After scaling back operations and reassigning staff to other projects, Tumblr owner Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg said that the company would hone in on the parts of Tumblr’s service that worked, and kill those that didn’t — as it did with the subscription offering, Post+ last month. Now, the company wants to focus on the former by launching a new feature that capitalizes on something Tumblr already does well: help people find communities. Today, the Tumblr Labs division announced the launch of “Communities,” an experimental feature that offers a new, dedicated space on the platform for people to network around topics of interest, separate from the main dashboard.
Tumblr says these communities will be “semi-private” spaces that have their own moderators, rules, and privacy settings — similar, perhaps, to Reddit’s forums known as subreddits or X’s Communities, where posts are separate from the main timeline. In addition, the communities will have their own feeds that users can view which are also separate from Tumblr’s algorithmic “For You” and chronological “Following” feeds.
Meanwhile, the interactions that take place in a community will remain separated from Tumblr’s broader network. That is, you can reblog a post into a community, Tumblr says, but not outside of it. The replies in the community will also work like a more traditional comment section, it notes.
The company suggests communities could be created for a variety of purposes, including fan communities around a favorite TV show, movie, artist, or video game, or those designed for a specific group of people, like people who attend the same school, a board game group, a group of friends, and more.
The feature could give Tumblr users another way to interact with their favorite content, rather than having to search for hashtags to find blogs to follow that focus on a given topic. Plus, they introduce another social networking element to the blogging platform, by allowing groups of people to form communities of their own. This could potentially allow Tumblr to challenge X, formerly Twitter, as a new space for social networking, not just online publishing.
Mullenweg recently alluded to Tumblr’s ability to attract communities from other social networks, saying that despite there not being a large exodus coming from X to Tumblr, the site did see some benefits when entire communities decided to make the shift from one platform to the next. He noted, for example, how Tumblr gained users from a Lego community that left Instagram as a group.
“Get everyone coming over at the same time, teach each other how it works…follow each other…kind of like bootstrap the community on the new thing. And then also give us feedback,” Mullenweg said, describing the process. He added that he wanted Tumblr to be more responsive to communities’ feature requests going forward, as well.
However, the Communities feature is still an experiment, the company noted in a blog post.
“What we have is a prototype to help us validate the idea, but there’s still plenty of questions that need answering,” the Tumblr Labs post reads. “Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be reaching out to people across Tumblr, and the internet at large, to try our prototype. Based on the feedback we get, we’ll iterate on the idea to see what resonates best with all of you on Tumblr,” it explained.
The launch follows a restructuring at Tumblr that saw the company trimming staff by moving them to other projects at Automattic, the home to WordPress.com, WooCommerce, PocketCasts, Texts.com, and more. Despite the cuts, Mullenweg spoke of a future for Tumblr that would include algorithmic choice, AI enhancements, and other features.