It took only eight years. Finally, Tumblr allows for messaging between users of the blogging and social networking site.
With an update Tuesday, Tumblr users can send and view messages in real time with others on the network. Previously, Yahoo-owned Tumblr had only a service called Fan Mail, introduced in 2012, that let users send messages to accounts that they followed but did not include typical online communication features like threading conversations.
Real-time messaging was reportedly the “most requested user feature,” according to Tumblr. But the company took its time introducing it. Only recently did Tumblr begin to prioritize mobile, with the release of its own iOS app in 2012. Yahoo Inc., which acquired the company for $1.1 billion in 2013, has also given greater emphasis to the social network. In August, Yahoo hosted a developers conference where executives touted Tumblr as a lucrative network for publishers -- on a par with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In its announcement, Tumblr made sure to clarify the differences between real-time messaging on its site versus messaging apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, all of which offer and have prioritized private, one-to-one messaging systems. For example, Facebook has built Messenger into a platform for third-party developers, and Twitter expanded direct messaging beyond the 140-character limit.
— Tumblr (@tumblr) November 10, 2015
One reason on the delay, said Tumblr CEO David Karp, was that he wasn’t looking to build Tumblr into a social network. “The last thing I ever expected to be or look like was a social network,” Karp told Wired. “We’re not trying to take on Facebook through Tumblr messaging.”
Messaging on Tumblr differs from other networks in that users can share only text and links to Tumblr posts, and the system only supports one-to-one messaging and not group chats.
The change now allows Tumblr users to message and receive replies from any blog and view conversation threads. Users cannot access private or group blogs. Accounts can also choose to block messages. It is not automatically set.
“Though if you’re feeling bashful, you can toggle the switch in your blog’s settings on the Web to only receive messages from Tumblrs that you follow,” Tumblr wrote in the support page of the site.
The discrepancy on blocking caused some Tumblr users to be wary of potential harassment via one-to-one messaging on the site.
tumblr now has an instant messaging system and they didn't mention it having a block feature or any way to report harassment
— fi and puppycat (@fingerback) November 10, 2015
I'm worried about the increase in harassment over im since tumblr yet does not have a decent blocking system
— ネミ @ rock bottom (@Iaketoya) November 10, 2015
welp we got instant messaging on tumblr yet another thing to block you-know-who on
— Syrup (@shiroamai) November 10, 2015
In true fashion for Tumblr -- the home of many viral sensations like “Texts From Hillary” and “If They Gunned Me Down, Which Picture Would They Use” -- the update is being rolled out through a “viral launch,” the company said.
Only 1,500 of Tumblr’s 500 million-plus monthly active users were given access to the messaging feature on Wednesday. A user with the feature can give someone else access by messaging them.
“This is a big launch, and it’s going to take a few weeks to get it out to everyone (we need to make sure our servers can handle the weight of your discourse). If you don’t have it now, you’ll have it soon,” Tumblr wrote in a blog post on the update.
The company predicted that the feature will be out to all users by early December.