After spending a few years doing pretty much nothing of note with the site, Verizon’s offloading Tumblr to Automattic, the company that owns WordPress. However, despite the new management, the site apparently won’t reinstate its NSFW content.
We have big news to share today: @tumblr is joining Automattic, and we couldn't be more thrilled. Here's @photomatt's announcement (on his very own Tumblr site!): https://t.co/gcWqj6wOBO pic.twitter.com/FThTGACK7M
— Automattic (@automattic) August 12, 2019
The Wall Street Journal reports Automattic bought Tumblr for an undisclosed amount. According to Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg, the acquisition is the priciest in Automattic’s history, and the company’s also taking on 200 Tumblr staff members. Mullenweg claims to have been a long-time Tumblr user (he does have a blog with some very beautiful pictures) and doesn’t see it as a WordPress competitor: “It’s just fun. We’re not going to change any of that.”
Verizon bought Tumblr in 2017 when it acquired Yahoo, which bought Tumblr in 2013 for $1.1 billion. While the site does maintain a fairly large and active contingent of users (disclosure: your author has a small Tumblr blog), it’s evidently failed to generate enough revenue to justify its purchase. Verizon began approaching other companies with intent to sell the site. According to WSJ, the amount is “nominal” compared with its original purchase price.
Tumblr’s fortunes appeared to take a swift downturn last November, when it made a controversial rule amendment banning lewd or pornographic content from the site. It was done with good intentions, as images of child abuse had surfaced on the site, but it wasn’t very well-received. Given that Tumblr had long been known as a host for alternative and positive forms of porn, including those more palatable for women, it sparked an outcry from users.
Immediately users threatened a mass exodus, and many people began saving their NSFW content elsewhere. It didn’t help that the algorithm intended to detect NSFW content frequently caught innocent posts in its dragnet. Traffic to the site dropped sharply, losing nearly 100 million views in the following month.
But if you’re thinking Automattic will reverse course on that rule, and reinstate the NSFW from before the controversial rule change. Mullenweg told WSJ that they intend to maintain the rule, and an Automattic spokesperson confirmed this to TNW.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
After the lewdness ban, Pornhub Vice President Corey Price told Buzzfeed his company was interested in buying Tumblr and restoring its NSFW content. We have no way of knowing how serious an offer it was, but I now want to visit the alternate universe where this occurred.
According to Mullenweg’s Tumblr, Automattic will officially close the acquisition in a few weeks.