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May 18, 2013

Thoughts on Tumblr and Yahoo (in rebloggable form, upon reader request)

obitoftheday asks: What do you think happens if Yahoo buys Tumblr? And why do we all agree that it seems like a bad idea?

» SFB says: I think Tumblr starts monetizing itself more effectively. For years they’ve tried to do everything but the obvious, but the problem is, they’ve turned down a lot of good ideas as a result.

(Comparison: WordPress.com has succeeded at profitability by both offering paid premium features and revenue sharing-style advertising for bloggers—both things Tumblr has chosen not to do, but could arguably do better than WordPress if it chose to do so. Nobody really complains about Wordpress’ ads. Think that might be because they created a context for it that didn’t bug users?)

But this could come at the cost of a very strong community. I know of one heavily-active user I liked reading, The Callus, who has quit Tumblr and deleted all of his posts as a result of the whiff of a rumor of this buyout happening. I don’t think you or anyone else should follow suit, but that’s what people are doing.

As for the “bad idea” chunk of your questions, the problem is this: Yahoo has a reputation for letting acquisitions flounder under its corporate structure. Even the big ones. Delicious, for example, was nearly shut down before the founders of YouTube swooped in and saved it. And Yahoo has also tried the user-generated market before, including with Geocities and Yahoo Meme (which was effectively Yahoo’s failed attempt to create a Tumblr clone). Yahoo has a long list of discontinued products. And while Laurie Voss has a good point about Flickr, there’s a better point here: Building a community with integrity is tough, and change at the top can ruin everything if done the wrong way. I can understand why people might be worried. I’m worried, too. — Ernie @ SFB

P.S.: One key line from the story we linked last night: “sources say the company only has a few months of cash runway left.” Who knows if that’s true, but this is a company that unceremoniously fired its editorial team recently—a move that could be seen in a different light considering that line, though that’s speculative. Tumblr can’t run on dreams and reblogs and investor money forever. Something has to change on the business front to ensure the likes can keep coming. That change can come from the inside, but the change can come more easily from an exit.

21:20 // 1 year ago

obitoftheday says: What do you think happens in Yahoo buys Tumblr? And why do we all agree that it seems like a bad idea?

(EDIT: On reader request, here’s a rebloggable version of this.)

» SFB says: I think Tumblr starts monetizing itself more effectively. For years they’ve tried to do everything but the obvious, but the problem is, they’ve turned down a lot of good ideas as a result.

(Comparison: WordPress.com has succeeded at profitability by both offering paid premium features and revenue sharing-style advertising for bloggers—both things Tumblr has chosen not to do, but could arguably do better than WordPress if it chose to do so. Nobody really complains about Wordpress’ ads. Think that might be because they created a context for it that didn’t bug users?)

But this could come at the cost of a very strong community. I know of one heavily-active user I liked reading, The Callus, who has quit Tumblr and deleted all of his posts as a result of the whiff of a rumor of this buyout happening. I don’t think you or anyone else should follow suit, but that’s what people are doing.

As for the “bad idea” chunk of your questions, the problem is this: Yahoo has a reputation for letting acquisitions flounder under its corporate structure. Even the big ones. Delicious, for example, was nearly shut down before the founders of YouTube swooped in and saved it. And Yahoo has also tried the user-generated market before, including with Geocities and Yahoo Meme (which was effectively Yahoo’s failed attempt to create a Tumblr clone). Yahoo has a long list of discontinued products. And while Laurie Voss has a good point about Flickr, there’s a better point here: Building a community with integrity is tough, and change at the top can ruin everything if done the wrong way. I can understand why people might be worried. I’m worried, too. — Ernie @ SFB

P.S.: One key line from the story we linked last night: “sources say the company only has a few months of cash runway left.” Who knows if that’s true, but this is a company that unceremoniously fired its editorial team recently—a move that could be seen in a different light considering that line, though that’s speculative. Tumblr can’t run on dreams and reblogs and investor money forever. Something has to change on the business front to ensure the likes can keep coming. That change can come from the inside, but the change can come more easily from an exit.

21:02 // 1 year ago
1:32 // 1 year ago
May 17, 2013

To the people complaining that “Yahoo will ruin Tumblr like it ruined Flickr”

seldo:

I am super bored of hearing this.

Could Yahoo have done a better job of managing Flickr? Absolutely.

In retrospect, if they’d been patient and poured money into it like Facebook did with their own photo-sharing features, Flickr might have been a lot bigger. (Facebook is by far the world’s biggest photo-sharing site, and tagged photos was key to its early growth, something Flickr didn’t add until 2007)

But that’s in retrospect. In 2005, it wasn’t at all clear what to do. Everyone in the industry was still feeling the burn of gigantic, unprofitable acquisitions prior to the great crash of 2001, so paying money for an barely-profitable site like Flickr still seemed like madness, even within Yahoo. So Yahoo focussed on making it profitable — and succeeded, which is no mean feat.

Could Flickr have done better staying independent? Absolutely no way.

And the way you can tell that for sure is that they let Yahoo acquire them. It’s not like Yahoo in 2005 had a great reputation; the only reason you’d do it is if you were out of money and out of options. In 2005, nobody was going to give Flickr the hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh capital they needed and hope for the best: it was exit or die.

On top of the bare financial reality, it is an open secret at Yahoo (my former employer) that Flickr’s internals are and have always been an architectural nightmare. They had no idea how to scale and needed huge investment just to dig themselves out of the technical debt they’d accrued. It could have been better, sure, but without Yahoo it would have been much, much worse.

Yahoo didn’t kill Flickr; Yahoo saved Flickr from itself.

Here’s a lesser-heard take on the Yahoo/Tumblr thing from Laurie Voss, who is a former Yahoo employee and has some good insight on the matter as a result.

22:55 // 1 year ago
21:50 // 1 year ago
Good news everyone. Something is probably going to happen that you may not like. Whatever it is will get announced this coming Monday.

Good news everyone. Something is probably going to happen that you may not like. Whatever it is will get announced this coming Monday.

15:55 // 1 year ago
13:40 // 1 year ago
13:14 // 1 year ago

Yahoo paid billions for a somewhat-Tumblr-like site back in the ’90s

  • $3.6B was the amount Yahoo bought Geocities for back in 1999. Remember Geocities? The Tumblr of the ’90s, complete with customizable pages? It’s still around, right? (via Hacker News) source
1:55 // 1 year ago
May 16, 2013
22:34 // 1 year ago