WordPress buying Tumblr

Wordpress and Tumblr Logos

WordPress.com own­er Automat­tic that has last week been report­ed to pur­chase rival Microbloging site Tum­blr. The deal is being report­ed to be below $3 Mil­lion, far below the hyper val­u­a­tion of $1.1 Bil­lion that Yahoo paid in 2013. Back then Yahoo was buy­ing lots of start up com­pa­nies as part of a revi­tal­i­sa­tion dri­ve by Maris­sa May­er, since then Yahoo has been sold of to Ver­i­zon, its com­pa­nies bun­dled up in Oath, and its from this that Automat­tic is pur­chas­ing Tum­blr from. 

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Tum­blr will remain a sep­a­rate brand. There is a ded­i­cat­ed Tum­blr com­mu­ni­ty even after years of neglect and con­fu­sion. Still, Matt says Tumblr’s user base is “sev­er­al times larg­er than [WordPress.com’s].”

The Tum­blr back­end will change its tech­nol­o­gy, but the front-end expe­ri­ence will stay sim­i­lar to what it is today, as Automat­tic “[doesn’t] want to change what’s work­ing.” Matt said Tumblr’s inter­face is “work­ing amaz­ing­ly well, despite being fair­ly con­strained in what they can launch [the] past few years.”

Theres always been a sort of friend­ly rival­ry, between the two plat­forms. Word­Press being seen as the more grown up, pro­fes­sion­al place to write, where as Tum­blr was a more play­ful and cre­ative space. This was empha­sised in the more visu­al lan­guage and style from the themes that Tum­blr and third par­ties pro­vid­ed, empha­sis­ing images and media. Word­Press by con­trast would focus very heav­i­ly on the writ­ten word.
Recent­ly, and with oth­er rivals such as Square Space, Word­Press has been mak­ing efforts to become more visu­al­ly focused. The recent edi­tion of the Guten­berg edi­tor and the merg­er of ser­vices between the self host­ed addi­tion of Word­Press and WordPress.com, push­ing Word­Press users into Automat­tics prod­ucts and read­ing dash­boards has felt very Tum­blr like.

Word­Press and Automat­tic Founder also announced the acqui­si­tion, on his Tum­blr (usu­al­ly used to share photos)

Back in 2013, I reflect­ed on how friend­ly the rela­tion­ship has always been between WordPress.com and Tum­blr, and on the excit­ing future I saw for web-pub­lish­ing plat­forms like ours. In the inter­ven­ing years, the Tum­blr team has con­tin­ued to impress me with their abil­i­ty to cre­ate an intu­itive pub­lish­ing expe­ri­ence on desk­top and on mobile, and to fos­ter so many thriv­ing, pas­sion­ate com­mu­ni­ties. I have worked on Word­Press my entire adult life — 16 years now — and so the democ­ra­ti­za­tion of pub­lish­ing is near and dear to my heart. Tum­blr and Word­Press have always been very philo­soph­i­cal­ly aligned there.

The con­tro­ver­sy over adult con­tent on Tum­blr looks like it may well con­tin­ue under Automat­tics own­er­ship. His­tor­i­cal­ly Tum­blr was quite lib­er­al in allow­ing adult con­tent to be host­ed, and many LGBT+ and sex pos­i­tive artists set up home there. How­ev­er under Yahoo / Ver­i­zon own­er­ship Tum­blr had been crack­ing down, most­ly due to App Store bans. Whilst I do hope that there will even­tu­al­ly be main­stream spaces that will be adult about adult con­tent, that will have to wait for anoth­er day. Automati­ic con­firmed that the adult bans will remain in place.

What excites me most are the plans to open source parts of Tum­blr. Matt wants to port Tum­blrs back­end so that it runs on Word­Press, which should be inter­est­ing to say the least. How­ev­er doing so opens up the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Tum­blr being able to use Word­Press plu­g­ins. Matt has said that he indents to main­tain a sep­a­rate front end, and plans to make parts of this open source. Per­haps there may be a self host­ed ver­sion of Tum­blr, or func­tion­al­i­ty that will be inte­grat­ed into Word­Press or avail­able through Jetpack.

I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing how both Tum­blr and Word­Press devel­op together.

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