Tumblr: Turning Four and Growing Fast

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s been a stream of stunning images coming out of Egypt, and if you’re a news junkie like me, it’s been fascinating watching the internet publish history as it happens.

One of my source platforms has become Tumblr. I’ve been following its feed of news on all things Egypt and the people’s revolution that has enveloped the Arab nation.

I’m a relative newcomer to Tumblr. A friend put me on to the microblogging platform last year but I’ve only recently begun using it as a repository for posts and other items of interest. It has become a sort of digital scrapbook.

But it was the flow of Egypt news that really got me hooked. One of the reasons is that more often than not, the images published on Tumblr look stunning. I like this phrase by one of Tumblr’s people; images and colour are “the DNA of our brand”.

Easy to use and customise, the service is thriving in a niche between Twitter and Facebook and has an estimated nine million users worldwide. CEO David Karp told TechCrunch the platform has been doing 1.2 billion impressions every seven days, adding 250 million each week. Apparently, university students in the US have been enthusiastic users since 2009 while lately new users were coming from Europe, Brazil and Japan.

Web information company Alexa ranks Tumblr at 59 in its Top 500 websites, based on average daily traffic and page views. Tumblr lists ahead of MySpace (65) and LiveJournal (73) but well below Blogger (6), WordPress.com (20), Flickr (34). However its star is most definitely on the rise.

Its name comes from ‘tumbleblogging’, a genre of blogging that mixes media – text, images, video and audio. It sounds messy but is extremely simple to use and this is an intrinsic part of Tumblr’s appeal.

As others have discovered, Tumblr offers a rich visual experience, a quality that attracts artists, photographers, fashion bloggers and others to its growing fan base. And the fashion brands are starting to follow.

Tumblr says 180 of its top 1000 blogs are fashion-related. By ambitiously targeting the fashion industry by courting fashion bloggers and brands, it is playing to its strength as a designer’s darling.

And while Egyptians revolt and governments redact, I’ve learned to reblog. The Tumblr function, a close equivalent to Twitter’s retweet, allows users to instantaneously republish text, video, audio or photos into their own Tumblr stream.

The service does have a close rival. Relative newcomer Posterous is also at the ‘quick blogging’ end of the social media spectrum and offers an easy way to post content by email and other services. But in a head-to-head face-off, many reviewers – like this one – are giving Tumblr the edge.

ReadWriteWeb says the main factors in Tumblr’s growth are its first mover advantage and more advanced inclusion of social media features. Late last year, it reported Tumblr had grown 350 percent in the previous 12 months while Posterous had remained flat since May, widening the gap between the two start-ups.

But Tumblr needs to be careful what it wishes for. The strain on its infrastructure began to tell last year and in one outage in December, the network went down for 24 hours. The resulting user and media fallout prompted an apologetic staff post and the adoption of Tumblr’s answer to Twitter’s Fail Whale, the Tumbeasts.

Tumblr is about to turn four. It’s hip, handsome and the epitome of simplicity but will it last?

In the meantime, happy birthday, Tumblr!

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