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Tumblr has lost 30 percent of web traffic since December (www.theverge.com)
304 points by jaredwiener 2 months ago | hide | past | web | 198 comments | favorite

This doesn't surprise me at all. I run a reasonably popular non-porn, submissions-based blog and immediately after the ban was implemented, our numbers tanked. Submissions dropped from 25-35 per day to around 10-20, while the number of notes (likes+reblogs+replies) per post has dropped from 600-800 to 200-400.

Unfortunately, we still see about the same total number of spambots and fake blogs in our notes. So at least from my own anecdotal experience, the ban did nothing except drive away human users.

A lot of our followers asked if/when we would move to another platform, but unfortunately for them (and us), Tumblr is the only major blog platform we know of which supports a curated, moderated submissions-based blog. Reddit is the closest runner-up in that it allows submissions and can be moderated, but isn't curatable for all intents and purposes. I suspect if (when) Tumblr goes under, it's going to take my blog with it, which is disappointing.

I run a popular tech blog on Tumblr and I've noticed the same thing.

Their faulty AI censor bot also flagged 20+ of my non porn tech posts as porn, including a photo of Mars. Sent them all in for manual review months ago, no response yet.

Conversely I'm also still seeing some actual porn on Tumblr. Its apparently not difficult to fool the AI censor with carefully crafted images.

I had several text posts flagged by their algorithm. I still don't know how it managed to do that.

You are not the only one: https://66.media.tumblr.com/47f87b2a4dab47d52adb9e343b57b517...

Seems they unleashed a totally untrained ai.

Just add a #sfw tag to your posts. Supposedly that bypasses the scanner.

this isn't production-ready yet, but there's a federated blogging platform being developed called "Plume" that might satisfy a few of criteria that you've listed in this thread: https://joinplu.me

Well, going by some of the false positive reports about Tumblr's NSFW filter here I'm not entirely sure we could call Tumblr "production ready" at the moment either, heh.

Oh me like, it's works with ActivityPub!

I find this very interesting. Could you elaborate a bit more in what features tumblr has that you require?

The main thing Tumblr offers that I haven't seen anywhere else is curated submissions. Like the sister reply said, on Tumblr, you can allow anyone to submit posts to your blog (including anonymous users and users without Tumblr accounts). You can set restrictions, such as "only text post or photo+caption submissions", and provide tags for submitters to choose from (e.g., on my blog submitters can choose the tag for the TTRPG they're using).

The key differentiator is the curation. Only those submissions which my mod team approves get posted to the blog, unlike Reddit where all submissions get posted first and then up/downvoted accordingly. I think (?) Reddit might have a way to curate, but it's not feasible at the scale of Reddit and a subreddit equivalent of the blog would quickly overwhelm the mod team and have to become uncurated. Considering the number of low-quality submissions we actively curate out, the result would be a significantly degraded experience. Which is not to say a transfer to Reddit is impossible, but it would definitely be An Effort, and one I'm not sure I'm willing to put in for what's been a fun hobby project for the last seven years.

Asks are another Tumblr feature that I haven't seen in other places. An ask is a question submitted to the blog mods, which the mods can reply to either publicly or privately, and which are visually differentiated on users' dashboards. On Reddit, a question to the mods would look exactly like any other post, and the mods' answer could easily be lost in the sea of general comments on the post.

There are also lesser features that Tumblr has that I've never seen on other platforms. Tagging is a big part of Tumblr culture and something I've had a lot of fun with on my blog. Reblogs and replies are very different forms of interaction than retweets/@'s. Fun coincidences like "dash did a thing" (where two unrelated posts show up together on a user's dashboard in a way that's amusing) don't appear to be a thing on other platforms for various reasons. The visual layout and formatting of Tumblr posts on the dashboard tends to be more readable than Reddit or Twitter.

These are all little things, but they're little things that have built up the personality of the blog over the years. I'd rather close the blog with its personality intact than watch it slowly die as yet another subreddit plagued by low-quality posts, insufficient moderation, and sameness.

(This sounds like I'm down on Reddit, which is not the case at all - I like Reddit, just not as a possible host for my blog.)

You are wrong about Reddit.

* Reddit AutoModerator has settings option where every submission and/or comments must be first approved by moderator. AutoModerator supports relatively complex moderator rules. https://www.reddit.com/wiki/automoderator/full-documentation You can also allow only approved submitters or design rules for allowed submitters.

* Questions to moderators in Reddit should be send as messages to moderators. They show in completely different place where moderators can reply and discuss.

Automod is what I was thinking of when I said I thought Reddit has some tools to do this. The problem, like I mentioned above, is one of scale. Automod is not capable of making judgments about post quality; it can't do anything to enforce a "must be something someone said" rule, for example. Nor is it capable of flagging the many, many variants of the same low-effort submission we frequently get (not without a lot of false positives, at least). That's what my blog's curation team does, and what takes the most time. We can manage the blog's former peak submission rate of 25-35 per day, but given the nature of Reddit I expect that number would skyrocket, overwhelming the mod team.

Modmail isn't public, is it? It's only viewable to the sub's mods. If it isn't public, then it is not equivalent to asks.

>That's what my blog's curation team does

And why would you move your blog to Reddit without curation team? It seems that Reddit does technically the same as Tumblr, you just have to move your site there and ask you mod team follow.

> but given the nature of Reddit I expect that number would skyrocket, overwhelming the mod team.

That's very, very unlikely to happen. People start their own subreddits and want more people, but it's just as painful to grow the number of subscribers as everywhere else.

What you want sounds within Reddit's normal use case. If it's not a site feature, it's a feature of automod: https://www.reddit.com/r/AutoModerator/

There's a lot of subreddits configured to only allow text posts, one of the subreddits I frequent is configired to delete your post if it is an image post that doesn't have a top level comment by the poster, as the subreddit rules require all image posts to have text descriptions (to guide conversation/mitigate low quality posts).

I don't Tumblr so I don't know the full use case for tags, but from what you've described it sounds like flair: https://mods.reddithelp.com/hc/en-us/articles/360010513191-P...

Automod is an automatic moderator, not a curator unfortunately, which is what we really need.

Tags are in the same general family as flair, but they're distant cousins of each other. Reddit generally expects one flair per post, and for flair to be short. My blog uses a minimum of three tags per post, with around 95% of posts having four to seven tags. A couple of those could go away due to the difference in how flair and tags are used, but that would still be at least two flairs per post on most posts. It also still doesn't solve for very long tags.

Thanks for reminding me why I loved Tumblr! I was a pretty heavy user ~2007-11.

For all we Tumblr users love to mock the blue hellsite, it really does do some neat and very unique things. I'm still holding out hope that it manages to stabilize somehow and stick around, because I've tried all the other social media sites and none of them has kept my interest.

Why not use a restricted subreddit and have submitters simply email links to you?

I don't want to restrict the subreddit, for one. I have around 295k followers on Tumblr; I can't hand-approve all of them. Plus, restricting the sub would keep new people from finding it.

Plus what the other commenter said about formatting and poor workflow. The mods can just barely handle the current workload of reviewing ~30-40 posts per day, choosing 20 to post, and adding tags as needed. If we had to open an email, then open a link (and hope the link was functional and not malicious), then review the submission, then copy the submission, then open the "submit a post" dialogue, then paste, then format, then post... yeah, that's way too much.

There's an IFTTT workflow for sending Tumblr posts to Reddit, but unfortunately the API it uses doesn't preserve any formatting, so you end up with a giant text blob. I don't think it could handle image posts. If that worked, I'd happily start sending things to a subreddit.

Restricted subreddit means that only approved users can post, but anyone can view. Private means that only approved users can view.

Another option is to set all posts by non-approved users to be automatically flagged (hidden to non-moderators), and moderators can un-flag the posts. Which, I think, is the workflow you're looking for? All you have to do is set the spam filter to "All" in the subreddit settings.

You still run into the problem that a lot of people might not want to use reddit, and you'll just end up fragmenting the people following your blog and lose a lot of readers.

Tumblr posts are multimedia, have tags, etc. There's no straightforward way to package all that in an email.

Also, it's just not a simple workflow to copy/paste from email. On Tumblr you just push a button and the post goes up.

Imagine if you had a popular twitter account but you were running low on content to post.

In tumblr can have other people submit content to you to post on your tumblr. You just have to approve it or reject it.

They get visibility, you get a steady stream of content and your followers get a curated feed.

You can do this fairly easily on WordPress with a bit of setup (mostly picking the right plugins).

On top of it, they weren't entirely truthful about how the block would be implemented. A couple text-only tumblrs I followed had long been voluntarily marked adult, and the announcement made it sound like they'd be in the clear.

Not only were they not, the implementation was to simply turn on the safe-mode filter and remove the setting to turn it off, while still allowing the adult content on subscribers' dashboards. So they had no idea they were blocked from the public until someone told them, since subscribers could still interact from that one page.

I expect it to continue to drop as more realize this.

I've seen a post showing that you can change the value of the checkbox behind the UI element using "inspect element" and posting the form back. The server-side doesn't validate and you can disable the flag.

This is probably patched now but if not it might show you how much they care about this.

Verizon is just a terrible company all around, and they certainly don't know how to run a big social network. Everyone was predicting this when the acquisition happened, and it's come to pass exactly as the critics said it would.

Verizon may well be OK with killing Tumblr. It's far outside their core competency, and unlike their core competency, it's hard to monetize.

I don't see how Verizon had another option?

With SESTA/FOSTA they could be held liable for anything too sexual. I imagine Tumblr even as an independent agency would do the same.

The affected Tumblr communities weren’t enabling sex trafficking.

This is just puritanical American values being imposed.

> The affected Tumblr communities weren’t enabling sex trafficking

Of course they weren't, but SESTA outlawed a whole lot more than that. "Sex trafficking" was just the excuse SESTA's authors gave.

> The affected Tumblr communities weren’t enabling sex trafficking.

How is tumblr meant to economically filter those that do from those that don't? Algorithmic detection of pornography of any sort is a much easier (cheaper) problem to solve.

Throwing out the baby with the bath water.

You're claiming that everyone is legally being forced into ceasing distribution of pornography. Clearly this isn't happening. It's only Tumblr that is doing this, suspiciously soon after being acquired. There's no indications this would have otherwise happened.

> You're claiming that everyone is legally being forced into ceasing distribution of pornography. Clearly this isn't happening. It's only Tumblr that is doing this, suspiciously soon after being acquired

Tumblr was acquired over five years ago.

But moreover, it's not only Tumblr that has banned pornography or nudity, drastically altered their content policies, or even shut down altogether in the last twelve months since SESTA passed. They happen to be one of the biggest, but I have literally lost track of how many other sites have responded in a similarly drastic way.

SESTA includes incredibly onerous penalties, including jail time, for even accidental noncompliance. On the other hand, there is no legal penalty for being overly cautious. So unsurprisingly, most websites choose the less risky and scary option.

> Tumblr was acquired over five years ago.

And then again, less than two years ago. Which acquisition do you think GP referred to?

> And then again, less than two years ago. Which acquisition do you think GP referred to?

If you'd like to read the rest of my comment, I explained why neither acquisition is relevant.

> how Verizon had another option?

Sell Tumblr while it is still alive?

> Sell Tumblr while it is still alive?

As soon as SESTA passed, Tumblr's days were numbered. Any potential buyer could see that as easily as Verizon could. (And even if they couldn't, Verizon would have to disclose it during due diligence or else they would be opening themselves up to a massive lawsuit).

What if they sold it to a non-American buyer, who converted Tumblr into a company with no American legal exposure?

If the right offer were made, I find it hard to believe Verizon would be unwilling to sell.

Just a month ago there was a HN thread about sex censorship killing off safe spaces for LGBTQ folks and more. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19061135

Tumbler really didn't do anyone justice. They're clearly reaping what they sowed. Unfortunately it's a lose/lose/lose situation for all.

> They're clearly reaping what they sowed.

They don't want huge traffic that they can't monetize. Unless they release revenue numbers that have also fallen by a lot, then it's hard to say what they've reaped.

For a website that clearly depends on being popular for having any hope at monetizing, a 30% traffic hit is huge and indication that the ban is a death sentence.

People made similar remarks as yours when Google+ imposed the real name policy. Google+ is now dead.

HN tends to think of all sorts of technical or marketing reasons for why platforms live or die, however the best reasons for why social platforms live or die are always social ones.

Tumblr didn't do it because they wanted to. They were forced by Apple removing their app from the App Store.

Apparently they had already decided to do it before the App Store thing happened.


> But a former staff engineer, who recently left Tumblr and asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons, tells Vox that the NSFW ban was “in the works for about six months as an official project,” adding that it was given additional resources and named “Project X” in September, shortly before it was announced to the rest of the company at an all-hands meeting. “[The NSFW ban] was going to happen anyway,” the former engineer told me. “Verizon pushed it out the door after the child pornography thing and made the deadline sooner,” but the real problem was always that Verizon couldn’t sell ads next to porn.

Why do companies refuse to have ads on a well known website on which some posts happen to be porn? Is it an american thing?

It’s not an American thing, most advertisers also refuse to advertise next to content that references extreme violence (think ISIS beheadings) and gambling content. I worked on the ads team at a company, and we constantly had to tweak our filters to ensure ads didn’t get served next to “adult” content.

Meanwhile I have to watch a pre-roll ad to see reportage about a terrorist attack.

> most advertisers also refuse to advertise next to content that references extreme violence

Apparently the Daily Mail Online is running this morning's NZ murder video on its front page. Right next to the ads.

> But a former staff engineer, who recently left Tumblr and asked to remain anonymous for professional reasons, tells Vox that the NSFW ban was “in the works for about six months as an official project,

Ah, so shortly after SESTA was signed into law.

Tumblr's porn ban has literally nothing at all to do with the App Store. The porn ban is because of SESTA/FOSTA.

Sounds like it was planned much earlier:


That was (according to reports) because of the prevalence of child pornography on their platform, which they apparently didn't have the tools or staff to police. A blanket ban on pornographic content was cheaper and/or easier.

Presumably child porn was already banned on Tumblr, so how does banning all other porn as well help?

I believe they're using some automated filtering (see e.g. https://www.wired.com/story/tumblr-porn-ai-adult-content/). I assume it's easier to train an AI to recognise pornography generally, rather than a specific kind -- and now that I think about it, the process of training an AI to recognise child porn sounds extremely unpleasant and legally dubious.

> I believe they're using some automated filtering (see e.g. https://www.wired.com/story/tumblr-porn-ai-adult-content/). I assume it's easier to train an AI to recognise pornography generally, rather than a specific kind -- and now that I think about it, the process of training an AI to recognise child porn sounds extremely unpleasant and legally dubious.

Quite the opposite - it's much easier to allow pornography and ban only child pornography than it is to create an automated system to detect pornography.

PhotoDNA makes it easy to find matches, which can then be used to uncover the networks of people posting child pornography, which are then added back to the database. It doesn't require any computer vision at all.

By contrast, banning all pornography does require computer vision of some sort, and that's much more difficult, as evidenced by how terrible the new Tumblr NSFW content detector is.

Flagging all skin is much easier than determining age of person showing skin.

If they cared about making the filtering easy then I'm not seeing why they banned drawings too.

Since people don't go through a visually obvious physical change at the moment of attaining legal adulthood, banning all porn leaves less cracks for child porn to get through.

I'm not saying it's necessarily the right policy, but it does.make a difference.

This "sex censorship" includes child pornography, since the availability of it caused Tumblr's app to be banned from iOS.[0]

[0] https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/20/18104366/tumblr-ios-app-...

I really find that the child pornography angle was a convenient lie to push through the banning of porn on tumblr. It's my view that Verizon didn't want it, so it had to go away.

Child pornography online isn't a new problem and Tumblr must have been negligent in policing it.

I don't believe it was a convenient lie. I personally reported A LOT of posts and entire blogs for very very very obviously inappropriate underage content, yet they still remained. Tumblr was quickly becoming a cesspool they couldn't clean.

Every photo site since the beginning of user uploads has had this problem. This isn’t an issue if you decide to invest the resources into fixing it. That means hire people to look at photos. It means hooking in to the NCMEC / FBI’s database of known hashes. It’s buying (not even building) a content filter.

These things exist. Tumblr decided not to bother, which forced them to panic and nuke the site from orbit.

It’s a mess of their own making.

> Every photo site since the beginning of user uploads has had this problem. This isn’t an issue if you decide to invest the resources into fixing it. That means hire people to look at photos. It means hooking in to the NCMEC / FBI’s database of known hashes. It’s buying (not even building) a content filter. These things exist. Tumblr decided not to bother, which forced them to panic and nuke the site from orbit.

Tumblr had an entire team that did literally all of those things, for years. They did not "decide not to bother".

Or maybe they don't want to subject their employees to having to police child pornography.

...child pornography was previously banned (duh), and it's still banned (duh).

Their employees still need to moderate their platform and ensure there's no child porn. Banning regular, legal porn has zero bearing on this.

I imagine it would take careful and meticulous observation to differentiate between legal porn and almost-legal porn. Dissolving the platform of porn entirely would streamline this process and potentially be automated. Banning regular porn has a greater than zero bearing on moderating child porn, and you're being disingenuous in pretending otherwise.

Now they can use crude bots to flag too much skin. That isn't possible if you permit legal porn.

Oh please, so they're suddenly far more moral than snap/insta/insert-photo-share-site-here? What an absurd reach

The absurd reach is pretending that a company shouldn't take every measure possible in preventing its platform from hosting some of the most abusive and criminal content on the planet. What makes you think they're not more moral than the other platforms? What makes you think this has anything to do with morality at all?

Then they should shut down Tumblr. Every platform that generates UGC has to police their platform to remove child pornography, full stop. If they don't want to moderate their platform, then they should shut the whole thing down. They have to "subject their employees to having to police child pornography" regardless of the fact that they host legal pornography.

Twitter has plenty of legal porn without butting heads with this issue. Facebook doesn't allow porn and have to deal with the child pornography issue.

Taking the stance of "we banned all porn because of child porn" is lazy and deflects responsibility and agency of their actions. They banned porn because the suits higher up said they didn't like it, full stop. Trying to save face with the community and blame child porn is dishonest when every platform, from 4chan to Facebook, has to police and report child porn.

What about violence? What about torture photos? Child porn is just part of objectable content, and content that is illegal in many jurisdictions in the markets they serve. You still need people to review that, even if only as part of the the appeals process.

Unofficial rumors from tumblr staff say that the porn ban was already in the pipeline; the iOS ban just sped the timeline up by a month or two.

Is there a reason why advertisers don't like ads next to adult content? Is there an actual study that shows ads in this form are less valuable?

Google shows hardcore porn in their image search. Google will frequently show normal ads for porn keywords (At least based on what I've seen in my own Adwords account.)

Tumblr's interest and traffic has been on a long decline, this deviates or accelerates the decline but who knows by how much, maybe it only sped up Tumblr's demise by 12 months ( https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&ge... )

I suspect the real story here was budget cuts, and moderation was a big cost center. They did a half ass job and got shitty results. The users are not going to return. I suspect they will be completely shut down or kicked back and forth between buyers indefinitely, like Myspace. These sorts of consumer web brands never seem to come back after a screw up and I doubt Tumblr is going to be an exception.

There is a lot to be said about the Berkshire Hathaway way of just managing companies for the long term, not only when there isn't any growth but as they are shrinking.

I think they are acting on a reasonable fear that the reputation of the brand could be tarnished by their placing of ads on the page, which could be seen as a tacit endorsement of the content.

Let’s not forget that this is not about whether to spend money or not - it’s about where to spend money. Advertisers have countless options for where and how to advertise, so it makes sense to shift money to more boring, safe platforms where the ROI is almost identical anyway.

That‘s so absurd though. It went from „hey let‘s put a banner in this popular place, so people will know us“ to „let‘s police this place so people will only associate us with nice things“

This whole ad-based internet needs to die.

I just hope it coincides with a cultural shift of people realizing they need to pay for things and that ads only made everything seem free.

The lack of a convenient way of anonymously paying is probably the root cause of that. There's cash, which is a pretty convenient way of anonymously paying. There's no such convenient way to pay for stuff on the Internet. Emphasis on convenient.

Of people who stole a culture of freedom and openness and replaced it with... this

It's not absurd, it's really the opposite - it's common sense.

Ads are an important means for companies to get the word out for stuff you might want and they're in more places than the internet.

The industry suffers from inefficiencies, surely, but it's still net beneficial.

Someday we might have fewer ads, and better ads that we really want to see.

If you ever get into a position where you have a company, and you run ads, and you see how it affects your business, you might have a different view. For example, I'm helping with a small new business making a very cool niche product - they'd be dead without FB ads because only FB offers the kind of targeting necessary (just basic demographics really). None of us are big fans of FB but the business would not exist without them.

Businesses that have more scale and bigger budgets can hit demos a little easier, but there's only two real games in town for many businesses: G and FB.

And of course, we would never, ever advertise near porn, not for a second. In fact - if we felt that 'Tumblr' became well known or synonymous with porn, we wouldn't advertise there. As far as G, well, they have porn, but for whatever reason, it doesn't seem to affect their brand.

> And of course, we would never, ever advertise near porn, not for a second. In fact - if we felt that 'Tumblr' became well known or synonymous with porn, we wouldn't advertise there. As far as G, well, they have porn, but for whatever reason, it doesn't seem to affect their brand.

I don't understand how the first and last sentence are compatible, unless you're saying that you'd never advertise near a brand known for porn, and don't care otherwise? That's not a very principled stance, and it really does seem wastefully harmful to a lot of sites.

Having your ads next to porn, is very different than having your ads inside a technology that may show porn.

For example, advertisers do not want their ads shown before a youtube clip if it contains porn.

Google is not seen as a 'porn brand' because ostensibly they are just technology - they help you find stuff.

Tumblr had a problem in that a considerable portion of their content was porn.

If it happens that Google develops this popular attribution, i.e. they are known as a 'porn brand' - then people would advertise there, but I don't think this will ever be the case.

FYI - Google also has some content controls, they don't have ads for porn, they don't promote it etc.

Again, this is very easy social math. The 'proof' is not in any of my statements, rather, it's the consistent application by basically every ad agency: they don't want their ads with porn. But they're ok with their ads on a site that may happen to show it if there isn't a branding concern and there obviously is not with Google.

I realize that advertising provides actual value. It just seems that it became too much. It went from something that should be an add-on to the main income source for some of the biggest companies in the world. That‘s way too much power in the hands of advertising companies.

That‘s why I said the „I build something neat that people wanna use and when I have enough users I exploit the shit out of them“ aka ad-based business model needs to die.

Soviet Communism also sounded pretty fun on paper but it turned out that Serfdom 2.0 (we'll own everything and take good care of you, promise!) was pretty shitty all-around.

Putting a banner on some popular place is ok, but it devolved in the current mess due to market forces and I'm not really sure we can fix advertising with enough regulation.

Only porn amateurs see the ads that are displayed in connection with porn so there is zero chance of brand tarnishing.

There's data on fraud and chargeback rates for adult-content-related credit card payments. They're much higher than for other goods and services. Major payment processors have blanket bans on such transactions, and will often refuse to do business with companies that don't have such bans. And you can't buy ads if you can't pay for them.

Which is why we need more competition in the payment processor space. Alternatives to Visa and MasterCard are a must.

I've wondered about this as well. Studies are difficult to find. The ostensibly answer is morals/ethics of advertisers which if not already bordering on an oxymoron, also makes no sense given that these same advertisers still happily run all the ads they can in e.g. Saudi Arabia. And they're certainly well aware that if 62% of men acknowledge watching porn that that simply means 38% of men lie about watching porn. So it's not even cultural concerns, as might explain e.g. Saudi Arabia.

But I think there's probably a very simple answer. People in the mood for porn are going to be substantially focused on the content they're after, rather than getting distracted by your ad. Contrast this against something like a cat pic. Ah that's cute -- then 2 seconds later your mind and attention is wondering, ideally right on over to their ad. The porn ends up being a much worse value proposition than the cat pic, or more generally than any rapidly consumed low-effort low-intensity content.

I think the exact same can also explain why advertisers prefer to avoid 'controversial' content. I expect the advertisers ostensibly kowtowing to social media outrage mobs are mostly just using them as useful idiots. They point out controversial and likely highly immersive content. Pulling out not only gets them a few social media white knight points, but also generally results in some degree of controversy which also helps spread their brand name effectively working as free advertising. You might even get things such as people deciding to follow you on social media as a means of virtue signaling. This also points to another ironic point that I think supports the above hypothesis. Advertisers are more than fine with controversy when they themselves are the controversy. See: e.g. Gillette that intentionally planned an advertising campaign exclusively around fanning the flames of a culture war.

I think the most real reason is that it's hard to develop a targeted ad profile of a user who is doing everything in their power to make sure this particular interest of theirs is isolated from every other aspect of their life. It's just not a productive use of ad money.

It's not hard to see how a business might not want their paid advertisement sitting next to pornography hosted on the platform they're paying.

I'm surprised it was only 30%... Per Wikipedia:

> As of March 1, 2019, Tumblr hosts over 459 million blogs. As of January 2016, the website had 555 million monthly visitors.

The numbers quoted in the article are barely more charitable. Basically it's about one monthly visitor per blog... which one would assume means the blog owners periodically check what their sites look like.

Was anyone actually using Tumblr for anything but porn nowadays?

> Was anyone actually using Tumblr for anything but porn nowadays?

What I've encountered there most frequently is blogs with "atmospheric" photos and images. I always thought that most frequent use for tumblr is the same as pinterest: for collecting pics of the same theme, "moodboards".

Of course I've seen nudes there, but almost no real porn, i.e. no photos of sexual intercourse. I've rarely seen blogs entirely of nudes, they were mostly posted amongst other "atmospheric" pics.

I'd also agree that "Tumblr-as-less-shitty-Pinterest" is a pretty major use, as is general "Twitter-without-a-character-limit" usage.

Keep in mind that most of those 459 million blogs were either inactive, or spambots. The number of monthly visitors per active, non-spam blog was, and remains, probably much greater.

Funnily enough, the Great Tiddy Ban of 2018 doesn't seem to have actually cut the flood of pornbots by much.

> The number of monthly visitors per active, non-spam blog was, and remains, probably much greater.

For sure, but it doesn't seem to be stopping Tumblr from boasting that it has 461M blogs [0]. Even if we charitably assume that as many as .1% of those are run by real, actual humans, that figure makes Tumblr look like a small platform with not many users -- particularly if, as you've noted, there are still tons of porn bots on it.

[0]: http://www.tumblr.com/about

I mean, .1% seems drastically too small to me. I'd guess maybe 1, maybe even as many as 10%, represent actual at-least-somewhat-active users?

You might be right but consider how 10% would mean their typical sites have 10 users per month on average. I'm struggling to imagine ~50 million running a blog that no one -- not even their friends and family -- is visiting.

Even 1% active non-spam blogs, meaning 100 visitors per site per month on average, seems unlikely to me.

Keep in mind that every single logged-in user has their own blog, whether they use it or not, whether anyone reads it or not. So, theoretically, "an average of one visitor per blog" would also be entirely consistent with "every single Tumblr view represents an active Tumblr user", because the number of people who visit Tumblr would thereby equal the number of blogs.

The numbers aren't atypical.

Reddit has well over one million subreddits, but only counts about 140,000 as "active".



I've been looking at Google+ Communities recently and have more insight there.

There are ove 8.1 million communities. Over 45% have one, or nil, members. The median membership is 2, the 95%ile is about 118.

That said, there are a just over 50 with >1 million members, a couple thousand over 100k, and about 10k over 10k members.


Looking at both size and activity, for communities with over:

1,000 members: active w/in 1 week 28,823. Active w/in 1 month 39,301

100 members: active w/in 1 week 63,874. Active w/in 1 month 105,166


And yes, there's a ton of crud in the full 8 million and smaller 105k sets, but also the odd good bits.

Source: own and contributed data from Web crawls.

And that all makes sense - Pareto principle and all.

But best I'm aware, Reddit isn't communicating about how many subreddits it has anywhere, let alone on its about page.

Tumblr, by contrast, happily boasts its useless number on its about page.

Not everything that can be counted matters.

Not everything that matters can be counted.

Simple channel counts are an availability heuristic. They provide some information, though less than at first blush.

Quality measures are difficult.

If I recall correctly, every Tumblr account has at least one default blog associated with it, so a bunch of users who are mostly read-only probably technically have blogs there.

Many tumblr users have multiple blogs, also a whole lot of blogs are spambots (who continue to post sex ads).

No shit! Like plenty of users I don't visit this place anymore as my blog is now empty of content (NSFW nude art blog). But even before the ban, content creators (photographers in my case) were posting less and less, focusing instead on Instagr.am networking and Patreon.

Tumblr has a fantastic community of cartoonists, I have actually asked some cartoonists to put their designs on other platforms just so I can buy a t-shirt with some of their cartoons. Of course it is just a platform to showcase the free stuff and then pull people to their patreon, which makes perfect sense. Free blog hosting with X million teenagers.

The problem with hosting adult content is that it's pretty hard to monetize it.

Advertisers want to be excluded from placements next to adult content, to the point that there's entirely separate ad networks and payment processors that are exclusive to adult content.

I'm guessing that this is the first step of a monetization overhaul for Tumblr, this traffic was only costing them money and they don't see it as a loss of users, more of a good riddance.

> Advertisers want to be excluded from placements next to adult content

I feel that this is maybe Tumblr's ad teams failing and they could have argued around this. When using the Dashboard the UI design of the system felt very much like every post on that screen was there because your chose it to be there so even if you injected ads into it there was never the feeling that ads were next to pornography posts because your feed was only ever full of pornography if you actively followed people who post it.

It was all manually curated by you not an algorithm system like Twitter, Gyphy, Imgur etc.

This actually makes a lot of sense. I think there are a lot of concerns about this being an assault on free speech when ultimately it comes down to it just not being profitable to maintain.

The two aren't exclusive. If major platforms of speech are privately owned by profit seeking entities, then the fact that certain kinds of speech are not profitable to host is a threat to free speech.

I think you are confusing gratis with freedom.

You can't get back into the network by paying, so it boils down to a freedom issue.

Huh, that is nowhere near the percentage drop I would've expected. I guess people actually use Tumblr for more than NSFW stuff.

30% is a significant drop. It's really unheard of. MySpace and Digg didn't have such ridiculous drops.

And keep in mind that this could be the start of an overall downward trend. If 30% leave, then activity on the platform crumbles. Some of the remaining users notice the decline in activity and so they leave. Rinse, repeat. Once it reaches a critical mass, you can't stop the decline and tumblr is finished.

Or it could be a temperory decline and a new plateau is reached where tumblr can survive at.

I guess. But, I was expecting an 80+% drop by now. I'm astonished it is only 30%

I have a non-porn tumblr with over 100k followers and following the ban traffic has plummeted.

So now we have a number for the porn traffic. The filter isn't perfect and porn is still there. I wouldn't be surprised if the real number approaches 40%.

But apparently Tumblr is fine with it, because surely they knew how much traffic it was driving? Or else someone did a truly shitty job with their website statistics.

I can only assume they expect the brand value to rise proportionally to the level that better advertising profits will offset the loss of porn. I guess that's the harder number to estimate, and I have a feeling they're S.O.L. because all blogging platforms are struggling in the days of the big services like Instagram and Facebook, and those don't even have to try reverse a brand associated with porn... They can speak of staying out of these big social networks and win privacy and not selling your private life, but the problem is that literally billions are on these services. They're giving you the unparalleled reach.

I'd wager that more than 30% of content consumed , and probably 60+% on insta, is adult content. The difference here is that tumblr didn't have the resources to mitigate the issue, so they chose a blunt cut-off.

I find that Instagram is incredibly puritanical. Art posts featuring nudity are routinely taken down.

I’m not big into insta, but I don’t get that impression at all. Tumblr, sure.

From what I've seen by following photographers and artists sometimes with "risque content", Instagram is successfully strict about it. Sometimes people get away with female nipples minimally censored but anytime that's involved you run a very high risk your photograph will be taken down or the whole account banned if you keep being "into" that in your feed. I think a lot depends on how many complaints Instagram is receiving. They're also OK with butts. Blood/gore/violence is pretty tabooo, even in comic book form. @sirjoancornella has for example had trouble with Instagram. That's how adult Instagram let themselves become from what I can tell over the years.

Does Instagram put much effort into mitigating adult content? I can think of a shit ton of risque stuff on Instagram. If you're not logged in, you have to click a button saying you want to see adult content.

The data linked in the article suggests a different, less headline-grabbing cause: perhaps Oath's obnoxious cookie banner? The statista figures showed the downturn starting well before december: https://www.statista.com/statistics/261925/unique-visitors-t...

That points back to July 2018. It's not quite a smoking gun, as their GDPR banner went up in late May, ahead of the 25th May deadline; even back then people were complaining that their tumblr stats were tumbling.


Tumblr is just lazy nowadays. There are many fandoms being active though. The spark is long gone since Yahoo got their old shaggy greedy fingers on it. Pornography aside, it is a great place to host a blog. Nice template, can support many types of media. The disgusting part is the 3-4 pages of other filthy fingers (ads-trackers) that welcome you every time you go to <insert-name>.tumblr.com

> The disgusting part is the 3-4 pages of other filthy fingers (ads-trackers) that welcome you every time you go to <insert-name>.tumblr.com

I moved 1500+ posts (drawings, own content) from Tumblr to Jekyll just to avoid that page. It seems designed to repel visitors permanently. People cannot reasonably opt out of 300+ ads-trackers each time they check a single blog. Another great missed opportunity as a competitor to WordPress, and other blogging platforms, Tumblr will follow the path of Posterous.

I've seen many people keep their blog to git.. I'll have a look at Jekyll, thank you for the recommendation!

Jekyll is great. This gist is a good starting point (once you are familiar with Jekyll) to migrate from tumblr: https://gist.github.com/ndarville/5f8a7fb93191801de460c5ebe2...

More than a few comments here lay the blame on "puritanical Americanism" and, as an American, I'm wondering where these so-called Puritans are when it comes to gay wedding cakes, homeschooling, residence based cotton industry, Christian expression, and gun rights.

America is neo-Protestant, not puritanical.

That's not that much to be honest.

Most people were expecting Tumblr to be dead. I am sure they are pretty happy with these numbers.

I wonder what the dollar value of that is. I know that even fairly recently Tumblr was valued at $0

The problem with Tumblr is that they could never figure out how to make profit from it. Yahoo just made things worse by giving full access to so many advertisers and trackers. Think Cambridge Analytica x50, but at least they have do documented it.

honestly, 30% isn't terrible for a major shift. I imagine they will save a considerable amount of money on moderation and dealing with legal issues.

30 percent in three months is huge for a site this large. It's well beyond critical mass needed to cause a permanent downward trend. The effect of the loss of one third of the community will have an impact on the rest, causing others to leave, and so on.

I had already stopped using Tumblr but after the ridiculous advertiser opt-out with GDPR and the introduction of the infamously inaccurate censorship AI, I deleted my account

Tumbling down

Hm, they must have gained a shit load of new content creators. Porn and <shitload_of_letters>+ was not just 30% of tumblr, it was like 80% of it.

> <shitload_of_letters>+

... really? You can use LGBT+ that's four letters. Or GSM (Gender/Sexual Minorities), that's three letters and it doesn't require you to stay current on what the letters represent.

Going out of your way to type more letters to take a shot at a minority community is not a great look.

To be fair I think it was more a joke about the acronym being overloaded. LGBT on its own is already longer than it needs to be with 2/3 ways of saying 'attracted to people of the same gender or sex' but it then gets extended with two Qs (queer and questioning), 2 As (asexual and allies), a P for pansexual (which then causes arguments over whether bisexual people can be attracted to trans people) and more. To add to that there are more distinctions which should arguably be included (such as being homoromantic vs homosexual or genderfluidity/genderqueerness as distinct from being trans or even being transgender vs transexual(?)). In short, I think GSM is a great suggestion with the only possible problem being at some point GSM people not being a minority so the term becomes a misnomer.

> LGBT on its own is already longer than it needs to be with 2/3 ways of saying 'attracted to people of the same gender or sex'

Sure and that's on purpose. Your perception of it is not the idea this acronym is trying to push. It's not a label to say "homosexual" or "I like people of the same gender as my own".

It's about unifying the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities together under an umbrella. Individually they have different values, lifestyles and challenges. Together they have a stronger voice and can tackle shared issues. They are very different identities.

As other communities grow bigger, they are welcomed into the acronym. That's the very point of it and that's why it often gain letters.

Just write "LGBT+". It's 4 letters and a symbol. Not that hard to remember.

Moving past the profanity and stupidity, there are so many fandoms on Tumblr, literally thousand (and/or millions) of Harry Potter, Supernatural, Twilight, Divergent, and many many more have found refuge/a place to express themselves.

I know that "the internet is for porn", but, well, not ALL of it and especially not all Tumblr is serving pornography.

This thread is notable for the absence of 'free speech defenders'.

Given that hn has a policy of banning alts and people have been at the receiving end of Twitter storms for defending freedom of speech when it's unpopular people doing the speaking are you surprised?

What are you talking about? A private entity controlling the content they permit on their network has nothing to do with Congress restricting freedom of expression.

Go and look at the thread about Amazon pulling books with quack autism 'cures' from the website.


Free speach exists beyond the first amendment.

Probably because it's not about actual CP or harassment, so no faux-libertarians here.

Those "free speech defenders" invariably defend right-wing, white supremacist, fringe science or conspiracy content they feel is being purged by some leftist agenda secretly controlling all social media.

Unsurprisingly, they're not going to defend a site which has become synonymous with SJWs, liberals and feminists.

They banned alot more than just porn. Alot of content normal people would not consider to be porn was also banned, like fandom art and other content.

In response to this nonsense I've built Libr (https://librapp.com). I'm in the process of launching it to production now, first to the early access people that signed up and then to the wider public.

It's a progressive web app built on serverless tech and could handle all of that lost Tumblr traffic, if it all came overnight (unlikely but who knows)

I'm confused why the "Safety for women" section doesn't contain anything that specifically targets women. I believe male safety is a concern of equal importance.

Every one of those bullet points is an issue which predominantly affects women versus men. Implying that an equal amount of men are stalked and harassed online and sent unsolicited nude pictures is simply incorrect.

Male safety in this regard is not of equal importance because male risk is so low in proportion as to be practically nonexistent.

IIRC, Tumblr users tend more often to be women, so it makes sense to advertise features towards women for a site whose intent is to draw in former Tumblr users. But... the site doesn't say those features are only available for women, so given that they're available for men as well, I don't see what the concern is.

You're conflating importance and need, I think. It's as important, even if there is less need for it.

We value lives equally, even though some need more protection than others.

As long as the actual featureset is available to everyone, there's no issue with unequal treatment, and nothing for men to be concerned about.

However, there's still little point in mentioning men, specifically, when advertising those features to a primarily female demographic with those specific concerns.

that's because the point is to signal that they're only tolerant of progressives. see also the definition of hate speech that covers a sincere and common religious belief.

So, a ban on hate speech means, to you, that they’re only tolerant of progressives...?

a definition of hate speech that expansive does. if i they had defined hate speech on their platform as expressing opinions in favor of gay marriage, how would you feel about it?

Loved your firm take on hate speech and the anti harassment mechanisms! Is the entire project open source? I would love to contribute

The PWA app and api backend are open source.

https://github.com/cipher-code/libr https://github.com/cipher-code/libr-api

It's all in TypeScript.

Production infrastructure stack and the elasticsearch setup isn't for security reasons (WordPress.com works the same way).

Chat/messaging isn't being launched initially but almost everything else is.

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