The news hit yesterday that WordPress has purchased Tumblr from Verizon (which owns it by virtue of its acquisition of Yahoo! and AOL).
USV seeded Tumblr along with our friends at Spark in the summer of 2007 and were actively involved in the development of the company until its sale to Yahoo! in 2013.
I maintained an active Tumblog from before we invested in 2007 until October 2016, when I stopped posting there. There was no moment when I decided to stop posting there. I just did.
The narrative around the sale of Tumblr to WordPress is all about Yahoo! paying more than a billion for it and selling it for $3mm. It is absolutely true that Yahoo! never figured out how to turn Tumblr into a business and ending up losing its shirt on the investment.
But it is also true that Tumblr was bypassed by native mobile applications like Instagram and Snapchat where it was even easier to post about your life. Tumblr was both a blogging platform and a social media application and while I always loved the versatility of the platform, native mobile applications benefit from simplicity, not complexity.
There was a time around 2010 and 2011 when Tumblr was the most engaging social platform that I was on. I followed and met quite a few interesting people there and it was a lot of fun to be on it.
David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, always focused on making Tumblr a “positive” experience. That is why he refused to have comments, even though I pushed him to do it and hacked Tumblr by putting Disqus on mine. That is why he made the primary (only?) form of engagement a heart.
And it worked. Tumblr was a happy place and using it made people feel good about themselves.
While the world of social media has evolved a lot in the last six years, since Tumblr sold to Yahoo!, it has not really gotten better. One could make a very strong argument that it has gotten a lot worse. Tumblr was an example of how to do social media right and we can learn a lot from it.