Well it’s official. The rumors were true. Yahoo! has acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion. In a statement, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer said, “Yahoo is the Internet’s original media network. Tumblr is the Internet’s fastest-growing media frenzy. Both companies are homes for brands – established and emerging.”
In a separate statement, Tumblr founder David Karp said…
Before touching on how awesome this is, let me try to allay any concerns: We’re not turning purple. Our headquarters isn’t moving. Our team isn’t changing. Our roadmap isn’t changing. And our mission – to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve – certainly isn’t changing. So what’s new? Simply, Tumblr gets better faster. The work ahead of us remains the same – and we still have a long way to go! – but with more resources to draw from.
He ended the statement by signing off, “F*ck yeah, David.”
So let’s take a hard look at this. On the one side, you’ve got Yahoo!, a company that was a search giant back when Ate My Balls was a fad. On the other, you’ve got Tumblr, the hip blogging service everybody raids for GIFs. And in the middle, apparently, you have an enormous pile of money. But what will happen once all three combine?
The conventional wisdom has been that Yahoo! ruins its acquisitions, but the reality is often more complicated than that. For example:
Flickr is still around, of course, and many argue that ultimately Flickr was a wasted opportunity: If Yahoo! had invested the time and resources in photo-sharing that Facebook did, Zucks might never have had a terrible movie speculating about his emotional butthurt in college. On the other hand, some argue that Yahoo! actually saved Flickr; they built their site badly, were low on cash, and if Yahoo! hadn’t bought them the site inevitably would have been shut down.
The social bookmarking site infamously went to hell after Yahoo! bought it, although whether that’s due to Yahoo!’s management or the fact that sites like del.icio.us in general went downhill as social media took off is an open question. Either way, Yahoo! wound up selling it in 2011 and the new owners have been struggling to revive it ever since.
Yahoo bought GeoCities at the exact worst moment to do so: 1999, right when the tech bubble was at its height and right before social media began to take the place of having a personal web page. Also, Yahoo kept GeoCities alive for a shockingly long time: The site only closed its doors in 2009, which if you think about it is a full ten years past the company’s sell-by date.
Which brings us to Tumblr. Make no mistake, somebody was going to buy Tumblr, or Tumblr was going to go out of business. Like most startups, that’s ultimately why Tumblr was built, to be sold for a lot of money to another company. As a company it has no clear revenue plan, its expenses vastly outstrip its revenues, and it’s hard to sell it as anything other than yet another, well, Flickr, or del.icio.us, or GeoCities, another site that has attracted attention and will just as rapidly lose it. So, one way or the other, Yahoo! or no Yahoo!, the simple truth is this: Tumblr was built to fail.