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Verizon didn't just fail to figure out what to do with Tumblr, it dealt what was nearly a death blow by changing its policy on adult content - one of the platform's biggest remaining pillars of core users. Tumblr doesn't still exist because of its features; it exists because of its communities. Leave it to Verizon to not just starve a golden goose, but shoot it in the head.

According to Matt Mullenweg, that's not true:

> One of the things that really surprised me is I thought — as probably many do — that Tumblr had kind of died under its variety of corporate parents. And then actually being able to see some of the numbers, including some the numbers post-when they changed the adult content policy. I was like, “Wow, this has still got a ton going on.”



Yeah ok, whatever.

I don't doubt that it's still a viable business, I don't care.

I feel a deep pain every time I think about it. Something beautiful was destroyed with no remorse. The world is worse off because of it. It feels like tearing down statues of the buddha. The one place on the internet where one could explore explicit sexuality without feeling gross and exploited. I will never forgive this destruction of a beautiful culture. The whole thing makes my blood boil.

Tumblr lost ~70% of its engagement in the 5 years prior to the adult content ban. The adult content ban was a drop in the bucket, numerically speaking. This graph is an accurate depiction: https://twitter.com/somospostpc/status/1161024458460712962

Also keep in mind a decent chunk of the adult content was literally automated bot spam.

Meanwhile, Statista's graph appears to be made of random numbers with no basis in reality whatsoever. They claim that even post-adult-content-ban, Tumblr has more MAUs than Twitter and Snapchat combined. Factor in Tumblr's 70% drop vs historic peak usage, and you'd end up with a number claiming Tumblr was once the most popular tech product on earth. This is quite obviously a complete fabrication.

If you want to be sad or angry about something, the loss of old peak Tumblr -- when it combined the best aspects of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Reddit -- is a better target in my mind. Its decline was long and slow over many years.

(Disclosure: I was one of Tumblr's first engineers, and later director of platform engineering. I had no involvement whatsoever in the adult content ban, but nonetheless find it frustrating when people significantly overstate the amount of adult content on Tumblr. At its peak it contained an extremely diverse set of communities, and I fear this is being completely lost in revisionist rhetoric.)

I don't think MAUs === how good a site is. I wasn't even a particularly active tumblr user at any point, I can't really say if it was much better 5 years ago. I do not want to be angry or sad about something. I'm just sharing my subjective experience and publicly mourning the loss of something that was valuable to me. I found a lot of positivity and value in the adult content on tumblr. It was of a flavor much more palatable to me than what I tend to find on the rest of the internet.

The ban might be a drop in the bucket overall, but the ban and the sometimes hilarious attempts at automated enforcement was a huge hit to reputation. What that means for Tumblr's future is uncertain.

Thank you for sharing, were you there when Yahoo/Verizon took over? IYO was the decline due to that or more that Tumblr itself just peaked like so many other social networks?

It's just porn, chill

It's not, and I won't.

It's about having a safe community for self expression through sexual art. It's about a set of deeply regressive (American) cultural norms that stifle sexual expression and further marginalize non-normative individuals. It's about the death of a vibrant community that made people feel included and valued. It's about sex-positivity. It's about destigmatizing overt sexual expression.

No, it specifically wasn't just porn; it was all adult content. Including anything about sex, including educational stuff.

According to the person with the single largest imaginable reason to sugarcoat it, you mean. The numbers look terrible.


The graph you shared shows daily posts published dropped to ~22 million around the porn ban. SimilarWeb shows tumbler has 380 million visits per month.


The steady drop over time is concerning, but these numbers show tumbler has still got a ton going on.

This is exactly what happened. Verizon probably didn't know that most of the traffic they were buying were because of adult content, and then they killed that. I wish they had sold it to Pornhub instead.

Verizon didn't buy Tumblr. Verizon bought Yahoo/Oath and ended up with Tumblr. It's a very different scenario.

It's important to remember that Tumblr never turned a profit; as far as I've been able to determine it never hit the break-even point. And the bottom line is that a giant service that's losing money is worse to own than a tiny service that's losing money. Verizon's attempt to kick out the NSFW parts wasn't simple-mindedness or prudishness, it was a calculated risk that a smaller but SFW Tumblr might be able to at least make enough money to pay for itself.

Having said that, it's also important to note that Tumblr still gets a lot of traffic; by most measures it's still in the top 100 most visited sites on the Internet, and gets more traffic than Wordpress.com -- Automattic's closest "competing" product -- does.

> Verizon bought Yahoo/Oath

Verizon had ATH - AOL, TechCrunch, Huffington Post, then bought and added yahoO to the group, hence the name.

Yes, that is exactly how uninspired these corporate names are.

You're widely overstating the importance of TechCrunch within Oath if you believe that that is the root of the name.

While it's obviously well known within these circles, engadget is approximately equivalently sized (see Alexa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engadget vs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TechCrunch ), and even when the company was described internally by its components they were AOL, Yahoo and sometimes also VDMS (which had been transferred to AOL from Verizon pre-Yahoo acquisition).

The name is dumb, we all agreed. As clearly did Verizon, since the company has been renamed since. But it was dumb in the sense of the CEO had a dumb idea that didn't translate well to other markets and not "The CEO had an even dumber idea and marketed it as being a slightly less dumb idea"


I just remember seeing a bunch of press releases of how Yahoo would be folded into the group led by the former AOL CEO, and that that group also contained TechCrunch and HuffPo. It felt weird that just those two were often mentioned together with AOL, and the initials lining up...?

Do you have a source for that? I worked there at the time of this unholy merger, and that explanation for the name was never given.

From what I recall, Tim Armstrong claimed the name reflected Verizon's promise to do right by AOL and Yahoo, or some other such complete nonsense. Internally, everyone I knew thought it was on par with Tronc for worst rebrand ever.

No, I don't have a source, and it could of course be possible that someone got the idea for the name somewhere else, but the initials of the businesses matching the thing is just too much of a coincidence.

I was at Yahoo until just before the sale to Verizon, which happened because the first attempt at spinning off the Alibaba shares tax-free failed. In the first attempt, Yahoo created a new company called Aabaco, which super conveniently could reasonably apply for the stock ticker AABA. (Alibaba had BABA)

When the first attempt failed, they needed an ALTernative solution, so they sold the core business to Verizon, and promptly renamed the company from Yahoo to Altaba and changed their stock ticker from YHOO to AABA.

Meanwhile, the press were super confused about the name change and there were a bunch of articles with people speculating on the name change, wondering what the name meant, etc, etc, because noone apparently could imagine that the name change was exactly as lazy and uninspired and dumb as it was.

I am pretty sure the OATH name was thought up by the same fine minds, and that it was equally uninspired and dumb. If you and your colleagues inside Verizon smelled corporate bullshit, I think that just strengthens my case.

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