It was announced today that the stumbling Tumblr is being acquired by Automattic, maker of WordPress. This deal, which should ensure the existence of Tumblr for a while, will hopefully have an effect on something more important than Tumblr itself, Tumblr-style content.
I am going to generalize my definition of the content here:
Tumblr-style content is usually short visual based posts that have a minor amount of commentary.
This sort of content thrived for years on the open web.
I remember when I had a Tumblr blog a few years ago. It was going nowhere. One day I shared a post there on Facebook and someone messaged me asking why did I bother posting it on Tumblr when I could just post it on Facebook?
From that day forward all of my microblogging style posts moved to Facebook or Twitter.
Not too long after that most of that style content had moved to centralized services both open and closed, like Twitter and Facebook. They thrive there, but that content being on someone else’s system, is still at the mercy of those entities.
That to me is why this purchase could be a big deal. If Automattic can figure out a way to allow people to maintain their short Tumblr-style content on the open web, while driving traffic through some sort of social lever, it could revive the ever-dwindling user owned micro-blog.
If they can somehow let that content stand shoulder to shoulder with long form posts that Google seems to enjoy so much, we could see the birth of a new open web content-based social platform.
This is something that has long been suffering on WordPress.com. Where the sense of community feels like an afterthought. Now with more easily consumable and shareable content, Automattic could make a grab at the social part of the web.
Whatever happens, this is great news for those who hate to see parts of the web shrivel and die. Tumblr can be a fascinating and robust source of content and expression. I believe with Automattic’s know-how and reach, they could aspire to be even more than that.