal status

People are biological animals first and humans at a distant second. It's short-sighted to so brazenly dismiss the long term effects of periodically associating a brand with the strong feelings that come with an orgasm.


>From my experience in dealing with very rich and very poor people of many different cultures, the only people who give a damn about status to that extent are the young and dumb

Sorry, you are mostly wrong here.

Let me present you with example of an ad targeted to 50+ very rich audience. This is an ad directed by Cohen brothers ("Big Lebowski", "No Country For Old Men", etc) advertising Mercedes AMG Roadster and shown during SuperBowl -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exxaJrtH2kg -- and pay attention to a punchline -- "still looking good". Pure signaling for an older folks.

This may sound illogical, but most people who buy "signaling" products (such as Mercedes AMG Roadster) are in +40 y.o. cohort. They got money to spend, unlike millenials who can only signal status while choosing craft beer on Friday evening.

Also, your guess about me living in my "pristine little bubble" was too personal, tbh, but I'm fine with that. No offense taken here.


> Let me present you with example of an ad targeted to 50+ very rich audience. This is an ad directed by Cohen brothers ("Big Lebowski", "No Country For Old Men", etc) advertising Mercedes AMG Roadster and shown during SuperBowl

These concepts are not mutually exclusive concepts:

- targeting a group of people that are 50+ years old

- for the people that actually buy the cars to be vain, young and dumb, and insecure.

> This may sound illogical, but most people who buy "signaling" products (such as Mercedes AMG Roadster) are in +40 y.o. cohort.

That's not illogical at all; that's mainly who I see in Porsche dealerships and nothing about that contradicts what I said. In that individual statement, I was merely commenting on the set of people who care about their things being associated with a porn advertisement, not the intersection of people who care about status to that extent and have money to signal their status.

> Also, your guess about me living in my "pristine little bubble" was too personal, tbh, but I'm fine with that. No offense taken here.

It was, I'm sorry about that and I've removed it; Frankly, I am frustrated and probably overly sensitive (to the point of false positives) to the trend I noticed in the Bay area where people who couldn't be bothered to leave their home/tech bubble and interact with people outside their comfort zone, remarking on how people the world over work. Their abstractions are incredibly wrong if you just go 50 miles outside the bay area.

Due to having family and their friends spread out over the world and due to having a remote job, I've seen and lived with people of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds; the Bay rarely understands any of those people except those in their bubble and despite that, it's not uncommon for them to speak with authority on them; I find that audacity infuriating and is something I need to work on.


>That's not illogical at all, that's mainly who I see in Porsche dealerships and nothing about that contradicts what I said.

I don't know, I think signaling is OK, and I don't consider people why buy signaling products as "vain dumb and insecure". I just don't see that anything wrong with that. I mean, you made enough money to choose good, quality product, be that t-shirt, bike or even a car. Why not choose some premium brand with some signaling attached to that, instead of just buying generic nike t-shirt or toyota corolla car? If you like that Mercedes AMG Roadster because you think that it will make you more attractive to chicks (and btw it will, I guarantee) -- and you got money to spare, well, go for it! You made enough money to buy Porsche 911, why drive Honda Civic then?

I see people signaling with their choices wrt premium products, and I don't judge them at all.

>Frankly, I am frustrated with a common trend I noticed in the Bay area where people who couldn't be bothered to leave their home/tech bubble and interact with people outside their comfort zone

I've never visited USA in my life, and do not plan to, so your guess about me being SF resident living in SF bubble is wrong. :) I do work in ad-tech / advertising, though, so I learned something about how industry works. JIC, during my daily commute (I don't own a car and use public transit) I see more people who make $500/month than people who make $5000/month, so no bubble here. :)


I'm not saying signaling is wrong; I'm saying to the EXTENT that someone cares so much that they wouldn't buy it because there may be porn associated alongside it, is a symptom of being in the set of vain, insecure, and young and dumb people.

I own a Porsche, I couldn't care less who they are advertising to so long as it doesn't hurt anyone. Moreover, I've learned with anything that attracts that much attention, it's not signaling any kind of attention you would want. I get really annoying attention, on a daily basis. If it wasn't for the tears of joy that I get from driving it down twisties, I would sell it in a heartbeat.

From my perspective as someone in the 1% of my age group and was apart of the set of young and dumb, vain and insecure people, signaling with expensive items is childishly overrated; it's far more fruitful to signal with kindness, compassion and intellect; any trust fund baby can afford a porsche and be as vapid as anyone else.


Well, I get that you want the world to function in a slightly different way, and you don't want people to associate advertised product to content around it; I'm fine with that. However, the world around us functions in a way where people subconsciously associate the product and content.

This is, in fact, a billion dollar opportunity -- ads on porn sites are so abundant and so cheap, first person who will help sell more premium product by advertising it on porn sites will become a billionaire. Not happened yet, and most porn sites advertise, well, other porn sites. There might be a reason for that (and it's not a hidden cabal of puritans who run marketing departments of well-known brands being haters of porn. trust me, those folks will sell their souls to the devil for 10% uptick in sales).


It's not that I want the world to function in that way, it's that sex is such a fundamental part of our biological nature that I believe it supersedes any human abstractions we place over our animal nature; to the extent where, the unworkable symbiosis you posited, of porn associated with the advertising of well known brands, is wanting the world to work in a different way than it actually does. More succinctly, just because advertisers haven't done it well, doesn't mean it can't be done.

In fact, as this generation of baby boomers dies off, I have a strong feeling porn will become far more normalized and have more prestigious non-porn brands associated with it, so long as more prestigious porn brands can rise up.


Would depend which way the pendulum ends up swinging afa "sex positivity" vs. puritanism in modern feminism, plus of course how mainstream porn develops. Looks to me like it's ending up equally or even more compartmentalized, just for very different reasons.

I mean current moves are more along the lines of dropping topless women from tabloids/Playboy ending nudity, Britain trying to age-limit porn, etc.

Also probably comes down to the basic technical difficulty of targeting ads on websites often browsed in private mode. Which will probably keep being the case for a lot of people, for practical reasons, regardless of how normalized porn might be.


A great deal of advertising revolves around "brand awareness". You may not be selling a particular product to the consumer, but keeping your brand in the mind of the consumer. Understandably so, not all advertisers want their brand associated with adult content.

Where an ad is seen can be just as (if not more) important to the advertiser as the ad itself. So, if your site serves up adult content -- you can guarantee that companies with large ad budgets won't be buying ad space.


>A great deal of advertising revolves around "brand awareness". You may not be selling a particular product to the consumer, but keeping your brand in the mind of the consumer. Understandably so, not all advertisers want their brand associated with adult content.

If all brands allowed their ads to appear next to adult content, then it wouldn't be any special association for any particular brand, just another outlet.

So I guess it has more to do with the historical prudery of some countries, when an ad appearing next to adult content would trigger angry letters to the editor, editorials, and so on from "concerned citizens".

That said, advertisers didn't seem to have much issue advertising all kinds of stuff on Playboy back in the day, or FHM and the like today...


> That said, advertisers didn't seem to have much issue advertising all kinds of stuff on Playboy back in the day, or FHM and the like today...

I guess it’s because Playboy and FHM are somehow considered tasteful and for connoisseurs?


I suppose that was Hugh Hefner's brilliance. That if Playboy was seen as "tasteful porn", then advertising space instantly became more valuable.

> If all brands allowed their ads to appear next to adult content, then it wouldn't be any special association for any particular brand, just another outlet.

Well yeah. Brands aren't going to put in the effort to solve a thorny collective action problem just to open up a bit more ad space. They're trying to make money, not repair broken social norms.


Big brands (i.e. the only companies with budgets that matter) are violently opposed to being associated with anything that might degrade their brand. It isn’t surprising, and it has nothing to do with morals or prudishness.

They are equally put off by pirated content, for example.


Big brands with the big ad budgets tend to be run by or depend on sales to socially conservative people.

See this line from the FAQ on Automattic's ad service:

>> "The ads tend to be broad national campaigns, rather than targeted local or topical campaigns. We have found that the broad campaigns pay better. That said, visitors from countries outside the US and Europe will often see targeted local ads."

https://wordads.co/faq/

Companies like that have to think about sales everywhere, not just in places with progressive views on sex.


As long as content is flagged and companies can block their ads from content they find objectionable it would’ve been fine.

Use a different domain then?

This does seem like a stupid simple solution. tumblr.com can continue being SFW, and then there'd be nsfwtumblr.com (or whatever) that contains "the good stuff". Retain account name uniqueness across both domains.

My very limited experience with tumblr (pre-rule change) is that it was essentially impossible to use without being frequently exposed to sexually explicit photographs. ... in contrast to reddit, which is full of outright porn but there I seldom see anything more risque than a bikini shot unless I navigate to a relevant subreddit.

Maybe the critical difference is that if your account would have anything remotely adult at all, including text, or would repost anything from account that was flagged adult then your account would need to be flagged adult. And as a result a lot of accounts were adult flagged and a lot of users felt they had to log in and enable view-adult in order to not get left out. And then even if you have no particular interest in browsing the explicit content on tumblr you can't have many contacts before you start getting occasional reposts of it.

Regardless, being able to have a site which users can fully engage with without a steady stream of surprise crotch shots that they aren't interested in seems like a pretty reasonable goal. Banning the content outright seems like a really blunt way to get there, but maybe that was less damaging to the monetization strategy than making a lot of images click to load?


tumblx.com, surely.

tumblrer

That doesn't seem to stop Twitter.

What qualifies as "better"? Twitter has pretty great user flagging, but I still get uncensored porn from people who are not followed by anyone I know in my 'Your Highlights' email, and I have safe settings enabled. I'd say even one exposure to that is enough to put off users. Or the parents of users.

Twitter is terrible for flagging NSFW content. Either everything you post is NSFW, not nothing you post is NSFW. You can't flag a single post as NSFW

I'm sure there is plenty of training data available elsewhere on the internet...

Continually tagged by ~100M unique monthly visitors? (the rough drop in traffic, post-ban)

#Epstein is trending and you have to ask why a company might be wary of advertising on a site with unmoderated adult content?

I don't think Epstein was interested in adult content.

Are you worried that there's not enough porn on the internet already?

Tumblr had a wealth of self-produced and curated adult content for and by gender and sexual minorities, with meaningful discussion. No, I don't think the internet has enough of that.

Yepppppp. I'm still pretty mad about this because along with the porn went the community of such people surrounding it.

Still trying to find where all the people landed after the purge.


With very few exceptions, I'm in favor of the internet having more of anything that anyone is trying to make it have less of.

Ads? Spam?

Sure. Caveat Utilitor.

I'd rather have an internet full of dark and danger than a safe theme park moderated by corporate entities and governments.


>With very few exceptions

It's just that tumblr had the best porn.

The spice^H^H^H^H^H porn must flow

You shouldn't equal what tumblr considers to be "adult content" to "porn".

They flagged several classic paintings as porn on my account. Justice Stewart they are not.

I had a photo of a Premier Inn[1] bedroom flagged on my account. Presumably because my rucksack was being too seductive on the bed.

[1] UK equivalent of somewhere between a motel and a hotel.


So basically an exercise in blowing several million dollars.

It's funny the stuff HN fixates on. If all you read is this comment thread, you might actually believe that non-porn Tumblr really is just "an exercise in blowing several million dollars", rather than a concern for a very loud, probably rather small subset of Tumblr users (or rather: former users).

What seems at least as likely as "adult content is vital to the future of Tumblr" is that adult content has much more valence in an HN discussion thread, since people have opinions about adult content and not so many opinions about the overwhelming majority of Tumblr content that isn't suppressed. So it takes on an importance on HN that it doesn't have elsewhere, simply because of the fundamental dynamics of message boards ("controversy is always important").


I know that almost all the SFW content creators I know who had a Tumblr blog, have gradually left the platform over the last year. The NSFW content-creators left, and with them dragged away most of the audience for SFW content. The platform is a "dead network" now; the SFW content creators are getting 10x less likes/reblogs than before for their SFW content, because none of their followers (who presumably have both SFW and NSFW interests) checks Tumblr any more, instead having moved onto whatever platform the NSFW content is on (Twitter, I think.)

Think of it this way: a pharmacy sells both prescription drugs and OTC drugs. You can buy OTC drugs from anywhere (e.g. a grocery store, a convenience store, etc.) but you can only get prescription drugs from a pharmacy, so people tend to buy their OTC drugs from pharmacies while they're there for prescription drugs. If your neighbourhood pharmacy decides to stop selling prescription drugs, would you still bother to go there for your OTC drugs? Or would you just buy your OTC drugs from whatever pharmacy you end up now having to go to for your prescription drugs?


I think this is an excellent analogy.

Tumblr was always fun because you could get both. I could have a feed of all of my interests, not just those some group deemed acceptable. I’m sure there’s some who’s interests fall entirely within the venn diagram of “acceptable”, and for those, it’s still viable. But as you stated, many like both, and many of the creators I think (who are also consumers) had interests in both SFW and NSFW content.

I don’t have any data to back this up either. But I think – and it’s a very certain feeling – that more individuals are into, let’s say, deviant content, than is spoken publicly. And the tech community, which has always skewed the populations of these platforms as opposed to the population whole, influences this. To put it succinctly (and bluntly) as a friend once told me, “the venn diagram of “kink” and “geek” practically overlap.)

I visited Tumblr for it’s digital art community, but also because it was also heavily used by the shibari community, which practices and demos erotic rope bondage.

Photographers, riggers, and models all maintained accounts on there and Instagram (IG). Tumblr was in some cases the preferred (with Instagram accounts forwarding their users over to Tumblr) as it was the more open platform.

There was a huge outcry in this community and others when the shift was announced, with people scrambling to maintain connections and set up alternate platforms. For while IG was (and to some extent still is) popular, many accounts on IG are often deleted due to reports (“female presenting nipples”). Tumblr was a good anchor to reconnect because it was consistent.

Tumblr’s “closing” had many discussing what to do, as IG is becoming increasingly intolerant to even “artistic” adult content. Twitter remains somewhat usable. But to go back to the original point, I asked some of my favorite artists if they didn’t want to consider a platform such as “Ello” (which seemed a natural fit for this content) instead of Instagram or other mass-market platform, which seemed all too likely to follow Tumblr’s path. The answer? “Because I want my work to be seen.”

And I think that’s what the controversy comes down to. The legally questionable content notwithstanding, artists want their work to be seen, to be viewed by new people, and to connect with those who are waiting to find something to inspire them. Our community meets people all of the time who see an image and get drawn to something about it, feel something unlocked inside that they never knew to ask about. Walling this content off into “adult-only” areas is like a segregation of sorts. You may be able to post pictures, but with it comes the implicit labeling that somehow, it’s different, shameful, and isn’t worthy of being grouped with everything else. And this has a chilling effect on people and their interests which different from the mainstream.

So I’m dismayed when I see waves of channels deleted on YouTube, accounts taken down on Instagram, and one more artist I follow declaring that they’re tired of fighting whack-a-mole and head off into one of the secluded boxes in some corner of the internet like bdslr, or FetLife, or others. They essentially “go dark” [1]. This doesn’t bode well for the internet and society at large, for all we’ll have left is the sterile, the “acceptable”, the echo chamber which we find so troublesome today.

1. https://onezero.medium.com/the-dark-forest-theory-of-the-int...

P.S.: I didn’t hit upon the tremendous hypocrisy I feel occurs when it seems to pull a hate speech post offline requires hand-wringing or controversy (or god forbid, a shooting), but adult content accounts can be shuttered instantly with no explanation other than a boilerplate. That, I feel, could be an entirely new discussion however.


Thank you very much for voicing your input and opinion on that matter. It always feels a little dangerous to take position on kink, even though it shouldn't.

> To put it succinctly (and bluntly) as a friend once told me, “the venn diagram of “kink” and “geek” practically overlap.)

It's nice to have an outside view on this. I was always of the opinion that my friends just happen to overlap because my interests select people in both worlds. But yeah, there might actually be a strong correlation.


> a very loud, probably rather small subset of Tumblr users (or rather: former users)

Well, according to this chart (which I have only cursorily vetted), it seems there are a lot of "former users": https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/af9rwu/oc_...

It shows that as of Jan, 2019, there were about 50% as many users as when the ban was announced. That would suggest that there are as many "former users" as there are current users. And the downward trend has probably continued in the subsequent 6 months.


That chart is based on Google Trends, which is a terrible way to measure social network activity/popularity.

A lot of people don't use bookmarks and even when they know very well it is facebook.com they still hit search "facebook" on Google.

That doesn't matter much. The largest difference is that the majority of people access social networks through mobile apps now, and Google Trends can't reflect that at all.

For example, Facebook shows a 71% drop worldwide in Google Trends over the last 5 years. Their Q2 2019 earnings showed a 20% worldwide growth in monthly users over the last two years alone.

Google Trends can't tell you anything useful about a site's growth or activity.


Do you have anything better?

The assumption that Tumblr's loss of users is entirely or even mostly due to suppressing adult content is probably unwarranted, but I'd be interested in data either way.

The chart shows that there was already a downward trend, but it really fell off a cliff after the announcement.

Also, for platforms with network effects, a drop-off (or even belief that there will be a drop-off) can do major damage to even unrelated communities on the platform. For example, Tumblr used to be a huge referrer for my startup, thanks to Tumblr's robust ADHD, dyslexia, and CFS communities who spread the word about our tools. We still get occasional traffic from posts, but I get the sense that those communities have been hollowed out by the perception that Tumblr is dead. I don't know if they've moved elsewhere (perhaps Twitter), but they sure aren't on Tumblr much anymore.

I certainly hope Automattic can revive Tumblr one way or another, but it seems like the smart play here would have been to announce that they'll be looking to find a way to restore the prior functionality, and then work out the details later. That way they can get a bump in traffic from the expectation that there will be a bigger community, which helps them regardless of the extent to which the ban is reversed.


On July 15, 2017, ~36 million posts were made on Tumblr [1]. A year later, July 14, 2018 [4], about ~31 million posts were made [2]. July 13, 2019 saw only ~21 million [3].

The Wayback Machine doesn't have fine-grained enough details to get a good estimate of how much the loss of adult content itself was responsible, but this does reinforce the impression given from the Google Trends link cited several times that there has been a steady decline in Tumblr punctuated with a massive hit on or around the removal of adult content.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20170711122839/https://www.tumbl...

[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20180714223645/http://tumblr.com...

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20190713180936/http://tumblr.com...

[4] Each of these dates is a Saturday, so not quite a year later, but matching time of year and day-of-week is better anyways.


People who had nudes on their tumblr weren't on tumblr just for nudes. It was just great to have a place you could stash everything you liked, kinks included.

So, network effects work both ways, people leave because their kink got banned and people who followed that person now have one less reason to log on.


Yes and no. As someone commented above, when people lost one of their interests, the dropped it completely and took all their presence away.

One of the reasons that I left is the need for Yahoo to share all my actions with some of the shittiest trackers, advertisers, and privacy violators. Not fun fact: you can't shake/AdBlock/NoScript/PrivacyBadger them if Tumblr itself is doing the sale.


I didn’t even use tumblr for porn at all. I pretty much only follow artists.

I’m not sure if it’s still a problem, but the ban resulted in loads of non-porn images being flagged as porn. Most people gave up trying to fight it and left. When I visit tumblr now, it’s dead. Everyone moved on and fast.


Tumblr's audience(s) were: adult, fandoms, teens, artists

Artists use it less and less, mainly to bait and switch (patreon). Adult content is out. Fandoms wither because well teenagers grow and abandon this slowly - until the next/new fandom pops up.

Curating is one thing. Make "chinese walls" and prevent teens to access the hard adult stuff, but let them free and it will organically grow again.

We are past the years where teens needed a journal, they've gone to FB/IG for that.

Tumblr is fun if let free. If not, then it will wither further and die.

I can only see Automattic using it as another wordpress, a bit more hip. But still the user geneated content needs to be the free driver, not the gagged driver.


From my little corner of the internet (furries), porn was often a lead generator. People came for the hot werewolf boyfriends, then stayed for all the non-porn stuff. They don't necessarily stick around if the thing that reminded them Tumblr existed goes away. They follow the draw where it goes. A lot of them moved to Reddit, Twitter, Mastodon, and Telegram chats.

It's a niche, but not a small one. Enough niches tumbled together (or out) is a lot of people.


The adult content is what differentiated tumblr from other platforms, users came to tumblr for it and stayed to view other content. Remove it and those users decide it's not worth sticking around versus twitter/facebook/whatever. So while you don't lose as much content you do lose a proportionally larger percentage of users (50% seems to be cited). And once those users leave the creators of sfw content will start to move to other platforms.

Or in other words porn was free marketing and lead generation for tumblr. I somehow doubt a buyer will be willing to put in enough money to make up for it.


Sure, it's the former users that are complaining rather than the current users. The problem is that the Tumblr with its current set of users and current policies are what make it a boring and uninteresting place to go on the web.

Tumblr was a hot property specifically because of the former users, and if the site doesn't try to get them back it will become something reminiscent of Digg and Myspace- something to be looked upon with nostalgia but not for spending any time visiting.


One thing I’ve noticed with the Tumblr migration, is that I’ve switched to hard core porn.

With Tumblr I had my lists of soft things where there was a lot left to imagine. Some of them are still online, proof they were supersoft. But I had to surf away and I can’t find mild ones. All because some überentity wants to sanitize and cleanse the world. And drove all the softporn to Instagram, where the everyday girl poses, which... is worse for the masses. And is less easy to browse.

If anything, closing Tumblr has driven my habits to way worse, and I’d bet we’re hundreds of thousands in this situation. As much for sanitizing society.


This happens with other things as well. One of the problems with kicking $bad_thought people off the mainstream platforms like Twitter is all the $bad_thought people get isolated, enter an echo chamber, and radicalize.

Sometimes one has to wonder if that isn't precisely the point. Destroy freedom through manufactured "abuse of freedom".

This is spot-on. HN has generally massively over-estimated the amount of porn on Tumblr, in terms of percentage of total content. I say this as a primary source with first-hand factual knowledge.

I've observed most discussions about Tumblr outside of HN. Most discussion revolves around how banning adult content from Tumblr removed any reason to go to Tumblr for many people. These are your average kinksters, artists, creative types who have been forced off the platform because it no longer caters to their interests. Not sure what any of this has to do with HN.

This subthread is discussing a misconception prevalent among HN users. But this same misconception may also be shared by other groups; no one is saying it's exclusive to HN.

I believe your anecdotal experience in this area is true and accurate. But at the same time, the raw stats just don't reflect it being universally accurate across all users. A similar phenomenon has occurred regarding people saying they're quitting Facebook, deleting Uber, moving off GitHub, etc.

In this specific case re: Tumblr, my guess would be that only a portion of them actually stopped using Tumblr at that specific time and for that reason. I suspect some of these people already stopped using Tumblr long ago, and meanwhile some others do continue using Tumblr despite previously saying otherwise. I'm just speculating though.


Do you base that on anything but a suspicion on your part? You are claiming this to be a misconception, can you actually back that up? I have no idea who those new content creators are supposed to be, like everyone else i just saw people with a decade or more of content producing behind them leaving. And not some of the people i knew but all of them. If there are great hidden communities that grew in the vacuum left, please share.

I am basing my statements on knowledge from personal experience. As I said above, I'm a primary source with first-hand factual knowledge about this topic. (If you do a lot of capacity planning for a UGC / social network infrastructure over many years, you become intimately familiar with changes in growth rate over time...)

First of, thanks for sharing your experience and insight here.

You do however see how that is a bit difficult to just accept without any backing up, considering a former engineer might naturally be a bit biased about the public perception of a former project dying? By no means a personal attack, just picture yourself in my shoes. I do understand however if there is just no such data available.

Like everyone else here I saw whole communities with active people, with sometimes over a decade of content creation behind them, just vanish. And those werent just the complete porn focused ones, hell even the few leftists i followed from soup.io days packed up for good. Granted, just my anecdotal experience but given how many experienced the same, i would be confident to say that some rather big, active and motivated communities died and others lost a great share of formerly active members and especially content creators due to the sometimes bizarre overlap.

So if tumblr isnt dying, which new active communities sprung up to fill that void? Did any with the current public perception of tumblr? How is the rate of content creation and interaction looking pre and post porn ban announcement?

Differently put, what good do lurker numbers do if the content creators are gone? Without them lurkers arent going to be sticking around forever and which new content creators are acquired?

I do mean what I said in the last post and I mean everyone who reads this,

>If there are great hidden communities that grew in the vacuum left, please do share.

edit: I also forgot to mention the most damming part, Verizon selling tumblr for under 3m. They sure are convinced its dead for good.


> a former engineer might naturally be a bit biased about the public perception of a former project dying?

Personally I'm not too concerned about that. I have other things on my resume.

I'm more concerned that people keep blindly parroting that Tumblr is/was primarily a "porn site", when the internal data absolutely did not bear that out at any point.

> So if tumblr isnt dying

I haven't said anything about whether or not it is "dying". Afraid you've misunderstood. My point is that HN tends to vastly overstate the amount of adult-related Tumblr usage. Far more users slowly left over time long before the adult content ban.

You want public numbers, OK, I'll link directly to the wayback machine info that I previously mentioned downthread:

Jan 21 2014 (random day around "peak Tumblr"): 110m posts [1]

Dec 16 2018 (before adult content ban): 28m posts [2]

Feb 3 2019 (a bit after adult content ban): 23m posts [3]

While daily posting volume doesn't perfectly equate to MAUs, in my experience with UGC / social networking products, posting volume is closely correlated with overall usage.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20140121015438/https://www.tumbl...

[2] https://web.archive.org/web/20181216220821/https://www.tumbl...

[3] https://web.archive.org/web/20190203200751/https://www.tumbl...


Awesome, thanks for clearing that up

You're talking about accounts with porn content. GP and others are talking about visitors who may not even have an account.

I've addressed that nuance in other comments in this subthread. My statements are accurate no matter how you define a "user".

Additionally, Tumblr started requiring a logged-in account to view adult content some time before the ban (something like 9 months before it iirc).

Furthermore, GP specifically said "forced off the platform", "go to Tumblr", etc which strongly implies people with accounts / using the site's dashboard feed which requires an account (as opposed to visiting specific blog subdomains directly as a logged-out user).

I really don't understand the implicit distrust of my direct first-hand experience here. The amount of gaslighting in this thread is profoundly disturbing.


Because stuff like this this:

> Additionally, Tumblr started requiring a logged-in account to view adult content some time before the ban (something like 9 months before it iirc).

Is only technically accurate; it's irrelevant to the user experience. The ban was implemented by enabling safe mode for all users, removing the option to disable it, then automatedly marking a huge number of accounts as adult (plenty of which that got caught in this step weren't actually adult).

Content wasn't actually deleted, and can still be viewed on your own dashboard for the accounts you're subscribed to, making it less obvious to users with accounts - the ban primarily affected visitors without accounts and the posters who wanted them as an audience. Those posters are the ones who have been forced off the platform, no longer able to grow an audience, but some have been slow to realize they even got caught by the ban because of how it was implemented.


I don't follow how that relates to the topic being discussed here (HN misconception about the percentage of adult-related users/content/traffic on Tumblr). I only mentioned the logged-in account requirement in response to your claim about non-logged-in traffic being relevant to the stats.

I haven't expressed any opinions about the user experience of the ban, or whether the ban was implemented well, or whether the ban was a good idea or a bad one. I have no horse in that race, and was not involved in the ban's implementation in any way whatsoever.

What I am stating is that I'm directly aware of the rough percentage of Tumblr activity that was adult-related from ~2010-2018, and that percentage is significantly less than the numbers commonly thrown around on HN. But several people here think I'm lying for whatever reason, so clearly it's time for me to bow out of this infuriating gaslight fest.


It doesn't have to be a large "percentage of total content". It just has to be the content that matters to most users...

Well, "most users" implies a majority, which is simply not the case here, full stop. Far from it, especially if you define a user as a person who has a Tumblr account and posts content on the site.

If you consider a "user" to include non-monetizeable lurkers who were just there to view adult content, then saying "most users" is definitely still wrong, but perhaps slightly less so.

Tumblr's peak was many years ago (2013 iirc), and the very slow drop-off over time is far more significant than the recent adult content ban. If you choose not to believe me, you can go to Internet Archive / Wayback Machine and view post-per-day stats on https://www.tumblr.com/about going back a decade and see for yourself.

I'm not going to reply to this further. I know the stats, I've seen the internal stats over many years, and this is a pointless thing to argue.


>Well, "most users" implies a majority, which is simply not the case here, full stop.

Well, 30% of the traffic leaving within the first couple of months of the ban, seems rather significant to me:

"The blogging platform’s traffic has dropped by 30 percent since the December ban on all adult content (...) In December, Tumblr’s global traffic clocked in at 521 million, but it dwindled to a mere 370 million in February, according to The Verge".

And moving onwards, it continues to look like a death spiral - a website that lost half or more of its users and is on a slope:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/261925/unique-visitors-t...

>I'm not going to reply to this further. I know the stats, I've seen the internal stats over many years, and this is a pointless thing to argue.

Sure, no reason to reply. I've posted the stats myself, people can draw their own conclusions...


> it dwindled to a mere 370 million in February

You are linking to incorrect stats. These numbers claim Tumblr has more MAUs than Twitter and Snapchat combined.


Feel free to link to the "correct" ones...

Those stats are not publicly available. In general, for any company, at best they may or may not include the stats in quarterly earnings statements if the company is publicly traded. Although Tumblr has been owned by public companies since 2013, its corporate owners have not made these stats publicly available.

Elsewhere in this subthread, I've linked to public info showing that in absolute content creation numbers, the impact of the adult content ban was far less than a majority of content, and also far smaller than the slow drop-off of users over the previous five years.

Judging by your use of quotes around "correct", it seems you've already made up your mind anyway and I'm wasting my time discussing this. If you want to trust clearly incorrect numbers in The Verge over the person who built the company's relational storage tier, I suppose that's your prerogative.


>If you want to trust clearly incorrect numbers in The Verge over the person who built the company's relational storage tier, I suppose that's your prerogative.

So, the Verge refers to data from two sources SimilarWeb and Statista, whereas your data are basically "trust me" and "absolute content creation numbers" (that is: not visitors).

And on top, you say you've built Tumblr's infrastructure.

I guess it's me and The Verge who is biased.


How would you feel if random people on HN repeatedly insisted your former employer was primarily a porn site, despite these people having no real evidence, and despite this going against years of your personal experience scaling and capacity-planning the site?

Do you actually believe these numbers from SimilarWeb and Statista claiming Tumblr has more MAUs than Twitter and Snapchat combined, even after banning adult content (which you claim was a majority of Tumblr's usage)? Does that even remotely make any sense at all?

You're outright accusing me of lying here. I find this insulting and do not wish to continue this discussion. Goodbye.


>How would you feel if random people on HN repeatedly insisted your former employer was primarily a porn site, despite these people having no real evidence, and despite this going against years of your personal experience scaling and capacity-planning the site?

I'd have no problem with people insisting it being "primarily a porn site", any more that if they insisted it was an "anime site", "fan fiction site" etc. The point is whether they're right or wrong, not if I don't like the type. I'd have no particular urge to disprove claims that it's a specific type of content that it's most successful.

You also repeat "having no real evidence", while the Verge article has 2 sources, and you gave none.

>Do you actually believe these numbers from SimilarWeb and Statista claiming Tumblr has more MAUs than Twitter and Snapchat combined, even after banning adult content (which you claim was a majority of Tumblr's usage)? Does that even remotely make any sense at all?

I believe Statista and SimilarWeb have no particular reason to lie about Tumblr. They just post their stats. Are they off in absolute numbers? That's neither here nor there. Even if e.g. Statista double counts, it double counts before AND after the ban, so whether the absolute numbers are accurate is irrelevant. The huge relative drop is still there.

>You're outright accusing me of lying here.

No, I'm simply accusing you of being biased and giving no numbers.

In any case, I can't see how anyone would insist Tumblr did OK after the ban, when it's said to be sold for 3mm (or close).

Heck, that's so low, that if I sold some family property, I could have bought it...


> The point is whether they're right or wrong, not if I don't like the type.

Precisely. The point is saying Tumblr is/was "primarily a porn site" is simply factually incorrect. At no point have I expressed whether or not I "like the type".

> I believe Statista and SimilarWeb have no particular reason to lie about Tumblr. They just post their stats.

And what's the source of their stats?

> Are they off in absolute numbers? That's neither here nor there.

So it's "neither here nor there" if their stats are blatantly inaccurate, but you trust the relative proportions of their stats anyway because they "have no particular reason to lie". And yet I do have some reason to lie about this? I no longer work for Tumblr, have worked on other things several orders of magnitude larger than Tumblr, haven't been an active Tumblr user in years, and had no involvement whatsoever with the implementation of Tumblr's adult content ban. Why on earth would I spend my free time making supposedly false claims about the relative percentage of adult content on Tumblr? Why not have a good-faith discussion where you assume positive intent of the person you are conversing with?

> I'm simply accusing you of being biased and giving no numbers.

I've repeatedly linked to the only publicly available numbers (posts per day stats publicly provided by Tumblr itself). What is your expectation here? It seems like you expect me to somehow retroactively capture internal confidential statistics from a former employer and then post them publicly, in order to satisfy the whims of some random pseudonymous person on HackerNews?

> I can't see how anyone would insist Tumblr did OK after the ban

At no point have I made any statement on whether Tumblr "did OK" or not after the ban. Rather, what I have stated is that the impact of the ban is a drop in the bucket relative to the much larger decline in usage over the preceding 5 years. And the reason it's a drop in the bucket is because the amount of adult content/usage on Tumblr was much smaller than you and others claim, which was precisely what tptacek theorized and I confirmed.

In any case -- you certainly aren't going to somehow change my mind regarding my personal first-hand experiences, and it seems unlikely you will change your position either, so for the third time let's please disengage and stop discussing this!


FWIW, every discussion I've seen outside of HN has attributed Tumblr's decline to the porn ban.

In your opinion what value tumblr has without the adult content (and the communities around them)?

Well sharing adult content was the only thing I used Tumblr for so the adult content ban was why I left.

>It's funny the stuff HN fixates on. If all you read is this comment thread, you might actually believe that non-porn Tumblr really is just "an exercise in blowing several million dollars"

Which it pretty much is. That kind of content (which wasn't exactly porn, though if one is prude enough everything is porn) was Tumblr best differentiator.


Where the "several million" are "a handful or million". So much for the "post-ban everything's OK" thing some people were peddling...

Why do you think that hosting porn for random people will make Automattic money?

It's certainly more likely than a site with no users.

Because it drives multiples of traffic?

Which is mostly unmonetisable by anyone other than advertising more porn. So it's not worth that much?

Except from what everyone is saying and the drop in traffic people are observing it drove multiples of SFW traffic. The porn kept and drove users but they also viewed plenty of SFW content as well. You can monetize the SFW side of things.

As far as I know, Tumblr has never come close to being a sustainable, profitable business; it survived on VC funding until it was bought by Yahoo.

It doesn't mean it's going to be like that forever. Maybe they're just saying that for the time being until the deal goes through, and afterwards when they've actually familiar with the product and know what it takes to properly implement adult content handling for Tumblr. Automattic isn't that large of a company, and it could take some time and effort to implement proper content moderation features, assign and train people, etc. Either way, even if they leave everything as is, there is no way they are going to be worse stewards of the thing as Verizon or Yahoo were.

> Automattic isn’t a large company

> Either way, even if they leave everything as is

Which is their plan for the moment. Which worries me about the sanity of Automattic. When you’ve stopped growing long ago and you start buying ventures to keep the turnover going, you end up like this big company which was buying ventures to stay afloat. What was it again?

Ah, Yahoo.


Yup - so will die sooner than later once an adequate alternative exists. Shaming sex and sexuality via policy has no place in a reasonable, civilized, accepting - healthy society.

>“It’s just fun,” he said of Tumblr. “We’re not going to change any of that.”

English translation: "We are hell-bent on making sure not to steal bdsmlr's thunder and maintain tumblr's death-spiral."


I think the English translation is just ???. That sentence is just the purest nonsense filler.

You’re gonna waste your money, Automattic.

So much for "a lot of autonomy," then.

Then it’s a corpse.

I suspect a contributory aspect is the flagrant copyright violation which went hand-in-hand with the vast majority of the adult content on Tumblr.

tumblr blogs began moving their audience to instagram and twitter years ago

instagram and tiktok are where kids are building their brands now

the nsfw sphere is on twitter/reddit

tumblr is/has been dead for years


@dang What's up with the detachment of this from its original placement as a top-level, top-voted reply to photomatt's corporately bombastic quip?

It's specifically a question to him, so seems directly on topic.


All migrated to Reddit already.

If you were to ask people in the street about Tumblr and what it was for, I would be surprised if you had many people say 'porn!'. They might not have heard of it or they might remember it from a decade ago or they might even think it was 'flickr'. It certainly is not up there with Twitter and Facebook as a full on household name.

The next 'tumblr' that comes along, i.e. when it is another thing that Automattic do, need not carry over any of the adult content connotations of the past. It can be fully repurposed with the SFW punters happy with whatever comes next. I doubt it will be mySpaced.


It wasn't just about porn, it was about things like not remotely porn-y art, entirely SFW LGBT-related material, and even entirely random image content all getting automatically flagged as porn.

It wasn't even worth the effort of trying to get previous posts on my Tumblrs unflagged; I just stopped using the site.


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