Archive for December 4, 2018

Initial Thoughts on the Upcoming and Intentional Demise of Tumblr

December 4, 2018 18 comments

As many of you might have heard by now, Tumblr has decided to ban all “adult” content on its platform starting December 17th of this year. I am sure that all of you, on first hearing about this yesterday, must have said something along the lines of “why would anybody use Tumblr if it had no adult content”? And that is a very valid question, because most people correctly see Tumblr as a vast curated and user-updated repository of pictoral pornography. Of course, some idiots in the dying corporate media want to pretend that this will have no long-term effects on the viability of that platform or its brand. Some others see it as another example of insidious censorship (which it kinda is), Apple removing its App from their store over concerns about “child pornography” or one more unfortunate consequence of Verizon purchasing that brand some time ago.

While each of these conventional narratives about the decision contains some elements of truth, they cannot see the overall picture- much like the protagonists of that story about six blind men and an elephant. Yesterday, a couple of acquaintances on Twitter wondered if management knew that banning “adult” content from Tumblr would destroy that business and brand in very short order. After all, which sane person would like to destroy a functional business.. right? Some of you might counter this by saying that Tumblr has never made profit for its owners. But if you use that metric- neither has Gmail, Google Maps, WhatsApp, Android, Uber, Lyft, SpaceX, Tesla and most Silly Valley corporations “valued” over a billion. Over past two decades, the ability of any large american business to stay solvent has been slowly divorced from its ability to make a profit.

So how do large american corporations make any profit at all? Well.. that depends on what you define as profit, but if you use its most commonly understood definition, they do so through a number of means all of which have absolutely nothing to do with providing a good product or service. Furthermore, the only groups that all american business consistently make profit for is their upper management, lenders and financial intermediaries (often the same or related). But don’t corporations such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook etc make real money and profit? Sure.. they do by being either a government-favored monopoly or part of an oligopoly. And that is true for other corporations such as Ford, GM, ‘insert any large defense contractor’ right down to your local medical clinic, hospital and “health insurance provider”.

But what does any of this have to do with the apparently suicidal decision by people currently at the helm of Tumblr? As you will soon see.. a lot. Let me start by asking a somewhat rhetorical question? Why does it seem that I am running down american (and more generally, anglo-saxon) corporations? Don’t corporations in other parts of the world also make huge mistakes? Aren’t they also staffed with greedy morons? Well.. yes, USA (and the anglo-saxon world) most certainly do not have a monopoly on greedy assholes and grave-robbers. The difference lies in how the rest of system in those countries handles them. Confused? Let me explain with a simple example. Ever wondered how far a CEO who ran an OK business into the ground would be allowed to go in an east-asian country versus USA? Consider the case of somebody like Marissa Mayer.

In case you are wondering, she was the CEO of Yahoo from 2012-2017 before that brand (and its acquisitions such at Tumblr) was sold to Verizon last year. While I am not saying that she is brain-damaged, it is clear that her initial success at Google came from being at the right place at the right time. In other words, any other moderately intelligent person in her position would have also won that lottery. The rest of her “achievements” look like the type of resume-padding you see from ivy-leaguers. It also helped that she was a woman at a time when corporate boards wanted a few token women for the purposes of showing ‘diversity”. To be quite blunt, her real skills were kissing ass, being a woman in addition to acting super busy and competent. And that is how she landed her first big solo gig as the CEO of Yahoo in 2012. When she had left Yahoo in 2017 after running it (further) into the ground, she collected about 260 million.

To be fair, Yahoo had been on a steadily downward trajectory since the mid-2000s. While the simple-minded might blame the rise of Google for Yahoo’s slow implosion, the reality is vastly different. Yahoo.. you see.. was not really in competition with Google for search engine market as early as 1999. Instead, it had diversified into personalized services (such as news, sports, social media and yes.. what we today know as ‘cloud’ storage) pretty early on. But the people who ran it before her were equally incompetent and short-sighted. They did have not a unified strategy and ignored user and employee feedback about designing their platforms and services. That is why for example, they let Flickr slowly fail when they could have made into FaceBook before it even existed. I could go on about their other failures, but that would take a book.

And this is where the difference in how corporations in various countries handle incompetent leadership matters. See.. in USA (and other anglo-saxon countries) CEOs, senior board members, top management etc who make bad decisions make tons of money regardless of whether they succeed or fail in their mission- usually the later. They then go on to other still healthy corporations, do the same shit and make even more money. The rest of the system stands by (and often rewards) them as they keep on destroying more healthy corporations and tens of thousands more jobs. This is allowed to happen because the allegedly elected governments in these countries (and senior bureaucracy) are themselves on the payroll of these parasites.

In contrast to that, east-asian systems while famously tolerant of corruption and personal quirks do hold even the most senior corporate people accountable for their failures and incompetence. And while they almost never openly fire or humiliate failed corporate leaders, they do make sure that such people cannot cause more damage. That is why for example, the quality of Japanese and Korean automobiles rarely suffer more than the occasional downward hiccup. That is also why the quality and availability of many other things, from supermarkets and restaurants to medical care and affordable housing, is usually higher in East-Asian and West-European countries than USA. To reiterate- the quality of people is not better in those countries. However their governance systems are significantly better at protecting people from parasitic corporate-types.

Which brings us back to the subject of this post. Did you realize that the title contains the word ‘intentional’ in addition to upcoming. Wonder why? Well.. have you considered the possibility that the current management of Tumblr is counting on its recent “rule changes” to destroy it? But why would they do such an apparently stupid thing? Here is a hint: they can make a lot though performance bonuses if they manage to “sell” the ruins of Tumblr to some private equity firm or some other shysters for further strip-mining. Given that Tumblr is not making them a large profit right now, or in the near future, it makes more sense to destroy it such that its ruins can be later sold to another group of con-artists. There is of course the other possibility, namely that they do not care and believe in their own bullshit. Remember, these are the same self-delusional types who knew that HRC would defeat Trump in 2016. Or maybe, both possibilities are at play..

In the next post on this topic, I will talk about the effect of this decision on current Tumblr users, general availability of pictoral pornography on internet and rapidly worsening public perception of large internet monopolies and oligopolies.

What do you think? Comments?