Everyone, I’m elated to tell you that Tumblr will be joining Yahoo.
Before touching on how awesome this is, let me try to allay any concerns: We’re not turning purple. Our headquarters isn’t moving. Our team isn’t changing. Our roadmap isn’t changing. And our mission – to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve – certainly isn’t changing.
As always, everything that Tumblr is, we owe to this unbelievable community. We won’t let you down.
Official announcement from David Karp is above, emphasizing users as creators (see below) and staff/mission continuity.
Yahoo has moved its official blog to Tumblr, and Yahoo’s own official announcement is here.
From echoes in vocabulary, it’s clear that both official announcements are designed to echo the same talking points and core messages, with Yahoo providing a little more detail on “what’s in it for Yahoo.”
Key points from Yahoo’s official announcement:
- “We promise not to screw it up.”
Mainstream media and financial news is wondering why Mayer would say that, but anxious and cynical Tumblr users will understand.
- “David Karp will remain CEO. [Tumblr’s] product roadmap, their team, their wit and irreverence will all remain the same. ”
Assuring us of no immediate plans to rejigger. As expected.
- It says that Tumblr “could grow Yahoo!’s audience by 50% to more than a billion monthly visitors, and could grow traffic by approximately 20%.”
I think this ties in with TIME magazine’s third-person report on why Yahoo! bought Tumblr:
Mayer wants to incorporate Yahoo!’s products — including search, email, and its popular homepage — into the “daily habits” of its users, in an echo of the “toothbrush” philosophy espoused by her former boss, Google CEO Larry Page.
The “toothbrush” philosophy is the idea that you make a site part of people’s daily habits, at least twice a day. Tumblr is, of course, already that, but Mayer probably wants to make Yahoo — its other services and products — part of Tumblr users’ daily habits.
- Quite a lot of language casting and characterizing Tumblr as a “creative canvas” “creators” “all things art and design”. Which implies to me a focus on blogging as original creation of original material.
But there’s also one mention of “curators,” which is important, because, for better and for worse, Tumblr is predicated largely on its users sharing other people’s work.
- It says Tumblr will “deploy Yahoo!’s personalization technology and search infrastructure to help its users discover creators, bloggers, and content they’ll love.”
What’s Personalization Technology? Marissa Mayer discusses it in this Jan 2013 Business Insider Video Interview (starting at 7:10 or so). Basically this means an algorithm that collates your likes, reblogs, tags, tweets, etc — or whatever social media and search footprint you’ve left behind on sites where Yahoo has a presence — and slanting search results to show you what it thinks you want to see. (Insert riff on the problem of the “echo chamber” effect of search personalization).
It also means we’ll be seeing advertising (confirmed here) that attempts to target our tastes. Frankly, while I hate ads, I don’t have a problem with them, as long as they aren’t overly intrusive (autoplay sound or covering up the content I’m trying to look at). Media basically has three ways to pay for itself: advertising, selling swag, or user subscription fees. And the server costs of a website with instant image and video hosting is enormous. Tumblr has to support itself and its staff salaries somehow, and in our cancerous world of “business = growth,” it has to keep growing revenue.
I do not know whether Yahoo’s “personalization technology” includes selling what Yahoo (and I typoed “Google” there, freudian slip) knows about your web habits/tastes/footprint to third parties. In general, web giants like Facebook, Google and Yahoo claim they’re not doing that; instead they’re selling their advertising service and promising to use what they know about you to target those ads effectively. It’s a subtle distinction.
The personal data collection is a problem we run into all over the web, and frankly, the “echo chamber” effect of it only showing me like-minded stuff and not what “other” people think or say bothers me as much as anything.
What concerns me is twofold.
- Yahoo’s track record with user-created and fandom sites is abysmal and littered with dead or moribund sites: Geocities, Del.ici.ous, and others. Can Mayer buck the trend? I hate seeing Tumblr as the guinea pig. (And yes, we’ve heard all sorts of platitudes about how Nothing Is Changing when Yahoo bought some of these other properties.)
- Mayer is from Google, which is really bad about respecting user privacy (and is pushing hard against web anonymity and pen names, although I don’t know if she was part of that). Google gathers lots and lots of data about who you are, what you like, search for, and do. She’s importing that approach into Yahoo. I’m not sure Google is living up to its old “Do No Evil” philosophy in that regard, nor do I trust Yahoo with that kind of power. Both are better than Facebook in that regard, but that’s not saying much.
I don’t know why I bother trying to think about these things when X-cetra will just com along and do it for me <3