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Ear to the Ground

Will Yahoo ‘Ruin’ Tumblr?

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Posted on May 19, 2013
Screenshot via Tumblr home page

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Yahoo’s board has approved a deal to buy social media site Tumblr for a whopping $1.1 billion in cash.

Tumblr boasted about 117 million unique users worldwide in March, but generates little revenue. “People familiar with the matter said Yahoo believes it could help Tumblr bring in more money by selling ads, boosting its own revenue in the process,” the Journal reports.

A formal announcement could come as soon as Monday.

Not everyone is so enthused about the deal, however, and for perhaps good reason; as Gawker noted, Yahoo does have a history of “buying and ruining things,” including GeoCities, Flickr and Delicious.

Sam Biddle via Gawker:

GeoCities - 1999:

Now this was a doozy. Yahoo, looking to branch out of the “list of things on the internet” and email game, spent almost $3 billion on GeoCities, the paleolithic precursor to whatever you’d call a social network today. They thought it’d be an easy win: stick one popular thing (GeoCities was the third most trafficked site in the world back then) into another popular thing, and, like, hey, twice as popular?

...We all know how this turned out: GeoCities is synonymous with ugliness and failure, the punchline of lazy tech jokes. Yahoo let the site languish. It sat there, sad and out of date, while its users jumped ship for Facebook—Yahoo never tried to make GeoCities anything more than the Lascaux caves of the web, and it died a quiet death, shuttered in 2009.

Flickr - 2005

Rather than make an enjoyable photo sharing site of its own, Yahoo took one that everyone already loved and stuck its name on it. Its mismanagement of the now obscure site, and the alienation of its fiercely loyal fans, is legendary. Yahoo’s new boss says she wants to revitalize Flickr, but has made no visible effort.

Delicious - 2005

Now the pattern starts to emerge—this is serial killer stuff. Yahoo, once again, snatched up a cherished internet community for around $20 million, and once again, proceeded to do absolutely nothing with it. Delicious was repeatedly rumored to be on Yahoo’s chopping block, its indie-minded users were turned off by Yahoo’s ownership, and it took the two guys who invented YouTube to save it with a purchase in 2011. Then they ran the site into the ground.

Read more

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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