Matt Mullenweg with more on why he purchased Tumblr.

Some choice cuts:

But long-term, I would say I’m also super interested in experimenting with upgrades. WordPress.com has always been an upgrade-centric model. It’s freemium: use it for free, and then you can buy plans anywhere from $40 to $450 per year to get added functionality.

Some of you may remember Tumblr experimented with this in its early days, mostly around premium themes. It didn’t last. On the other hand, WordPress.com seems to do well with this model, so…

I’m curious about turning on things like some of the e-commerce functionality we’ve been developing with Woocommerce, memberships, those things I think would be very, very interesting to the Tumblr community.

Tumblr as Patreon competitor?

On the Porn Ban:

And some people say, “Well, do you need to be in the app store? Just have a web version.” But apps really are it, and I believe Tumblr is one of the top 30 or 40 apps in the social networking category. It’s usually top couple hundred globally. So their app is a big part of how people interact with it.

And I don’t know if you’ve ever been through an app review process; we’ve even run into this on WordPress. They’ll search for porn. It’s not like it needs to be on the homepage or on the sign-up. They really look for it. And if they find something, you can be taken down.

In other words, blame Apple (and Google) for this one, though Mullenweg does acknowledge that the issue is difficult and that:

There’s been a lot of different communities on Tumblr and some of the babies might have been thrown out with the bathwater, so with any sort of policy or algorithm or AI or whatever that’s doing the filtering, you want to evolve it and make sure that you’re blocking what you say you want to block, and not catching legit content as well.

Like my democracy sausage photo! (Literally the only content I’ve had banned on Tumblr for being “inappropriate”… I guess because, to an algorithm, it looked like a dick pic?)

Mullenweg goes on to talk about Twitter and Reddit “getting away” with both, a) being full on porn, and b) being in app stores. He talks about “looking into” the issue. So while this is probably not a wholehearted “the porn is back!” thing, Automattic does at least seem interested in… loosening some of the more ridiculous restrictions that’ve been implemented in the last year.

The primary user experience [for Tumblr] is going to be that social network. But there’s no reason that VIP or really high-end users of WordPress can’t tap into that social network and a really native beautiful integration.

One of the things WordPress/WordPress.com has always done terribly (despite several attempts over the years) has been social. A more open/integrated social capability in WordPress is definitely something I’m all in for, though the “VIP or really high-end” wording there makes me hmm…, particularly with the whole freemium business model (in other words: you can get the social… but it’ll cost you). Also see previous comments re. being a potential Patreon competitor.

Tumblr for example used to have RSS feeds so you could follow things that weren’t actually hosted on Tumblr. I would love to bring features like that back because I would love for Tumblr to be a better part of the open web.

I mean on the one hand, Tumblr’s format made its feeds largely hot unusable garbage messes but, also: open web? Yes!

There’s also some wording in here that could be interpreted as brainstorming a kind of revived Google Reader-style service leveraging the Tumblr dashboard (see also WordPress.com, which kinda does this).

You’re an old-school web user. At one point, blogging had a real magic to it. A frisson. You’d have blog rolls and links and people would follow and comment and you’d keep up with things and it was a really, really nice social network. But it also was totally distributed and people had their own designs, and all those sorts of things. I think we can bring some of that back and reimagine it in the mobile world[.]

Hmm. I’m listening…

What kind of experience people can create for themselves and really make it something where they choose what they follow? They’re not just being algorithmically pushed whatever is the most incendiary thing that might be in their feed.

… go on…

These are all things that never go out of style. We have peaks and troughs of openness on the web. I think we are exiting a trough. If you think 2016 was the peak of the closed social networks and proprietary software, we are seeing incredible growth of open source, of distributed systems, whether that’s in information, whether that’s in blogging, with money, with crypto, and everything related to that. These are powerful revolutions that are going to play out over the next 15 to 20 years, but it’s only going to go up from here.

I man I could do without the stealth bitcoin drop (ugh), but… yes, this.

On advertising:

I will also couch that by saying Automattic is not an advertising company. We’re a subscription and upgrades company. So perhaps the advertising thing doesn’t work out, and it’s all more subscription-based. I think that can be really healthy and really positive as well.

Which… as someone who loathes online advertising and would much rather pay for services: cool.

We’ve also been launching [for WordPress.com] features around monetization or e-commerce. So there’s a simple payments button, there’s some membership stuff that’s launching soon, all the way up to full e-commerce. There’s store’s that do over $100 million a year in annual revenue built on Woocommerce.

So from the simple PayPal-like pay me now button, all the way up to sophisticated stores, are things that you can do on WordPress. And we see literally north of 10 billion of transactions a year ago through that, and growing fast, so I would love to open some of that up to the Tumblr community.

Again, refer “Tumblr as Patreon competitor”.

Also: small-creator subscription and payments handling is gonna be the next advertising of online revenue models, I’m making that prediction right now (so watch out Square, Patreon, and PayPal). And it’s still rent-seeking but… I guess I can kinda accept it more than ads. So that’s something, I guess.

In response to a question about open-sourcing Tumblr:

That would be pretty cool.

Not gonna lie: a platform that has the publishing and extensibility features of WordPress and the social integrations of Tumblr, that I could self-host, is pretty much my Dream CMS, so… it would be pretty cool, yeah. On the other hand: Tumblr was designed from the ground-up as a content silo, so it probably doesn’t scale down to the sole-operator layer in the way, say, WordPress does. So the “pretty cool” thing here would probably not be “Tumblr” per se but some kind of parts-stripped version of certain Tumblr features, either integrated into WordPress or released separately. (That is, assuming it happens at all, as opposed to just being a “cool” thought experiment.)

Guess we’ll see over the next few months. But… a tentative positive from me on this acquisition.