Yahoo! today announced they’ve bought Tumblr, in a deal we first heard about over the weekend. I’ll leave others to go into the analysis, but what I’m interested in is what the very vocal Tumblr community are going to do now.
I’m pretty sure 95% or more of Tumblr users will carry on as they have up to now, but inevitably there will be a number of users looking to jump-ship in case Yahoo! break their promise to “not screw this up”. Where will they go though? To me, the answer isn’t obvious.
If I had to list the most important things any potential replacement needed to have, to capture the core Tumblr demographic, I’d say:
- Images (photos + animated GIFs), videos, and audio should all be treated as equally as text – if not better.
- Sharing between blogs on the service should be “two-click simple”.
- Robust theming and customisation options. No two blogs need look alike.
- It should probably be free, with some paid, non-essential, upgrades (i.e. don’t charge me to use a custom domain)
- Rules and policies should stay out of the way of the community and content as much as possible (with only a few exceptions)
- It should be easy to stay anonymous/pseudo-anonymous
Posterous used to be touted as the main rival to Tumblr, but they were acquired by Twitter and eventually shutdown earlier this year. Right now I imagine some of the original team are kicking themselves at a lost opportunity.
Automattic have added a lot of Tumblr-esque features to WordPress over the last couple of years. Matt Mullenweg today blogged they’re getting a huge uptick in the number of users importing from Tumblr (I can believe it – importing my small Tumblr site took over 2 hours to import). That may well be the case, but I took a look this evening and couldn’t find a single theme in the WordPress theme directory which I would count as a “Tumblog“, or which worked well enough with a wide variety of post-types out of the box to make switching painless. Top it off with most customisation features are a paid-for upgrade, and WP.com isn’t going to be an instant choice for most Tumblr users.
So who else is there? I don’t think any “traditional” blogging service is going to cut it, really. Tumblr content is too varied to fit into the standard blog editor which focusses heavily on text (with a little bit of photo thrown in). Again, in this category WordPress.com comes the closest, using post types and media embeds.
If I was Automattic, I’d be trying to release a tonne of free themes matching the Tumblr media experience right now.
Researching this entry I came across a couple of lesser-known services – Soup.io, and Jux. Of the two, Soup.io resembles an cut-down, early version of Tumblr, and might be a good shout if you don’t need all of the bells and whistles. Jux seems more in tune with the art/photographer side of Tumblr; I can’t tell how well it copes with videos, GIFs, or audio. It was very pretty however, using a full-screen aesthetic.
So where will they go?
I really can’t see a clear winner. WordPress.com comes closest in features, but there’s still a big gap – largely cultural – between the two services that might be too big for many users to bridge. I’d love to hear any thoughts on this, or even recommendations of alternative services, so please leave a comment below!