Is Tumblr dead? Is its traffic going down by the day since 2018?

Tumblr is one of the biggest free blogging platforms, only after Blogger and Wordpress. Over years, it has been  especially popular among the teens, who could share and re-post content at will. It was full of sensitive visual content and also gave a layer of anonymity to avoid parental supervision.

Tumbler is also known for its 'culture'. It has been very supportive of LGBT and allowed users to be creative and communicative - the essential requirements for a buzzing community. There are thousands of very committed bloggers in the field of art and culture who have made Tumblr their home.

Tumblr also works well because it encourages short-form postings as in social networking and chat sites: you post a meme, a quick comment, a funny picture, an interesting news item, a quote... Blogs on it do not have a formal format as of Wordpress and Blogger blogs. So, it is a social network, micro-blogging website and blogging platform woven into one. 

Tumblr decision not to show sensitive content

One big reason for Tumblr's popularity - especially among young bloggers and followers - was its liberal attitude towards pornography. But in 2018, in one stroke, Tumblr decided to NOT host explicit content, to make use of artificial intelligence to scan accounts for such content, to remove all of it in one go, and not allow such content to be generated in future.

In its announcement in December 2018, Tumblr said: 

Starting Dec 17, adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, regardless of how old you are...Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts...Examples of exceptions that are still permitted are exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery. Written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations, are also stuff that can be freely posted on Tumblr.

There were strong triggers like the two given below why Tumblr woke up to the harm it had been doing to the society and the backlash that its too liberal attitude could bring:

  • In November '18, Apple removed Tumblr's app from its App Store when it observed child abuse images on the app.
  •  Earlier, in March '18, Indonesian government banned Tumblr in the country after Verizon, Tumblr's parent company, refused to remove pornographic content.
While implementing the cleanup, Tumblr has clarified that content that is meant for health and such other purposes would not be taken as 'adult' content. However, its reliance on artificial intelligence creates doubts whether it would be able to distinguish between educational/ informational content and pornography.

Tumblr says, it would filter out all adult content but allow present account holders to either take down the content or make the blog/ posts private. With exceptions for genuine use of visuals of human body in non-pornographic ways, the platform seems to feel that it would not lose much of its clientele.

It is reported that the ban leaves much to be desired. Web monitoring websites have found that Tumblr has failed to remove child pornography but has been harsh on blogs that were marked NSFW (not safe for work) for artistic nudity. The ban has, as its creators say, deprived them of showing their 'art' to the people and make money out of their creations.

Is Tumblr going down due to porn ban?

This ban on sensitive content leads to interesting possibilities, and they have been unfolding since 2018:
  • Tumblr is now a more acceptable platform. Though I have not seen public reports to suggest that, yet it can be assumed that it might become popular among bloggers of all ages. After Automattic (the company that owns the Wordpress CMS and blogging platform) purchased Tumblr in 2019, there is more chance of it getting strength as a popular and robust blogging platform. Automattic CEO has talked of integrating some of its technology with Wordpress while retaining its strong points and letting it remain as an independent blogging platform. 
  • There is a huge number of fan-followers of Tumblr who swear by it. The commitment of users of Tumblr community can be seen from the fact that nearly 700 thousand have signed a petition on asking Tumblr to reverse the ban. For some, Tumblr is a way of life. Though the explicit content is less (leave aside some nudity in the name of art, health etc), its popular topics (movies and actors, tv shows, reality tv, music, photography, art, culture, games) still are abuzz with content sharing and socialization. This community will keep growing though initially the ones who visited the platform just for raw adult material might leave it. This and the social-cum-blogging nature of platform may eventually lead to growth in traffic.
  • There is an equally big possibility of the platform going down because of the porn ban. Its referral traffic from explicit-content websites has disappeared after the ban. Its regular users (bloggers and visitors) who were hooked to explicit content have been leaving the platform. There also are many users who are on Tumblr because its liberal approach towards sex and nudity allowed free adult socialization and expression of some art forms that were not allowed on other platforms. The constant fall in traffic is visible on traffic measuring websites Alexa and SimilarWeb. The traffic loss is not superficial; it is all there in the falling number of unique visits, number of blogs visited in a session, time spent on the site, and other factors that work together to give traffic to websites and web pages.

blogging platform Tumblr

Let us see how the Tumblr story unfolds: whether Automattic acquisition strengthens it and it starts challenging Blogger OR it goes down due to the weight of moral purging it performed.

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