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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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Audio: My armchair analysis of Automattic acquiring Tumblr

Date recorded: August 19, 2019

Yesterday while driving (sorry for the audio quality) I recorded a quick audio bit to distill my thoughts on why Automattic acquired Tumblr.

Short-version: Automattic sees Tumblr as an entry point for new WordPress.com customers – especially youth. For someone to go from idea to full commerce or publishing success via WordPress.com’s current offering could seem cumbersome and not nearly as hip as Tumblr.

Listen to the audio bit for more details. We’ll see if I’m right in 5 years.

Links relevant to this audio bit:

Matt Mullenweg on how Verizon handled the Tumblr sale

Matt Mullenweg, stressing the more important aspects of the Tumblr sale:

First, they chose to find a new home for Tumblr instead of shutting it down. Second, they considered not just how much cash they would get on day one, but also — and especially — what would happen to the team afterward, and how the product and the team would be invested in going forward. Third, they thought about the sort of steward of the community the new owner would be. They didn’t have to do any of that, and I commend them for making all three points a priority.

It isn’t surprising that the press, and even me, commented on the rumored sale price of Tumblr. Tumblr skyrocketed from the little platform that could to $1B+ acquisition – only to be sold for far, far less. That is a story.

However, Matt is right, Verizon could have handled the sale of Tumblr and Flickr very differently – focusing on their upside. Or, they could have simply cancelled them altogether. They didn’t do that.

So kudos to Verizon’s BD team for finding good homes for these services they inherited.

Automattic acquires Tumblr

Matt Mullenweg, on this Tumblog:

When the possibility to join forces became concrete, it felt like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have two beloved platforms work alongside each other to build a better, more open, more inclusive – and, frankly, more fun web. I knew we had to do it.

Let’s get a few things out of the way immediately. Matt’s team acquired Tumblr for beans. That alone is a big part of this story. Yahoo! paid just over $1B for the platform and Automattic, reportedly, paid somewhere in the $3M area. In the world of acquisitions, this may end up being one of the most profitable acquisitions made by a tech company. Time will tell but I’d be willing to bet that Automattic will profit on this acquisition in a very short period of time.

Second, the tech stack of Tumblr is going to be replaced by WordPress. This is good for a variety of reasons. It ensures Tumblr will very likely be around in some form or another in perpetuity while still retaining its unique posting UI that its community no-doubt loves. I know I love it. I wish I had the same thing for my WordPress blog. Maybe I will get that now?

It also likely means that Tumblr and WordPress users can move back-and-forth between these two platforms much easier. I remember when I switched The Watercolor Gallery, which began as a Tumblog in 2010, to WordPress. It took me weeks to get everything right. Presumably this will no longer be the case.

And lastly, Automattic is an excellent home for Tumblr. They don’t just throw things out like Google, or apparently Verizon. They believe in building things for the long haul, doing them openly (for the most part), and retaining the ethos of the companies they acquire.

Both Flickr and Tumblr have seemingly found good homes.

I’m cdevroe on Tumblr.

Microsoft buys GitHub

Satya Nadella:

More than 28 million developers already collaborate on GitHub, and it is home to more than 85 million code repositories used by people in nearly every country. From the largest corporations to the smallest startups, GitHub is the destination for developers to learn, share and work together to create software. It’s a destination for Microsoft too. We are the most active organization on GitHub, with more than 2 million “commits,” or updates, made to projects.

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last few years you’ll know that I’m rather bullish on what Satya Nadella has been doing within Microsoft. Today’s Microsoft is one that embraces open source, contributes heavily to it, allows developers to use any language and platform, etc.

The news that they’ve agreed to acquire GitHub later this year is not surprising at all. I’ve tried to find public evidence where I’ve stated that Microsoft should buy GitHub but for the life of me I cannot find it. I would go so far as to say that Microsoft was the best possible exit for GitHub.

Given some of the negativity I’ve seen around this news, it is my guess that MSFT is going to go out of its way to make sure the community knows they will be good stewards of GitHub. So prepare to see them invest rather heavily on the platform, features, team, and community-related initiatives. Which are all very good things.

Keep watching, I think we’re going to be seeing a Microsoft that none of us would have ever thought possible just a few short years ago.

On the acquisition of Flickr by SmugMug

Thomas Hawk:

As someone who joined Flickr back in 2003 pre-Yahoo and has been on the site pretty much daily since then, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on what this acquisition might mean for Flickr users and the larger Flickr community.

No one has perspective on Flickr like Thomas. Go read his entire post.

I joined Flickr shortly after Thomas in 2004. I can’t believe it has been 14 years. Wow.

I was a prolific user of Flickr in its early days. Since I wasn’t yet very serious about photography (lets face it, I’m still such a newb) it served as more of a photolog + community for me in those early Web 2.0 days. I could post something there – say, a screenshot or my desk setup – and get a slew of comments and views.

It was also an excellent development playground. Their API, developed by now Slack’s Cal Henderson, was a boon for Web 2.0 type applications. I built many tools that used this API and cut my teeth as a still budding entrepreneur. One of my favorite projects I worked on was a Mac OS X Dashboard Widget called Flickit. It allowed you to interact with your Flickr account within a Dashboard Widget. Such a fun thing to work on.

Serious photographers still use services like Flickr, 500px or SmugMug to post high-resolution images of their work, create albums, sell prints, etc. But they also use Instagram for exposure. And they likely use a blog or Twitter or Facebook Group to interact with their community. At the time, Flickr was all of these things in one.

Today, if you were to sign up to Flickr and begin sharing your photos you’d likely carve out an audience of fellow photographers but you wouldn’t find “other” people there. And you likely wouldn’t reach a younger demographic at all. They are all on Snapchat and Instagram.

I have no idea what the future of Flickr is. The general consensus seems that SmugMug is a great company to take over stewardship of the platform. Flickr needs to exist in perpetuity in my opinion. Even if no one ever signs up to it again it stores an amazing amount of history and web history. I really hope it is preserved well.

Pinboard acquires Delicious

Maciej Cegłowski:

Do not attempt to compete with Pinboard.

This is excellent.

I use Unmark daily. Partly because I helped will it into existence. If I didn’t use Unmark I’d use Pinboard (for which I have an account that I’ve paid for). And I’m very happy that Delicious (or, as I knew it del.icio.us) is in his hands.

Wait, so Verizon is going to own Flickr? The Yahoo! weather and sports APIs? Yahoo! Mail (which I hear some like). Oh boy.