Verizon is selling Tumblr, just two years after buying the social network as part of its tumultuous $4.48bn Yahoo acquisition.
Founded in 2007 as one of the first “microblogging” services, Tumblr has been acquired by Automattic, the web services company best known for running blogging platform WordPress.com, for an undisclosed price tag.
The Automattic chief executive, Matt Mullenweg, confirmed the acquisition in a post on his personal Tumblr account. “When the possibility to join forces became concrete,” he said, “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.”
Tumblr’s chief executive, Jeff D’Onofrio, welcomed the acquisition, tweeting that he was “most excited for what this means for the entire Tumblr community.
“There is much more to do to make your experience a better one, and I’m super confident that we are in great hands with this news. Tumblr and WordPress share common founding principles. The plane has landed on a friendly runway. Now it is time to freshen up the jets.” Tumblr is the second major Yahoo property to be spun-off by Verizon. The photo-sharing site Flickr was unloaded in April 2018 to photo-sharing site SmugMug. Unlike Flickr, Tumblr managed to maintain the bulk of its userbase through most of the years of its Yahoo ownership, thanks to the strength of its home-grown community, which survived in the face of competition from Facebook and Twitter.
That community took a hit in December 2018, however, when Verizon announced a plan to clean up the site by banning all adult content. The immediate cause of the decision was a temporary ban from Apple’s App Store for the Tumblr app, after child pornography was discovered on the social network. But Tumblr’s chief executive, D’Onofrio, said that in the longer term, “it became clear that without this content we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”
Tumblr users disagreed, arguing that the site’s broadly permissive attitude was key to its unique community.
Although Automattic allows adult content on its WordPress.com platform, the company says it has no intentions to reverse the ban on such content on Tumblr at large, telling the Wall Street Journal that Tumblr is “just fun… We’re not going to change any of that.”
Although the sale price was not disclosed, reports have put it at under $3m. Yahoo bought Tumblr in 2013 for $1.1bn. While Verizon had been known to want to sell the company, the only company to have publicly expressed an interest was the adult site PornHub.