Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, is shedding light on the future trajectory of Tumblr, the popular blogging platform acquired by Automattic from Verizon in 2019. During an episode of the “How to be a CEO” podcast by Evening Standard, Mullenweg provided insights into Tumblr’s upcoming direction, which includes a focus on open source principles, integration of AI technologies, and a unique approach to algorithms. This article delves into Mullenweg’s vision for Tumblr’s evolution and its potential impact on the online publishing landscape.
Embracing a Youthful Audience and Diversity
Mullenweg expressed enthusiasm about Tumblr’s potential to introduce a younger user demographic to the broader Automattic ecosystem. With over half of its users under the age of 25 and a substantial LGBTQ+ community, Tumblr offers a diverse and vibrant platform for creative expression. Automattic aims to seamlessly transition Tumblr users toward its other offerings, such as WordPress.com and WooCommerce, allowing users to expand from basic blogging to e-commerce, customizable websites, newsletters, and membership sites.
Open Source Vision
In a commitment to transparency and collaboration, Automattic has open-sourced the algorithm powering Tumblr—stream-builder—on GitHub. This move empowers developers to modify, enhance, or create customized versions of the algorithm, fostering a more open and participatory development environment. However, open-sourcing the algorithm is just the beginning of Automattic’s plans to make Tumblr more accessible and adaptable.
Empowering Users with Algorithmic Choice
Mullenweg envisions a future where Tumblr users have the autonomy to choose their preferred algorithm to curate their content consumption. While most social networks have historically imposed a single algorithm on users, Mullenweg believes that offering users the ability to personalize their algorithmic experience can strike a balance between user preferences and network-provided algorithms. This aligns with trends seen in other platforms, such as Bluesky’s introduction of custom feeds on Twitter-like networks.
AI’s Role in Tumblr’s Future
AI will play a pivotal role in Tumblr’s future, although not necessarily in the form of chatbots. Mullenweg anticipates AI to enhance the development process by aiding developers in code verification and testing, leading to more efficient product development. Moreover, AI-driven moderation will help flag inappropriate content, and machine learning will refine the Tumblr feed, offering users more personalized content tailored to their interests and connections.
A Unique Space for Creativity and Expression
Mullenweg positioned Tumblr as distinct from traditional social media, highlighting its emphasis on art and creativity. He observed that individuals rarely express a desire to “blog less” compared to the common sentiment of wanting to reduce social media usage. With Tumblr hosting an impressive half a billion blogs, Mullenweg emphasized the platform’s appeal to artists and creators, underscoring its value in fostering a community centered around artistic expression.
As the CEO of Automattic, Matt Mullenweg’s insights provide a fascinating glimpse into the future of Tumblr. By embracing open source principles, allowing algorithmic choice, and leveraging AI technologies, Tumblr aims to create a unique space for diverse content creators and artists. This vision aligns with Automattic’s commitment to innovation and inclusivity, propelling Tumblr toward a new era of creative exploration and collaboration.