Earlier this year, Verizon was looking to sell off Tumblr in an attempt to find a good home for its furries. When it was bought by Yahoo in 2013 (which was then gulped up by Verizon in 2016), the alternative microblogging site was valued at $1.1 billion. So what was it worth after six long years of megacorporations telling it to get a haircut and stop looking at porn? A smidge less.
This week brought the shocking news that Verizon was selling Tumblr to Automattic Inc., owners of WordPress, for less than $20 million, with some sources going as low as $3 million, or the cost of a reasonably priced CEO brothel visit. Of course, the truth is that Tumblr was never worth 1.1 billion of anything, except for maybe grainy pictures of goths in yoga pants. And it definitely wasn't worth anything after Yahoo and then Verizon sunk their claws into it.
Under Verizon, Tumblr fared about as well as a Steven Universe animator on Tumblr, receiving more disdain from its owners than a genderqueer kid meeting their boomer grandfather for the first time. And like the boomer granddads they are, Yahoo and Verizon set out to "fix" their atypical ward with a series of changes, none more infamous than the porn ban of '18, a greedy / ad-friendly move that evicted countless creators from their digital homes.
But it wasn't the lack of porn that killed Tumblr; just the mere presence of Verizon and Yahoo. From the moment the suits took over, user numbers started taking a nosedive, while new members were cut by a third. Which is something anyone on Tumblr could've told them in five memes or fewer. After all, part of the site's whole appeal was to serve a little nook of chaotic freedom, far away from our (mainstream, commercialized) reality. That image becomes hard to maintain when you're constantly being reminded that the site has a boss who has a boss who has a boss who- well, you get the idea.
Can Tumblr recover? It might. Though disastrous for Verizon, it couldn't have fared better than getting mercy purchased by "the perfect partner," a company that knows how to treat young bloggers. You know, the kind of cool corporate overlords who buy a ping-pong table and let you park your foldable bike in the office. Or it might be too late, and the site will never be able to rub away the toxic corporate taint. And since Automattic's not planning on lifting the porn ban, that'll still be the only taint you'll see being rubbed on Tumblr.
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