In the last decade, one of the biggest contributions to the spread of visual culture has been the ‘art blog’. Varying from curated blog sites such as BOOOOOOOM or FFFFound—why the overindulgence with letter repetition? I don’t know—to artist-run blogs where creatives can showcase their own work, these websites have become the tastemakers in the 21st century. While I have not indulged within this particular realm of personal advertising on social media, I do use blogs as a great source to find what’s hot on the net.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or you’re Amish, you’ve come into contact with the blogging supersite Tumblr. Famous for its user-friendly layout and image-heavy content, Tumblr rose to popularity over the last few years throughout the coveted 18-24 year old demographic. Naturally, artists have flocked to this web service and have used it as a platform to promote their work. With last week’s purchase of Tumblr by Yahoo (a much older, conservative, and wealthier company), the blogging site found itself with a new manager. With this new sheriff in town, what new restrictions could develop within the Tumblr-sphere: the censorship of pornography and the cracking down on copyrights? Could last week’s $1.1 Billion sale mean the end of the art blog as we know it?
Yahoo: A History Of Violence
Tumblr’s young founder, David Karp, has been extremely idealistic with how he runs his brainchild. In one interview, he stated that he’d feel sick if there were ever advertisements anywhere on the site. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with its interface, users log into a relatively stark homepage adorned only by the ‘feed’ of blogs that are followed, framed by a navy blue background.) Yahoo, founded in 1995, could exemplify the opposite of that idealism. In 2004, they altered their search results for companies that paid them to do so and in 2005 they cooperated with the Chinese government in censoring search results. For a company like Tumblr with 175 employees—and apparently has a rogue dog that runs through its NYC headquarters—this is a bit of a conflict of interest.
Since the announcement of the purchase last week, many were skeptical on the future of the blogging website. At a recent press conference, Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer promised that they were not going to restrict content on Tumblr. Many users, such as BAPs very own photographer Chris Phillips, have used the website to show off their not-so-conventional pictures (aka nudie pics) on the site.
Mayer promised to “not screw it up” and maintained that Tumblr can still have work that is tagged with the always-enticing ‘NSFW’ label. She did specify, however, that the work would have to be “user-generated.” This statement has unfortunately been overlooked. Was this fine detail a warning to those borrowing content from other sites/artists? Will this, instead of an army of sharers, engender an army of original creators?
The Next **shudder** Myspace?
Perhaps what is most alarming about the sale is Yahoo’s history of destroying their acquisitions. Remember Del.icio.us, Geocities, or Broadcast.com? Yahoo purchased all of these and, since then, users have unanimously complained about the websites’ new interface, or have had to deal with their favorite sites ceasing to be. Although Yahoo has the opportunity to make a big profit with Tumblr and probably won’t eliminate it from the Internet, 72,000 posts were deflected from Tumblr to blogging rival WordPress within hours of the sale's announcement—apparently, thousands of users are terrified that their blogs may go the way of the Dodo since Yahoo took over!
We probably won’t be seeing any significant changes for a few months—but you can’t be too careful. Tumblr has been an exciting catalyst for young artists and it would be hard to imagine contemporary visual culture without it. Just last March, Hyperallergic, a popular New York based blogazine, held a Tumblr Art Symposium based on the blog’s great influence on the art world. So until we know for sure, it is probably a good idea to have a back-up plan just in case Tumblr becomes the next MySpace. What’s yours?
Article by James Shaeffer