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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!




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