We promise not to screw it up

Marissa Mayer made the inaugural post to Yahoo!’s Tumblr blog, announcing they were acquiring the service for $1.1 billion dollars (all cash). By modern measures, this seems like a pretty good deal. Remember, they also bought GeoCities for $3.6 billion in 1999 (valued at that amount, it was a stock exchange).

But, what gets me is this bit of her post (and echoed in the official press release). It reads, and I kid you not: “We promise not to screw it up.”

That’s in there because Yahoo! has a poor record of not screwing up things. GeoCities, for one. Flickr was on life support until only recently (I think Instagram and the Facebook buyout of that service for $2 billion had something to do with it). Upcoming.org was another victim of their embrace, languish and shutdown strategy. The Archive Team folks are still backing up that service. Maybe Archive Team should get a head start on Tumblr. Just in case.

But the worst part about that particular sentence is there’s no way for them to live up to it. No way. Cause, let’s face it, “screw it up” is a pretty subjective measure. And the folks measuring it have a very fine measuring stick:

  • one advertisement, anywhere on Tumblr… even a whiff: they screwed it up.
  • a Yahoo! logo brandishing the site… even in the footer: they screwed it up.
  • switching authentication from Tumblr login to Yahoo! login: they screwed it up.
  • changing terms of service in any way that materially benefits Yahoo! or restricts users: they screwed it up.
  • repurposing content without permission on another Yahoo! property: they screwed it up.
  • removing user content for newly adopted content policy: they screwed it up.
  • one additional promotional email for Tumblr users: they screwed it up.
  • adding features that promote other Yahoo! services (even if beneficial): they screwed it up.
  • adding any sort of posting/upload limit for free users: they screwed it up.
  • introducing any paid level of service while reducing features for free users: they screwed it up.
  • changing the period at the end of the “tumblr.” logo to an exclamation mark: they screwed it up.

So basically, they can’t touch it at all without breaking that promise.

Literally, she said “we promise.”


This article was published on May 21, 2013 8:09 AM.

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