Tumblr: The Yahoo! Acquisition and Beyond
By Mitch Cavender, Intern
Since its creation in 2007, Tumblr has accumulated a diverse user-base that uses the platform for myriad of purposes. Hipsters, angsty teens, social justice champions, fandom shippers, and everything in between have learned to call the blue-backgrounded blogging site home, as it serves as their one stop shop for everything from Spongebob GIFs to personal essays explaining the problems with patriarchy. However, Yahoo!’s recent acquisition of the company has caused many Tumblr bloggers to question the future of the site they’ve learned to love to the point of obsession. Here are four ways that Tumblr can not only placate its disgruntled members, but also create an even more immersive and enjoyable experience in the years to come.
1. Don’t Filter Content. One of Tumblr’s most enticing qualities is that, unlike other social media sites such as Facebook, it does not filter content. Whether it’s a cat GIF or an extremely NSFW photo, Tumblr users are allowed to post what they please. This is one of the biggest reasons that they keep coming back for more. Contrarily, Yahoo has a very family friendly image, and is notorious for censoring user comments. If Yahoo! brings this mentality to Tumblr and begins removing explicit content from the site (they could very easily rationalize their decision, as Tumblr has a very large underage user base), they will see users of all ages flee just as quickly.
2. Upgrade the Message Feature. For what seems like forever, Tumblr users have been begging for a better way to personally interact with their fellow bloggers. While the Fanmail feature was a definite upgrade from the Ask feature, it still leaves much to be desired. If two users want to actually chat with one another, they have to either exchange phone numbers, become friends on Facebook, or use a standalone messaging client. Integrating an on-site chat feature would help Tumblr differentiate itself from its competitors while narrowing the gap between itself and Facebook.
3. Make “Tagging” More Comprehensive. Tags are used for two primary purposes on Tumblr: organizing content within an individual blog, and allowing users to browse all original content posted of a certain type on the site as a whole (i.e., everything tagged with the search term). However, the tag system is currently very simplistic and limiting, as you can only search one tag at a time. For example, say I wanted to browse all content relating to The Avengers. If I tag-search “The Avengers” I am only going to see content tagged exactly as such; I will have to do additional searches if I want to see everything tagged only as “Thor” or “Iron Man.” Integrating a system that allows users to search multiple tags simultaneously would eliminate this issue, and allow for more efficient and intuitive browsing. It would also make it easier for content creators to get their posts noticed by users browsing the tags.
4. Support Third-Party Programming. There are two third-party Tumblr add-ons that die hard bloggers cannot live without: Missing E, and Tumblr Savior. Missing E allows the user to, among countless other features, streamline the reblogging process, reblog oneself, modify the sidebar, reply to replies, and, possibly most importantly, hide all images from the dashboard unless hovered over via the “Safe Dash” feature, which can be extremely useful when browsing in public settings (remember all that NSFW content I talked about?). Tumblr Savior allows users to hide all content featuring a certain tag. For example, if you don’t want to have the latest episode of Game of Thrones spoiled for you, you can “blacklist” its tags, and safely browse a spoiler-free site. You can also filter out any content that you find undesirable or offensive. Tumblr has yet to officially incorporate these add-ons, and has actually discouraged users from using them, with no clear explanation given as to why. In the future, Tumblr should encourage and work with developers like these to create applications that enhance the Tumblr experience, as it will lead to increased satisfaction amongst current users, and make the site more inviting to potential ones.