Max Krebs

Tumblr Deserved Better

Its official. Verizon now owns Yahoo, but this isn’t a post about Yahoo. For all I care, Yahoo can rot in the dumpster that is Verizon’s digital strategy with AOL. But caught up in all this is Tumblr. I have a hard time putting my sadness about Tumblr into words, but I am going to try. All I ask is some patience. This is a rare showing of sentimentality for me.

It’s easy to make fun of Tumblr, the same way that adults find it easy to make fun of anything that is popular among teenagers. But Tumblr has gotten an especially bad reputation around the tech community. It seemed to fall out of “relevance” fairly quickly. There was a time when people tried out Tumblr for semi-serious blogging or writing, but now it has the reputation of being mostly teenagers with bad senses of social justice and unhealthy obsessions with British television shows. Oh, also porn.

True or not (I’d argue not, or at least oversimplified), Tumblr deserved better. Founded in 2007 by David Karp and CTO Marco Arment, bought by Yahoo in 2013, now sold off to Verizon. Mismanaged all the way. This narrative, which mostly centers around Tumblr’s viability as a startup and product. But this misses how important Tumblr was to the people who used it.

How many anonymous forums do teenagers get? Where they can be really themselves around people who are like them? With no fear of being outed or found out? Not a lot. And that is what Tumblr was to many kids. How many queer kids felt lonely until they joined Tumblr and found both people like them and the words to describe themselves? I would bet it was a large number. And now those kids might lose what could be their only safe space because of Silicon Valley politics. All Tumblr kids wanted to do was be themselves and ship fictional characters.

For me, it was a place to be unapologetically nerdy in a culture and a hometown that discouraged intellectualism and geekery. It was how I got to know all of my closest and best friends. I moved halfway across the country on my own. It was reassuring and comforting to share gifs with people I had just met and know we were cut from the same cloth. I’ll always treasure that time in my life. I met a long term partner through Tumblr. Now that I think about it, all of my major relationships started, at least in part, on or around Tumblr. More recently, its been a place I could experiment with my identity expression without fear.

Recently, bookmarking site Pinboard acquired bookmarking site Delicious mostly because Delicious was passed around by corporations (including Yahoo at one point) and was mismanaged into a pale imitation of its former self (sound familiar?), and Pinboard wanted to preserve Delicious as a piece of Web history. I don’t think anyone will extend that kindness to Tumblr. If I was rich; however, I would buy it without hesitation, and make sure the servers stayed up for a long time.