The Rise and Fall of Tumblr

Over the past few years, I’ve read a handful of pieces on the rise and fall of Tumblr, but this one by Kaitlyn Tiffany was still worth taking in. One thing that stood out to me immediately was the account of former CEO Jeff D’Onofrio, who replaced founder David Karp, left under a cloud of secrecy in January. Matt Mullenweg of Tumblr owner Automattic says that he didn’t announce the departure for D’Onofrio’s privacy and safety.”

Whatever this means—whether Tumblr will shrivel in his absence, or if it’s still up for the challenge of fighting another, another day—many former users already talk about the site in the past tense. The sentiment I miss Tumblr” circulates regularly on Twitter, where nostalgists tend to refer to the latest topics of conversation or styles of humor as 2013 Tumblr” or Tumblr season 2,” as in, invented a long time ago … on Tumblr. Some have even gone back to Tumblr to live in its ruins. i love how irrelevant tumblr is,” begins a Tumblr post that, ironically, went somewhat viral on Tumblr in February 2020. no celebrities on here, no colleagues or family on here, no one’s famous off tumblr or making money, tbh no ones even updating the site like is there even any staff? who knows? it’s bliss.”

I knew that Tumblr was a pretty toxic place when the first user to try out a feature to let followers pay for content got death threats. However, I didn’t imagine the CEO would have to exit in such a clandestine manner. It’s unfortunate that Automattic hasn’t been a more capable steward of the service and that it’s still seeing decline, but I definitely wouldn’t want to be in the business of trying to satisfy Tumblr’s hardcore fans.


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