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TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

Automattic & Tumblr

posted on Wednesday 21st of August 2019 in

When it was first announced that Automattic will be acquiring Tumblr I had mixed feelings. Tumblr is still alive, but took so many hits that I was not really sure how much ground it still got to stand on. Plans to merge parts of the architecture with WordPress still seem ambitious to me. And being in a position to argue about and justify the “no adult content policy” surely will not be a pleasant job.

The Verge published an exclusive interview with Matt with many quite interesting points.

Their top priority was not trying to maximize the purchase price. There might even be a corporate reason for the purchase price to be lower, for taxes or something. They were really looking for where the best home was going to be.

Matt @ The Verge

This actually surprises me. Large corporations, including Verizon, usually take a quite different approach at deals. But it is a very pleasant surprise. And considering that Automattic and WordPress, despite all its flaws, is an integral part of the open web, I can see it as a very good home for Tumblr.

The fact that the team can join, a slow transition is planned and a potential independence also speaks for a very thoughtful approach we are usually not seeing in this space. So far this seems like an example of how an acquisition should be dealt with.

Yeah. And some people say, “Well, do you need to be in the app store? Just have a web version.” But apps really are it, and I believe Tumblr is one of the top 30 or 40 apps in the social networking category. It’s usually top couple hundred globally. So their app is a big part of how people interact with it.

Matt @ The Verge

This is totally on point. Without an app Tumblr would lose even more traction. The ease of use, the over all user experience and living on the home screen are essential for an app like Tumblr and for the plans Matt outlines.

And while the AppStore might be the reason why the porn ban was introduced, there should be ways around it. I cannot imagine Apple reviews not being able to find porn on Reddit or Twitter – that would be reason enough to doubt their ability to review anything.

I think there’s a lot of overlap in what both do. I would love for them to interoperate. I do believe that, long-term, there’s an opportunity to merge backend technology so that Tumblr is actually powered by WordPress.

Matt @ The Verge

This surely makes sense from a business and engineering perspective, but please: give me an open source Tumblr frontend for my WordPress setup so I can finally get rid of the garbage I currently have to use to write blog posts. I always liked using the Tumblr interface and the WP web interface just got worse with every single iteration.

I’m getting some strong Google Reader vibes from you. Not that you’re going to build an RSS reader. But it’s still lamented that it’s gone; it was the application that brought together an entire ecosystem of blogs. Is that role something you can fill?

The Verge

It will be interesting to see how ads, content control, integration and monetisation will look like in future. Considering Matts past actions and contributions to the open web there is a chance that we will see a potential competitor for social networks or content publishing emerge that might finally act in users interest and work in an ethical way. I would really appreciate it.

As Matt mentions in the interview it is too soon to see where the journey will lead them, but I am cautiously optimistic that we might get some fresh wind in the online community experience.