As some of you may have heard, Yahoo! will acquire Tumblr for a reported $1.1 billion. Neither Yahoo! or Tumblr have said anything official, but come Monday I’m sure we’ll hear something from them.
What I want to talk about, though, is the (young) Internet reportedly freaking out that Yahoo! has bought Tumblr. I think Wil Wheaton summed up the Internet’s sentiment the best:
I really hope Yahoo doesn’t fuck up Tumblr like it’s fucked up… well, every single thing it’s ever touched in the history of the universe.
Look, I get that Wil and everyone else throwing a fit is upset at the news because Yahoo! has historically not been a great social leader. They’ve come out with a lot of cool technology but none of it has been social in nature besides Yahoo Fantasy Sports (and Flickr, which they bought in 2005). In general, they haven’t done anything that would merit praise.
What people forget, though, is that Marissa Mayer is now calling the shots.
I think Hank Green had a pretty level-headed view of the whole thing. Reading his post was the first time I thought, “Hmm, maybe Yahoo! is a bad fit for Tumblr.” After that I realized that the brand “Yahoo!” isn’t what I’m resting my faith in, it’s Marissa Mayer. And since I know she used to be a Googler, this makes total sense to me.
A company is only as good as the people who are running it. We saw a bit of that realization when Steve Jobs passed away and Tim Cook took over, a guy we’re not totally confident in. But then you still have folks like Jony Ive who are also part of that company (and now in charge of software!) so you see why the company is still doing pretty well without Jobs. Companies with strong culture also do well, as long as the culture helps lend to their success (see IBM or Intel).
Also, running companies like Tumblr is hard, especially when you focus on users and product instead of monetization. It’s a free service so something will eventually have to be paid by the users — cash, personal information, ads, or sometimes a combination of all three. We’ve seen Google pull off ads reasonably well on its own services (as well as YouTube). While ads are not preferred, this is what happens with the “things are free on the Internet” model of doing business.
And even though Hank gives points to users on “when to abandon ship”, users won’t need those points. If they stop liking Tumblr and can find an alternative or live without it, then they will. Nothing’s locking them in.
What’s really driving this whole post, though, is my annoyance at the number of people complaining about things they don’t like about products they do not fully understand. Do you remember what it was like before Tumblr? Before Twitter, before Facebook, before Google? If you make the comparisons then to what’s going on now, you should hopefully come away with a few things. One is that hey, what’s out now is way better than what was out then, and two is that yes, we’ve sunk a crap-ton of money, time and smart people into improving those products and services.
Software is hard. Pushing things forward is hard. I’m really sick of hearing complaints about technology when the complainers don’t have anything useful to add to the conversation on advancing these technologies and making them better.