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. Yahoo never had a plan for the site and left it to hang, but Verizon could shake things up—if it even notices it owns it.
"Verizon has two choices in my view. They can either let everything as is, and Tumblr will forever be a small service you provide for the benefit of a small quirky community that nobody gets or is able to make money out of, or they change what Tumblr in essence is," writes Rocha. "I doubt there's a middle ground here. There might be, since I'm not exactly business savvy, but smarter people than me tried and failed. Either way, neither choice will be easy and I guess nobody will be happy with it either way."
"So I'll be honest here, I don't know if Tumblr can ever survive, as it is, once they monetize it," he continues. "As it exists now, it is a community that has survived for so long specifically because it hasn't been spoiled by other interests."