Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg talks about plans for the company’s recent Tumblr purchase

Leveraging its recent Tumblr purchase, Automattic is looking to revive old school blogging.

Nilay Patel at www.theverge.com:

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg thinks the future of Tumblr is bright — he wants the platform to bring back the best of old-school blogging, reinvented for mobile and connected to Tumblr’s still-vibrant community. And he’s retaining all 200 Tumblr employees to build that future. It’s the most exciting vision for Tumblr in years.

Matt joined Verge reporter Julia Alexander and me on a special Vergecast interview episode to chat about the deal, how it came together, what Automattic’s plans for Tumblr look like, and whether Tumblr might become an open-source project, like WordPress itself. (“That would be pretty cool,” said Matt.)

Oh, and that porn ban.

Mullenweg uses Tumblr.

He declined to confirm the reported purchase price of $3 million, which is peanuts compared with $1.1 billion that Yahoo paid. But he did say:

Verizon is a company that does over $120 billion dollars in revenue. They got Tumblr through Yahoo, which then merged with AOL, became Oath, got bought, became Verizon Media. It’s something they inherited a few levels down.

Their top priority was not trying to maximize the purchase price — there might even be a corporate reason for the purchase price to be lower, for taxes or something. They were really looking for where the best home was going to be. That was really where we tried to optimize the deal, especially in terms of bringing over close to 200 people. We’re taking them all on. I am aware of some of the details of some of the bidders — you know they were not planning to keep much, if any, of the team going.

We did more of a Berkshire Hathaway approach: we really want to bring over the management team, take what was working well, which is Tumblr’s engagement,and grow from there.

I do like to think this is what happened at Verizon. They knew they were not the right company to give Tumblr the care it deserved, but they took the time to be responsible and find it a good home.

For Tumblr I think this is the best possible outcome.

Don’t believe the rumors. Tumblr is still home to vibrant blogs and communities. I’m looking forward to seeing what Automattic does with it.

The porn ban is wrong, but given today’s economic climate it’s not unexpected. If you run adult content you run the risk of being blocked in the Google and Apple app stores – which briefly happened to Tumblr and which likely precipitated the porn ban. No company can afford that. (How do Reddit and Twitter get away with it? Mullenweg says he doesn’t know. Maybe they’re big enough that Google and Apple are afraid of blocking them.) “I will say that overall, a really thriving home for adult content is probably best for a company or a website which is totally dedicated to it,” Mullenweg says.

All sorts of interesting hints here on where Tumblr might go. Mullenweg says he’d like to restore RSS integration so you can follow things that aren’t actually on Tumblr, and bring Tumblr back to the open web.

I want to create a place on the web which is fun and supportive and substantial. 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 which is where Tumblr is also super strong….

“… I hope and believe that Tumblr’s best days are actually ahead of it.”

How facial recognition has turned summer camp into a dystopia for campers, parents, counsellors and photographers (but not facial recognition vendors) boingboing.net

Study finds that e-bike riders get as much exercise as riders of regular bikes www.treehugger.com I’m e-bike-curious. Have been for many years.

Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors, Sit Down. “Going to what few plantations remain, your job is to go with respect and homage and light.” afroculinaria.com

iOS 13 Lets You Delete Apps Right From the Update List www.macrumors.com

Convenient. I try a lot of apps, and often don’t remember they’re on my phone until I get an update notification. “I need to remember to delete that,” I tell myself, but then I never do.

15-year-old girl is an internet hero for using a refrigerator to tweet after being grounded by her Mom. Why does a refrigerator need social media connectivity? www.theguardian.com

luke kurtis: Apple locked me out of its walled garden. It was a nightmare

kurtis innocently bought a fraudulent iTunes gift card and was locked out of his Apple account for two months. He lost access to $15,000 worth of media and apps amassed over 15 years. qz.com

At first, it seemed like a mild inconvenience, but I soon found out how many apps on my iOS and Mac devices couldn’t be updated, not to mention how I couldn’t download anything new. When I had to take a trip for a family emergency, the JetBlue app wouldn’t let me access my boarding pass, saying I had to update the app to use it. It was the first time I’d flown with a paper boarding pass in years. I couldn’t even pass time on the flight playing Animal Crossing on my phone, because I got a similar error message when I opened the game.

I couldn’t use my HomePod to stream anything from my vast music collection I’d spent 15 years building; I couldn’t watch purchased movies or shows on my Apple TV; and I couldn’t download apps needed for my work at Quartz. As we anticipated the July 4th holiday in a team meeting, a manager recommended we all uninstall Slack for the holiday to truly disconnect and enjoy some time away from work. I wanted to, but I knew that if I did, I wouldn’t be able to reinstall it.

Several customer service representatives seemed friendly at first and said they’d help, but then they shut him down without explanation. Finally, after writing to Tim Cook, he got his access restored.

This whole ordeal made me wonder if I want to continue using Apple products. The more I consider it, the more I realize it’s not just a question of choosing one product over another. The truth is that Google or Microsoft (or Nintendo, or Samsung, or Sony, the list goes on) could just as easily cut off a customer for no stated purpose and without recourse.

Do we think enough about the rights we as consumers have when skimming over those long, unwieldy terms and conditions documents we sign to get access to the gadgets and products we buy every day? How much are we really buying, and how much are we just renting for a while?

Art Frahm was a midcentury illustrator whose signature drawings feature pretty, doll like women whose panties have fallen down while they are wearing dresses. www.messynessychic.com

The women look startled, and men around them look pleased. The women frequently carry paper grocery bags with celery sticking out the top.

It’s ok to have a fetish but it’s a tough life if your fetish is really, really specific.

Toni Morrison, writing in November 2016, days after Trump won: “Making America White Again(The New Yorker): “So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.”

Automattic Acquires Tumblr, Plans to Rebuild the Backend Powered by WordPress (Sarah Gooding/WPTavern)

Following Tumblr’s acquisition by Automattic, the company that operates WordPress.com, will move to a WordPress back end and open source client, but the frontend user experience will be consistent with what it is now.

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg did a Slack Q&A after his company announced plans to acquire Tumblr from Verizon, for a “nominal sum,” much less than the $1 billion Yahoo paid or Tumblr. (I’ve seen widespread estimates that Automattic paid about $20 million, and at least one credible estimate that it was something like $3 million. Peanuts compared with what Yahoo paid.)

WordPress is an open source web operating system that can power pretty much anything, including Tumblr.com, but it’s also a large property so will take a bit to figure out and migrate,” Mullenweg said.

Automattic doesn’t currently have plans to change the frontend Tumblr experience. Mullenweg said the Tumblr mobile app gets 20x more daily signups than the WordPress app….

Tumblr changed its adult content policy in December 2018, banning pornographic content which reportedly accounted for 22.37 percent of incoming referral traffic from external sites in 2013 when it was acquired by Yahoo. Automattic has a similar content policy in place for WordPress.com and Mullenweg confirmed that the company does not plan to lift the ban on adult content.

“Adult content is not our forte either, and it creates a huge number of potential issues with app stores, payment providers, trust and safety… it’s a problem area best suited for companies fully dedicated to creating a great experience there,” Mullenweg said in response to questions on Hacker News. “I personally have very liberal views on these things, but supporting adult content as a business is very different.”