Now that Yahoo owns Tumblr, where will all the cool kids hang out?

Marissa Mayer bets $1.1B that Tumblr will give Yahoo a boost of youthful enthusiasm. Why not? Nothing else has worked

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There is, of course, that other problem -- the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which also happens to be naked. Like virtually every other free service, Tumblr is a hive for adult sites (or so I've heard). The NSFW tag has oozed across Tumblr like butter on a hot skillet. And Yahoo's terms of service prohibit posting anything considered vulgar or obscene, as well as any copyrighted material. Even if Yahoo makes good on its vow to run Tumblr as a separate entity, something will eventually have to give. ZDnet's Violet Blue predicts:

Many are speculating as to what Yahoo is going to do with Tumblr's currently successful, user-retaining NSFW content policy.

But if Flickr's rep with poorly policing "art nudes" is any hint of Tumblr's fate, then we're likely to see lots of once-happy users forced into confusing self-rating protocols, having their accounts banned and years of content deleted with no recourse, and a new content policy practically written by trolls who want the easiest path to shut down people they don't like.

As AllThingD's Peter Kafka points out, adult content isn't a money maker for Tumblr, so any value it has is more symbolic. In other words, will the post-Yahoo Tumblr still be an anything-goes culture-defining blog platform or will it be forced to cut its hair, clip on a tie, and get a boring corporate job?

Tumblr's 26-year-old founder, the now quite rich David Karp, tried to reassure his teenage faithful:

We're not turning purple. Our headquarters isn't moving. Our team isn't changing. Our road map isn't changing. And our mission -- to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve -- certainly isn't changing....

Yahoo is the original Internet company, and Marissa and her team share our dream to make the Internet the ultimate creative canvas. I couldn't be more excited to have her help. We also share a vision for Tumblr's business that doesn't compromise the community and product we love. Plus both our logos end with punctuation!

Marissa is making a big bet that Yahoo can redefine itself through this acquisition, that as it approaches its 20th birthday next year it can remain relevant to people who barely know who Zuckerberg is, let alone Yang or Filo. And if it can't? Well, yet another CEO may soon receive a key to Yahoo's executive washroom and get a chance to redesign the home page.

Will Yahoo's acquisition of Tumblr change what you think about either company? Share your thoughts below or email me:

This article, "Now that Yahoo owns Tumblr, where will all the cool kids hang out?," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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