I know how the world works, and I don’t want Karp & co. to go broke, but JESUS I hate that everything these days has to be “monetized.” I hate that the business model for websites is “create neat thing, run it well for a few years, sell it to megaconglomerate for a trillion bucks, then give the…
I believe that websites and social platforms are trending things, and are prone to change without notice. If they don’t become uncool by a corporate buyout, then I believe it will be from it’s own undoing eventually. (see: facebook’s current situation of becoming “uncool.”) Popularity and user base fizzle out over time as newer trending services arrive. (I’d say right now, we’re observing 6 to 8 years MAX lifespan before decline starts setting in.) Some services dodge this bullet by being the first to fill a large void in the market and having hard-to-replicate features (see: youtube, deviantart,) but none are completely safe from failing, and most are prone to eventually failing or fading away. (see: livejournal, blogger, myspace, digg.)
Tumblr is, let’s all face it, nothing particularly special. It’s a blogging service like many before it that has a mass-consumption-driven community designed to be attached to it, (unlike blogger and wordpress which are highly stand-alone.) Believe it or not, this community aspect makes Tumblr a service very prone to eventually fizzling out, or face deep redesigns to keep up with the changing landscape that will inevitably alienate longest-term users. I’d say Tumblr doesn’t exactly have much of a future path to stay relevant indefinitely. It’s features are too typical, too replaceable by a newer, trending one. I remember when I started off using LiveJournal. Then I went to Blogger. Then I tried WordPress. Now I’m on Tumblr. All in what, the last 10 years?
For all we know, Yahoo may actually make Tumblr for the most part better. (Different than we know it right now, but overall maybe a little better.) I’ve been here for just under 2 years now? The only thing that’s changed are some minor dashboard, front page, design and appearance tweaks. How about a better search engine? Searching by multiple tags and sorting posts by relevancy or popularity? Yahoo can probably finally develop that. I remember when Yahoo bought Flickr. In my experience, they made the site more responsive, more usable, and more content-centric. (Not to say that the original company wouldn’t have — but the key here is that Yahoo didn’t just let it rot.) I also look fondly at the work that Google did to Youtube and Blogger, the improvements Microsoft made to Skype, and what Adobe did to Macromedia (which wasn’t much but wasn’t worse.)
Digg comes to mind in particular to buyouts. A couple years ago, Digg was a massively popular content aggregation site. The Digg board (and Kevin Rose) were cocky, refusing companies who wanted to buy it because he believed it was being massively undervalued (at $200 Mil from Google.) Reddit was the underdog of the time. Rose made changes to Digg shortly after rejecting the buyout proposals to try to increase it’s scope and profitability. Turns out he tweaked it too much and seriously piss off its users. The vast majority of Digg’s users migrated nearly overnight to Reddit, exploding its popularity. Digg was eventually bought for a super low $500K and is still slipping the ranks into irrelevancy. Kevin Rose: “Oops.”
I don’t think we owe ourselves to Tumblr’s success. Yes, Tumblr would’ve been dead in the water without its users. But by saying “you would’ve been nothing without us!” is overlooking the fact they created and built the platform which was offered for us to freely use to begin with. It’s a good easy to use service which warrants having lots of users — even if a lot of those features are a mish-mash or other service rolled into one — so for that at least their work paid off. I really don’t blame Karp & co. 1.1 Billion is no small sum of money for a blogging platform, especially since I (as well as he probably) believes that this is as high of a value it’s ever going to get. Zuckerberg will always have Facebook and will be known as “The guy who made facebook” because really, it’s a tough act to follow in its total size and scope, and the historical mark it will leave on the internet (see: google+ TRYING). But Karp, I have no doubt he has other services and products he’s been wanting to pursue, and all that money will certainly springboard a new company for himself. In his position, I’d have done the same. Don’t want to go down in History as another Digg.