Development of Tumblr began in 2006 during a two-week gap between contracts at David Karp's software consulting company, Davidville (housed at Karp's former internship with producer-incubator Fred Seibert's Frederator Studios, which was located a block from Tumblr's current headquarters). Karp had been interested in tumblelogs (short-form blogs) for some time and was waiting for one of the established blogging platforms to introduce their own tumblelogging platform. As no one had done so after a year of waiting, Karp and developer Marco Arment began working on their own tumblelogging platform. Tumblr was launched in February 2007, and within two weeks the service had gained 75,000 users. Arment left the company in September 2010 to focus on Instapaper.
In early June 2012, Tumblr featured its first major brand advertising campaign in conjunction with Adidas, who launched an official soccer Tumblr blog and bought placements on the user dashboard. This launch came only two months after Tumblr announced it would be moving towards paid advertising on its site.
On May 20, 2013, it was announced that Yahoo and Tumblr had reached an agreement for Yahoo! Inc. to acquire Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash. Many of Tumblr's users were unhappy with the news, causing some to start a petition, achieving nearly 170,000 signatures. David Karp remained CEO and the deal was finalized on June 20, 2013. Advertising sales goals were not met and in 2016 Yahoo wrote down $712 million of Tumblr's value.
Karp announced in November 2017 that he would be leaving Tumblr by the end of the year. Jeff D'Onofrio, Tumblr's President and COO, took over leading the company.
Dashboard: The dashboard is the primary tool for the typical Tumblr user. It is a live feed of recent posts from blogs that they follow. Through the dashboard, users are able to comment, reblog, and like posts from other blogs that appear on their dashboard. The dashboard allows the user to upload text posts, images, video, quotes, or links to their blog with a click of a button displayed at the top of the dashboard. Users are also able to connect their blogs to their Twitter and Facebook accounts; so whenever they make a post, it will also be sent as a tweet and a status update.
Queue: Users are able to set up a schedule to delay posts that they make. They can spread their posts over several hours or even days.
Tags: Users can help their audience find posts about certain topics by adding tags. If someone were to upload a picture to their blog and wanted their viewers to find pictures, they would add the tag #picture, and their viewers could use that word to search for posts with the tag #picture.
HTML editing: Tumblr allows users to edit their blog's theme HTML coding to control the appearance of their blog. Users are also able to use a custom domain name for their blog.
With Tumblr's 2009 acquisition of Tumblerette, an iOS application created by Jeff Rock and Garrett Ross, the service launched its official iPhone app. The site became available to BlackBerry smartphones on April 17, 2010, via a Mobelux application in BlackBerry World. In June 2012, Tumblr released a new version of its iOS app, Tumblr 3.0, allowing support for Spotify, hi-res images and offline access. An app for Android is also available. A Windows Phone app was released on April 23, 2013. An app for Google Glass was released on May 16, 2013.
Inbox and messaging
Tumblr blogs may optionally allow users to submit questions, either as themselves or anonymously, to the blog for a response. Tumblr also offered a "fan mail" function, allowing users to send messages to blogs that they follow.
On November 10, 2015, Tumblr introduced an integrated instant messaging function, allowing users to chat between other Tumblr users. The feature was rolled out in a "viral" manner; it was initially made available to a group of 1500 users, and other users could receive access to the messaging system if they were sent a message by any user that had received access to the system itself. The messaging platform replaces the fan mail system, which was deprecated. The ability to send posts to others via the Dashboard was added the following month.
In May 2012, Tumblr launched Storyboard, a blog managed by an in-house editorial team which features stories and videos about noteworthy blogs and users on Tumblr. In April 2013, Storyboard was shut down.
In March 2018, Tumblr began to syndicate original video content from Verizon-owned video network go90, as part of an ongoing integration of Oath properties, and reported plans to wind down go90 in favor of using Oath properties to distribute its content instead. This made the respective content available internationally, since go90 is a U.S.-only service.
In 2011, the service was most popular with the teen and college-aged user segments with half of Tumblr's visitor base being under the age of 25. In April 2013, the website received more than 13 billion global page views.
User activity, measured by the number of blog posts each day, peaked at over 100 million in early 2014 and declined in each of the next three years.
As of June 1, 2018, Tumblr hosts over 417.1 million blogs and more than 161.3 billion posts in total and over 29 million posts were created on the site each day.
Tumblr is noted by technology journalists as having a sizable amount of pornographic content.The New York Times notes "pornography represents a fraction of content on the site, but not a trivial amount for a site with 100 million blogs." Karp revealed in June 2012 that between 2 and 4 percent of Tumblr's traffic is porn-related. However, an analysis conducted by news and technology site TechCrunch has shown that over 22% of all traffic in and out of Tumblr is classified as pornography. In addition, a reported 16.45% of blogs on Tumblr exclusively contain pornographic material. Tumblr's Community Guidelines permits adult-oriented content but requires blogs that contain occasional or substantial adult content to be flagged as such. Sexually explicit videos are not allowed to be uploaded to the website, but videos hosted elsewhere may be embedded. Some porn bloggers earn money by referring traffic to adult businesses through referrals and widgets.
As of July 20, 2013, policy updates enacted by Tumblr mean that pages classified as "NSFW" (not safe for work) will not feature in tag pages for users who are not logged in or who have the "Safe Mode" activated. For users who are logged into Tumblr, but do not have "Safe Mode" turned on, NSFW blogs should show up on search and tag pages; NSFW pages are indexed by search engines. In a public statement, the company conveyed the following:
Tumblr's longstanding policy regarding NSFW content has not changed and emphasizes the importance of free expression. As addressed in these policies, we are constantly taking measures to ensure our users can avoid this content unless they'd like to see it. Anyone can opt-in by disabling Safe Mode in their Dashboard Settings.
In February 2016, the Indonesian government temporarily blocked access to Tumblr within the country because the site hosts pages that carried porn. The government shortly reversed its decision to block the site and said it had asked Tumblr to self-censor its pornographic content.
Self-harm and suicide
In February 2012, Tumblr content policy changed to ban blogs that promote or advocate suicide, self-harm and eating disorders (pro-ana).
The suicide of a British teenager, Tallulah Wilson, raised the issue of suicide and self-harm promotion on Tumblr as Wilson was reported to have maintained a self-harm blog on the site. A user on the site is reported to have sent Wilson an image of a noose accompanied by the message: "here is your new necklace, try it on." In response to the Wilson case, Maria Miller, the UK's minister for culture, media and sport, said that social media sites like Tumblr need to remove "toxic" self-harm content.
Searching terms like "depression", "anxiety", and "suicide" on Tumblr now brings up a PSA page directing the user to resources like the national suicide lifeline, and 7 Cups; as well as an option to continue to the search results.
There are concerns of some Tumblr posts glorifying suicide and depression among young people.
Tumblr's headquarters are located in the 770 Broadway building in New York City.
In its first round of funding in October 2007, Tumblr raised $750,000 from Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. In December 2008 the company raised $4.5 million in Series B funding and a further $5 million in April 2010. In December 2010 Tumblr raised $30 million in Series D funding. The company had a $800 million valuation in August 2011. In September 2011 the company raised $85 million in a round of funding led by Greylock Partners and Insight Venture Partners.
In an interview with Nicole Lapin of Bloomberg West on September 7, 2012, David Karp said the site was monetized by advertising. Their first advertising launch started in May 2012 after 16 experimental campaigns. Tumblr made $13 million in revenue in 2012 and hoped to make $100 million in 2013. Tumblr reportedly spent $25 million to fund operations in 2012.
In 2013, Tumblr began allowing companies to pay to promote their own posts to a larger audience. Tumblr Head of Sales, Lee Brown, has quoted the average ad purchase on Tumblr to be nearly six figures. Tumblr also generates revenue by selling themes to users to change the appearance of their blog.
In July 2016, advertisements were implemented by default across all blogs. Users may opt out, and the service stated that a revenue sharing program would be implemented at a later date.
Tumblr has received criticism for copyright violations by participating bloggers; however, Tumblr accepts Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down notices. Tumblr's visual appeal has made it ideal for photoblogs that often include copyrighted works from others that are re-published without payment. Tumblr users can post unoriginal content by "Reblogging", a feature on Tumblr that allows users to re-post content taken from another blog onto their own blog with attribution.
Tumblr has been forced to manage spam and security problems. For example, a chain letter scam in May 2011 affected 130,000 users.
In 2015, Tumblr faced criticism by users for changes to its reblog mechanisms. In July 2015, the system was modified so that users cannot remove or edit individual comments by other users when reblogging a post; existing comments can only be removed all at once. Tumblr staff argued that the change was intended to combat "misattribution". In September 2015, Tumblr changed how threads of comments on reblogged posts are displayed; rather than a nested view with indentations for each post, all reblogs are now shown in a flat view, and user avatars were also added. The change was intended to improve the legibility of reblogs, especially on mobile platforms, and complements the inability to edit existing comments. Although some users had requested such a change to combat posts made illegible by extremely large numbers of comments on a reblogged post, the majority of users (even those who had requested such a change) criticized the new format. The Verge was also critical of the changes, noting that it was cleaner, but made the site lose its "nostalgic charm". As of 2016[update], numerous browser extensions have been created to try to combat or circumvent these changes.
In February 2018, BuzzFeed published a report claiming that Tumblr was utilized as a distribution channel for Russian agents to influence American voting habits during the 2016 presidential election.
In August 2010, Tumblr was named as a finalist in Lead411's New York City Hot 125.
^Karp, David; Alexandria, Julie (May 27, 2008). David Karp and Tumblr (Video). Wallstrip. Event occurs at 1:30. Retrieved 2013. Sometime in 2006, we had a couple of weeks between contracts and said 'Let's see what we can do, let's see if we can build this thing', and we threw together the first working version of Tumblr.
^Karp, David (December 12, 2011). David Karp: When It All Came Together (Video). Fast Company. Event occurs at 1:03. Retrieved 2013. Over the next few months, we kind of pieced together what became the first version of Tumblr which launched in February 2007.