Yahoo sale: are Flickr and Tumblr doomed?


Verizon yesterday bought Yahoo, which had earlier bought Flickr, a photo-sharing site, and Tumblr, a blogging platform. Both of these places have three key qualities that raise important questions about their survival: 1) they're both oldschool platforms locked in time because they were bought by Yahoo, 2) both still have vast, dedicated userbases, 3) both have unique cultures that will be invisible to Verizon's legendarily banal middle-management culture.

Flickr tried modernizing a few years ago to compete with Instagram and other fresh social-driven competitors, but had atrophied so much since the 2005 takeover by Yahoo that it couldn't recapture the lead.

Yahoo seemed to listen, at least fleetingly. The company finally released some functional mobile apps and started offering a terabyte of storage space to users for free, but it was too little too late.

For Ward, Yahoo was desperately trying to appeal to the Instagram generation, and in doing so started to alienate the site’s core users, many of whom were professional photographers. “We all had a lot of hope that Yahoo would be able to bring it back to life, but the changes that were introduced took away things we really loved,” she said.

“When we gave feedback it felt like no one was listening. It was a little bit insulting to people who had been using it so actively for so many years. We were clearly not the target audience any more.”

Tumblr, meanwhile, is neck-deep in smut and self-absorbed blather and other things likely to terrify suits—but its also one of the net's last safe redoubts for young women. Read the rest

The infrastructure of longevity — a systems-level perspective of living to 100

I really enjoyed reading a recent story in The New York Times Magazine about attempts to understand extreme longevity — the weird tendency for certain populations to have larger-than-average numbers of people who live well into their 90s, if not 100s.

Written by Dan Buettner, the piece focuses on the Greek island of Ikaria, and, in many ways, it's a lot like a lot of the other stories I've read on this subject. From a scientific perspective, we don't really understand why some people live longer than others. And we definitely don't understand why some populations have more people who live longer. There are lots of theories. Conveniently, they tend to coincide with our own biases about what we currently think is most wrong with our own society. So articles about extremely long-lived populations tend to offer a lot of inspiring stories, some funny quotes from really old people, and not a lot in the way of answers.

Buettner's story has all those elements, but it also proposes some ideas that were, for me, really thought provoking. After spending much of the article discussing the Ikarian's diet (it's low in meat and sugar, high in antioxidants, and includes lots of locally produced food and wine) and their laid-back, low-stress way of life, Buettner doesn't suggest that we'll all live to be 100 if we just, individually, try to live exactly like the Ikarians do. In fact, he points out that other communities of long-lived individuals actually live differently — Californian Seventh-Day Adventists, for instance, eat no meat at all and don't drink, and they live with the normal stresses of everyday American life. Read the rest