Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Weblogs? Been there, done that. Facebook? It's full of kids. Twitter? That's so 2006, darling. No, the smart thing to be doing online these days is tumblelogging, which is to weblogs what text messages are to email - short, to the point, and direct."

The Daily Telegraph, 23 Aug 2007
World's first digital insane asylum.
—The top definition for the site on Urban Dictionary as of 2 February, 2024

tumblr is a "short-form" multimedia blogging platform. A favored stomping ground of college-age hipsters, amateur photographers, graphic artists, and people who just felt like making one, it's far less text-rich than other blogging sites. Users tend to collate pretty images and memes from around the internet on their tumblogs, with most memes also being popular on 4chan at the same time. They can also follow one another and reblog or like one another's posts, a system that encourages popularity contests. Themed tumblogs abound, from Fuck Yeah, Dioramas! to Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber to QuoteMadness. Many publications, companies and creators have an official tumblog.

tumblr gainined popularity in the mid 2010s, with celebritiy presence like fellow New Media hubs Facebook and Twitter, but it's mostly populated by all sorts of Fan Girls, Hipsters, as well as vanguards from every Hatedom imaginable. It's also known for its tacit encouragement of designers. tumblr's interface makes it easy to set up a portfolio, and its support staff has been praised for running its Theme Garden, which features often minimalist layouts designed by users.

Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Misfits, Glee, Supernatural, Homestuck, Hetalia, shows from the Golden Age of Animation, Cult Classics, and any movie or show with a large slash following (such as X-Men First Class and Sherlock) have fairly large fanbases on this site. Like most places on the internet, Shipping and political correctness are also a big deal. It also is open to far less savory content, including no few Neo-Nazi and White Supremacy communities and some disturbingly misogynistic blogs catering to such groups as the extreme wing of the Incel movement. Beyond this, tumblr was at one time also home to a staggeringly large number of Porn blogs -- one study suggested that upwards of a quarter of tumblr's traffic came from at NSFW blogs.

Because of the size of its userbase and favorable demographics, tumblr was bought by Yahoo! in May 2013, which reassured the site's users that it would leave its vibrant and eclectic range of communities untouched and unaltered -- which it did, for the most part. However, when Verizon bought Yahoo! specifically for its advertising, the communities were less of a priority than monetizing them was.

In mid-2018, Verizon established a long-term secret project[1] -- ironically called "Project X" -- to explore how to purge tumblr of porn to make it more attractive to advertisers. However, with a subsequent explosion of porn bots on the site plus the discovery of a small number of kiddie-porn blogs, as well as the rejection of the tumblr app from the Apple app store because of the site's adult content, tumblr radically accelerated the process. CEO Jeff D’Onofrio abruptly announced on December 3, 2018 that adult bloggers had two weeks until their blogs and content would be banned; an extensive list of now-unwelcome material was included.

The draconian nature of the announcement, the ham-handed manner in which enforcement began even before the deadline, the (possibly accidental) classification of LGBTQ communities among the banned content, and a general sense that the staff had broken its promises to the users prompted an immediate, massive migration away from the platform -- so massive that two weeks later the Staff account posted a desperate message trying to convince those reading it that things were not nearly as dire as they appeared. Regardless, on December 17, 2018, tumblr rendered itself safe for children advertisers.

Infographic courtesy of Statista.com.

Less than a month later, by some metrics (including Alexa) their traffic had dropped by 54%, prompting a certain amount of Schadenfreude in many former users. And by May 2019, barely five months later, the "sanitized" tumblr had so badly failed to meet expected revenue targets that Verizon had begun looking for someone to take it off their hands. Adult video site Pornhub was among the potential buyers, and explicitly declared their intent to restore tumblr to its pre-censored state.[2] Ultimately, though, tumblr was bought in August 2019 by Automattic, Inc. (the owner of WordPress) for under US$3 million (a fraction of a penny on the dollar compared to tumblr's one-time valuation at US$1.1 billion); having nothing to lose at that price, Automattic has no plans to end the censorship policies imposed by Verizon.[3]

Jeff D'Onofrio himself quietly left tumblr in January 2022, apparently having learned humility from his role in turning tumblr from an internet juggernaut to a penny-ante has-been social media site. According to an interview with The Atlantic magazine given several weeks earlier, he had offered the hope of modernizing tumblr and somehow restoring the NSFW content, but almost immediately afterward the site turned around and banned even more hashtags than before -- including such innocuous tags as "#selfie", "#girl", "#sad", and "#me" (!) -- in its newest round of cracking down on unwanted adult content. D'Onofrio left (whether he was fired or resigned is unclear) just a couple weeks later.

Two years later, tumblr continues to circle the drain. In July 2023, D'Onofrio's successor Matt Mullenweg admitted that tumblr loses $30 million each year; in November of 2023 he reassigned almost all of tumblr's staff to other projects within Automattic. In early 2024, despite supposedly being on a sabbatical, Mullenweg engaged in a nasty and very public spat with a former tumblr user banned from the platform after complaining of transphobic attacks from users and expressing angry frustration with tumblr's moderation team -- in the process alienating more users and fueling a further exodus from the platform, which up to that point had managed to remain trans-friendly.

These blogs, stories, and webcomics are or were hosted at tumblr:
Tumblr provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Animal Reaction Shot
  • Arch Enemy: With Facebook
    • Alternatively, 4chan considers tumblr this. Especially /co/ due to yaoi fangirls and rampant shippers which they feel bring in the more annoying (to them) aspects of fandom and make discussing things besides Shipping a chore if not impossible. The vitriol got even worse once The Legend of Korra premiered and tumblr practically exploded in Korra love, fanart and shipping wars.
  • Ascended Fanon: tumblr's own variation of the Fail Whale, the Tumbeasts came from this strip from The Oatmeal.
  • Berserk Button: For most users, "We'll Be Back Shortly", and for others, the Tumbeasts error page.
  • Bluenose Bowdlerizers: tumblr's staff, led by D'Onofrio and former Yahoo VP Simon Khalaf, who became head of media brands during the acquisition.
  • Boomerang Bigot: There is an alarming amount of white users who do nothing but rant and rave about how terrible white people are.
    • Ditto for straight white men hating... straight white men.
  • Bury Your Gays: One (possibly unintentional) side effect of the kindergartenization of tumblr in December 2018 was the immediate classification of all LGBTQ content as violating the new rules, apparently based on a belief somewhere that All Non-Straights Are Promiscuous/Pedophiles, and do nothing but post explicit content. Although the staff subsequently tried to back off from this, a large percentage of tumblr's LGBTQ population had already decided they'd been betrayed and were departing en masse.
  • Censorware: Post-December 2018, tumblr's search function refuses to return any results for "NSFW", "R18" or any other common tags for adult content. As time went on, even more (and increasingly ridiculous) terms were added to the "banned" list in an effort to thwart user searches for explicit content, including in January 2022 "#selfie", "#girl", "#sad", and "#me".
  • Character Blog: Ask Blogs (mostly drawn, but there are a lot of text-based blogs). Probably older than most visitors think but the majority of popular ones are for newer series. RP Blogs (either independent blogs or part of an RP group) are also popular.
  • Content Warning: A particularly annoying one was implemented as part of the December 2018 purge. It implies the user can click through to see the hidden content, but if they do, the user is instead deposited at a page about tumblr's content policy.
  • Cool Car: lots of car porn.
  • Costume Porn
  • Creator Backlash: The founder of tumblr was a young straight white man who does not identify as a feminist or a social justice activist and is somewhat dismayed at the far-leftist bent his creation took, but despite this stayed with the site until 2017.
  • Crowd Song: No, really.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Design Student's Orgasm: Averted with the themes, which are very minimalist, but played straight with the art posts.
    • The user-made themes, however, can get very flashy and even incorporate effects such as snow falling over the page and unusual-looking cursors that emit a trail of particles.
  • Dueling Products: Fought with and has eventually took over LiveJournal's spot as the fandom location on the internet, which is what made Verizon buy it. There are examples of small to medium size fandoms completely abandoning LiveJournal in favour of tumblr. One example is iCarly, which had a half-dozen or so active journals with regular discussion turn into ghost-towns, as the fandom quit en masse to join tumblr instead.
  • Emo Teen: A good portion of the tumblr demographic.
  • Fan Girl: A bunch of fansites following the convention fuckyeah__. Common alternatives are "hellyeah" or "heckyeah" if the person in charge doesn't want to swear in the blog title.
    • Yaoi Fangirl: There is -- or perhaps was -- also a large yaoi fanbase on the site as well. In fact, the majority of the girls on there can and will ship any gay pairing as hard as they can, the more nonsensical the better. There's something of a running gag on the site that, on tumblr, there is no such thing as heterosexuality.
  • The Fashionista: A large portion of the tumblr community.
  • Food Porn: Many blogs post richly-colored photos of food for seemingly no reason.
  • Friendly War: On May 2012, Europeans liveblogged about Eurovision 2012. America declared a Banana War on the Eurovision posts by reblogging bananas.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: After December 2018, a small adult subcommunity survives, taking advantage of the gaping holes in tumblr's hapless automod software (see Scunthorpe Problem, below) and reviving the "citrus scale", among other means, to maintain their existence in the face of the censors.
    • The automod software has been tentatively identified as Yahoo's open source neural network project open_nsfw, which -- as some have been quick to point out -- has some quirks and issues (link possibly NSFW) that make it possible to circumvent -- or at least utterly confuse.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: As pointed by Xkcd.
  • Going Mobile: tumblr also has an app for on the go users.
  • Gorn: There's quite a few gore blogs for some reason. And by gore, we mean real life gore not movie gore. Though there's tons of that too.
  • Goth: Many of these, perky and otherwise.
  • Homosexual/Bisexual/Transgender: Extremely well represented on Tumblr, though somewhat less so (at least in terms of adult only content) after Tumblr banned porn, which a lot of the content was represented by to a greater or lesser extent in some sections.
  • Hipster: A lot of the people on tumblr are considered hipsters.
  • Hypocrite: No few responses to D'Onofrio's manifesto pointed out that Neo-Nazi and hate content was considered perfectly acceptable under the new rules, but "safe spaces" where gay teens could receive emotional support were offensive.
  • Killing the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs: Verizon's castration of tumblr in 2018: a ham-handed and tone-deaf effort to "sanitize" what was then the Net's largest microblogging site to attract more advertising revenue and monetize its communities for fandoms and social movements. It resulted instead in users abandoning the site by the millions and its valuation plunging from over a billion US dollars to just a few million in a matter of weeks. Verizon was ultimately forced to sell the site only eight months later at a fraction of a penny on the dollar compared to what it paid to acquire it.
  • Lemon/Lime: The entire "citrus scale" has been revived as of January 2019 as a way of getting around tumblr's refusal to permit searches on "NSFW", "R18" and other tags formerly used to identify adult content.
  • Link Blog: What tumblogs often become in practice.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: As noted, single topic tumblogs that catalog or reblog a single focused topic, frequetly fannish, are often titled "fuckyeah(subject)" or the more mild "fyeah(subject)", "effyeah(subject)", "hellyeah(subject)", or similar constructions.
  • Memetic Mutation: "Female-presenting nipples", a bizarre phrase found in the list of banned content, spawned many meme images (along with general derision), ranging from pictures of females presenting Naples to images of male nipples allegedly offered for cut-and-pasting over female nipples in potentially banned content.
  • Moe Anthropomorphism: Tumblr-tan, who's frequently shipped with Anonymous thanks to the late 2010 drama between the sites.
  • Munchausen Syndrome: Somewhat prevalent on Tumblr, with a lot of users being rather open about self IDing themselves as mentally ill. Often goes hand in hand with open admittance they are not diagnosed by a recognized mental health professional, some are even hostile to the idea that they need this to be believed.
  • Nipple-and-Dimed: The bizarre phrase "Female-presenting nipples" being made so prominent in the list of banned content in 2018.
  • No Punctuation Is Funnier: Ubiquitous.
  • NSFW: At one time one of the largest sources thereof on the Web, it has been explicitly banned as of December 2018 for the specific purpose of making the site friendlier to advertisers.
    • After December 17, 2018 the very initialism was effectively banned; searches on "NSFW" simply do not do anything any more.
  • Only Sane Man: Despite its known reputation (for better or worse), there are still sizable enclaves that don't go down the same path. It helps as well that Tumblr has its share of "anti-SJW" blogs and those that just try to stay purely focused on photography, art, etc.
  • Orwellian Editor: The Tumblr staff certainly tried to enforce this trope -- they actively blocked volunteer teams who were archiving content scheduled for deletion in December 2018.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Sorry LiveJournal, you've lost the crown.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust/Rule 34: Before December 17, 2018 there were LOTS of porn blogs, with just about anything to suit your... tastes. After... not so much.
  • Picture Pastiche: A lot of users post iconic paintings, especially if they're Pre-Raphaelite or Neoclassical.
  • Reality Ensues: Verizon got whipsawed by this one: Buy a blog site, a quarter of whose traffic is generated by adult content and another quarter by its supportive communities for alternative sexualities, for its revenue stream. Ban the adult content and tell the members of the LGBTQ communities they're unwanted. Expect revenue to go up. Sorry, no...
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Tumbeasts, not to mention all the pictures of cats, puppies, and other assorted animals frequently posted.
  • The Rule of First Adopters: Unlike other outlets, though, tumblr's adult content was usually curated by individuals for non-commercial reasons (though that doesn't prevent outbound links to commercial sites from slipping in), and no small amount of it was generated by private individuals as well.
  • Scunthorpe Problem: The visual/graphic version immediately manifested in the wake of D'Onofrio's announcement in December 2018. Automated image-evaluating software was deployed to detect content that would be banned under the new regime -- and it routinely flagged images of bread, beaches, bare feet, semiprecious gemstones, Cambrian era sea life, the comic strip character Garfield and hundreds of other inoffensive subjects as potentially pornographic. It has been speculated that the sudden decision to ban porn immediately caught Project X by surprise, and forced them to deploy their image-policing bots before they had been sufficiently trained, with the result that just about anything could generate a false positive.
    • A month later, the automoderation software reportedly was still an Epic Fail, unable to dependably identify banned content while spamming false positives -- even the Staff account found its own posts flagged. Staff on a different social media platform also noted that the automod software seemed unaccountably biased toward white skin tones, and along with its other fails was unable to detect models in black latex or leather bondage gear, nudes who were Ambiguously Brown or darker or, well, many other things NSFW that weren't plain naked white people.
      • At least one commenter on a different platform has snarked that the automod software appears to have been programmed by an unimaginative innocent who's never seen anyone who wasn't white.
    • A year later, the autocensor was still prone to interpreting things like an IHOP as pornographic imagery.
  • Serious Business: Gifs. Losing a follower is often treated like a death scene in one's favorite movie, with .gif spams of Heroic BSODs.
    • As mentioned in the description, shipping is also very serious business at tumblr.
  • Soapbox Sadie: While not as big a presence as amateur photographers, it's very hard not to run into social justice activists on tumblr.
  • Start My Own: newTumbl, bdsmlr and other alternatives founded by tumblr expatriates in the wake of its kiddification.
  • Step Three: Profit: Verizon's plan to financially exploit social movements like Black Lives Matter to make up for all the revenue lost by banning adult content and the traffic it generated. In December 2018 it smacked of self-delusion; by May 2019 Verizon had realized it wasn't working and was already trying to sell tumblr to someone else.
  • Straw Feminist: tumblr's userbase[4] has a reputation[5] that says that there are quite a bit real life cases among them.
  • There Are No Girls on the Internet: Averted so hard with this site, where a large majority of the site's fandom-based tumblrs are run by females. Most of the straight porn blogs are actually run by girls.
  • Think of the Advertisers!: The events of December 2018, if you haven't been paying attention.
  • Troll: Oh goodness, where to begin?
  • Urban Legend of Zelda: It'd take to long to list all of the widely believed hoaxes started and propagated on tumblr. An 'if you don't reblog this your blog will be deleted' hoax gets passed around every few months. More disgustingly, a post about a young girl who was supposedly raped by a bunch of little boys made rounds before being proven a phony, the real article the associated picture was from was actually lifted from an article about a kangaroo attack.
  • We Care: This was an explicit part of Verizon's plan for tumblr after its kindergartenization. They explicitly planned to piggyback onto and monetize social movements with memberships on the site, like Black Lives Matter, in order to generate more revenue than tumblr was already producing. This turned out to be pathetic self-delusion; all they accomplished was driving away the very users they'd intended on exploiting.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Beginning around 2014, the website's reputation for extreme leftism and radical feminism produced a kind of more conservative backlash. There were a growing number of "anti-SJW/anti-feminist" blogs (many of these run by women) dedicated to calling out the extreme statements that many of the site's ultra-leftists and radical feminists say. The major catalyst appeared to be a certain blog called Women Against Feminism, which was created in 2013 but got major media attention in mid-2014 after its number of followers had hit the five-digit mark (a rather major milestone for a blog in such a hostile environment).
  • White Knighting: If you haven't noticed the pattern by now...
  • You Are Not Alone: Many promoted this as their advantage over Facebook. However, the December 2018 purge accidentally or intentionally averted this for all non-heteronormative users.
  1. Vox.com: "When Tumblr bans porn, who loses?"
  2. Ars Technica article here.
  3. The Verge article here.
  4. Especially "Social Justice Warriors"
  5. Keyword is reputation. We won't go into how well or poorly founded it is.