The reactions to Yahoo!’s acquisition of Tumblr have been borderline insane. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I just needed to “vent the radioactive gas” before my head explodes.
Before I get into anything else, I just want to point out that I don’t really have any affiliation to Yahoo! or Tumblr aside from using both services. The prior, I use primarily for Fantasy Baseball, and the latter is the platform on which I blog. I don’t really care about the players behind the scenes, and I’m definitely not a shareholder.
There a number of things in play here that seem to be affecting people’s opinions on the topic. First, there’s a serious bias against Yahoo! as being old and stale and generally stupid. Failures like that of Flickr and Delicious (which are failures of a previous regime), are being brought up over and over, while Images like this one have been making the rounds since the news broke yesterday:
You know, because the first thing a company in 2013 does when they get their hands on a new property is change the design and functionality to match stuff they did back in 2003, under entirely different leadership.
If you’ve been following the work that Yahoo! has been pumping out under new CEO, Marissa Mayer, you might be aware of work like the Yahoo! Weather app, which was released this April. Take a look, It lacks the obnoxious purple and cartoon smileys people seem to be expecting:
This is just one example, but the design on this one application is enough to give me a glimmer of hope for the future of Yahoo! and consequently Tumblr. At the very least, it says that Yahoo! isn’t stupid, they understand the aesthetics of today. They’re not stuck in 2003 as some people are implying.
That being said, they have a lot of work to do. It’s not like they don’t know it. During the company’s Q1 conference call for 2013, Mayer explained exactly where they were at:
“We’re off to a solid start in 2013,” she said. “I’m pleased with the continued execution I see every day.” But she added, to almost no one’s surprise: “Getting the company growing where we’d like is going to take several years.
She sees Yahoo embarking on a “series of sprints.” The first sprint was building talent. The next sprint: creating beautiful products that will drive engagement and, ultimately, revenue growth. (via Forbes)
In other words, they’re fucking working on it. Hold your goddamn horses. I’m personally reserving judgement until the full picture reveals itself.
See, this is how it works when you’re turning a company around. An analogy that I’ve been using to explain my feelings is that of a baseball team that’s been in last place. They hire a new general manager and then start to rebuild. The new general manager is thinking long term, understanding that there’s a few more years of sub-par seasons until his plan comes into fruition. He drafts better, signs better contracts, and implements a new culture for his team. Then after years of the plan being put into place, piece by piece, there’s a winning season, and another, and then a championship. That’s what happened to the Red Sox in 2004 after not winning a championship for nearly a century. That’s what tends to happen in business.
The other thing that I’m watching unfold, is the user-base of Tumblr reacting as if “the end is near,” this is incredibly cynical. I’d have to guess that some of it is people trolling, and some of it is legitimate fear of change. What people seem to be forgetting, is that it’s entirely possible for internet services to change hands, without taking a sledgehammer to everything that’s good about them.
Since Facebook purchased Instagram, Facebook has changed the design and functionality very littler. They’ve added a couple of functions that only add to the experience (Tagging, Location Services, etc) and created a much needed web-version of the timeline. When that acquisition was announced, people yelled and screamed and talked about leaving Instagram. What happened? Instagram’s user base has more than doubled. More new users, means more time spent on Instagram, and more people to interact with.
I expect the same to happen to Tumblr. You might not expect it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is going to be nothing but good for both Tumblr and Yahoo! Don’t agree? That’s cool, just keep living in your stormy-ass world. :)