Automattic, the company behind the longstanding blog platform WordPress, just bought Tumblr from Verizon for a pittance — leaving many of the quirky, beloved social network’s users wondering what comes next.
Axios reported that Automattic purchased Tumblr, which launched in 2007, for “well below” $20 million; Axios business editor Dan Primack added in a tweet that the sale price was in fact below $3 million, and Recode’s Peter Kafka tells Vox that sources say the actual figure is closer to $2 million. That’s a very long way down from Yahoo’s infamous $1.1 billion purchaseof the website in 2013. (Verizon subsumed Tumblr when it acquired Yahoo in 2017.)
For tech gawkers who’ve spent months tracking Verizon’s “messy” handling of the “beleaguered” Tumblr and its “squandered potential,” none of this is a surprise. But while many members of the business world seem to have already written off Tumblr as a platform fated to perish in the age of advertising-driven social media, the Tumblr community continues to be a vibrant corner of the internet — even after last year’s notorious adult content ban. The bigger question about the site’s new ownership is how this new sale will affect Tumblr’s unique community.
WordPress’s creator and Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg told the Wall Street Journal that while his company intended to keep Tumblr’s adult content ban in place, Automattic had no intention of running roughshod over Tumblr’s existing atmosphere. “It’s just fun,” he told the WSJ of his impression of the website. “We’re not going to change any of that.”
But Tumblr users have heard that tune before. In 2013, in response to the Tumblr community’s fears about the Yahoo acquisition, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer promised “not to screw it up.”
Screwing it up, however, is arguably just what happened next.