Will the Change in Format Alienate Tumblr’s Core User Base?

Tumblr’s user base may complain about the changes, but if the site is realigning itself into a video provider, their cries may fall on deaf ears.

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It’s been 18 months since Yahoo acquired Tumblr, and it looks like Yahoo is finally getting around to deriving revenue from the service. Just a few weeks ago, Tumblr introduced its new video ads, but some users aren’t in favor of the move toward extracting profit. But are users ever happy, and does it matter if the core audience isn’t in favor of change?

When the acquisition took place, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer promised both “Not to screw [Tumblr] up” and that Yahoo would be working with Tumblr to bring advertising to the service. The advertising has caused an interesting problem: Video ads are wider than the older image format, so images are being warped and stretched as the width change is implemented.

Die-hard Tumblr users are so upset about this change that more than 50,000 of them are making their grievances known through comments on a Change.org petition page and on Tumblr itself.

Carlos Miguel Bilan writes that he signed the petition “Because this just ruins years of hard work by GIF-makers. 99.9% of the gifs and images in Tumblr are resized to 500px wide because it was tailored that way for years. Since this update, all of the images now look grainy, and the quality has been decreased drastically.”

Some Tumblr users are noting that Yahoo may be attempting to turn Tumblr into a video service, and that Yahoo probably wants to push users who aren’t interested in those features out. Which sounds very conspiratorial, but those users may have a point.

According to PandoDaily editor David Holmes, Yahoo’s video efforts could be part of a wider strategy that means higher profits, and a drastic realignment of Tumblr as well. “Unfortunately for Tumblr’s longtime fanbase, it may not make it without jettisoning off some extra weight,” he writes.

As of yesterday though, Tumblr may have found a working compromise, according to a statement made to GigaOm:

[N]ot only are we increasing the dimensions of images on Tumblr but also more than doubling their resolution to ensure that images are always rendered in their full glory – even on new Retina and 4K+ displays. These new high-res images have been rolling out to users over the last two weeks and are now available everywhere.

Maybe Tumblr will find a way to balance growth and sustainability with the needs of its users.