There will never be another Tumblr (the state of communities)
I’ve had some ideas while walking outside tired as usual. One such idea was to make a general art site like DeviantArt (unlike furaffinity) or so that allowed porn and was targeted towards the western world (unlike pixiv).
The last few months of 2018 was the death sentence for Tumblr. Tumblr was a very polarizing website, being associated with both niche porn and people who were symbolic of the downfall of western civilization. However Tumblr was delisted from the App Store as Tumblr wasn’t removing child pornography aggressively enough (the real thing, not “drawn CP”) and this led to Tumblr to announce a porn ban. When Tumblr made this announcement, the reaction was very mixed. People who fapped to porn all the time lamented it’s passing while the site’s critics were happy, and the outcome was about as predictable as playing with matches in a gas station. Tumblr’s userbase numbers crumbled to the ground and Pornhub offered to buy them and restore the porn, causing Tumblr’s former userbase to freak out on social media. A huge library of images was wiped out, archives never grab anything, and many of them exist only on hard drives to be passed around and reposed to imageboard threads without attribution.
But the big impact of the shutdown is that a lot of artists either migrated to Twitter (where the search system sucks harder than FurAffinity’s), smaller sites like Newgrounds/Pixiv/Mastodon instances or they quit the internet entirely. This is pretty much predictable when an active community is shut down, some might try to move elsewhere while others will just decide to leave. So with the death of this community, or the death of other communities one might think “maybe I should try my hand at this.”
The problem is, it’s hard to start a NSFW site like Tumblr was.
Now sure, the community won’t be the same as Tumblr’s was, and maybe that’s for the better. Tumblr had a unique spot at the intersection between the weird niche internet porn audience and the mainstream. Just like sites such as 4chan and Reddit, it got a lot of people into weird porn. But Tumblr was also notorious for having one of the worst communities online to the point where there were even attempted bullycides. At Tumblr’s peak, its “special” community was being satirized by everyone from smaller YouTube channels taking the piss out of the community to even internet animators at one time (and this satire nails it):
Tumblr was also known for having some weird niche porn communities. With there being no “mainstream” art site that allowed porn targeted at the western community, non-furry artists used Tumblr exclusively while furries used it as a second posting site (alongside porn friendly furry art sites). They got views and reblogs, and their art was being reposed there anyway.
But we’ll get to this part in a second again. The first thing we need to address is how the internet has changed. See, the powers that be (read: the media and internet mobs) have decided that you are retroactively responsible for thoughtcrimes you committed a few years ago when they were not crimes. You had no idea that a few years later you’d be attacked for behavior that everyone your age took part in. The same thing applies to anyone wanting to start up a website, a classic example was YouTube. When YouTube first started they were pretty lax on copyright, now YouTube is trying to police it to the point of fake content ID claims nailing uploads, claims that users protest by self-censoring. It’s even worse for those trying to get into the game because you might not be able to pay for lawsuits against big media corporations. The same thing applies to social media sites. When you’re big enough you can bend the knee to some lawmaker’s threat of blocking your site (or throwing your execs in jail) because one of your users decided to livestream their mass shooting but when you’re a smaller site (and the same thing happens) you can lose hosting.
Thing is though, in this day and age you don’t just have to worry about the corporate internet shutting you down. You also have to worry about busybody users who might use your site and be offended by something. If you run an imageboard, you’ll have to deal with angry artists yelling at you to GET IT OFF THE INTERNET and to get all that stuff off of there. You’re not allowed to be a fan of someone’s art because the artist had a mental breakdown and hated it or better, they want you to pay money to beat that meat to their drawings of a copyrighted video game character. After all, not paying for pornography is serious business. If you want to run an art site, you also have to deal with purity testing moral busybodies angry at some fetish today. Years ago it would have been trolls from outside your site laughing at the uploaders on it, now it’s the people within threatening to ditch the site because somebody drew something that pissed them off. Oh, and they have social media clout, are brigading your polls asking if it should be banned, and are threatening to boycott your site and maybe even report your site to some authority somewhere to get you shut down. This turns into the trolley question, do you want to pander to some loud vocal person who in the end might not use your site anyway but could also be a raging online terrorist fueled by weaponized autism? Or do you want to pander to the people actually using the site at the threat of pissing off some people who could be out of control?
This isn’t some made up scenario either. One such controversial site with threads that turned out to be dossiers on people who were “interesting” to mock had a target of the site visiting the admin’s house IRL and another waging a campaign against his family (along with DDOSes, abusing the report system of hosts, and whatnot) to take him out. He had to pony up thousands of dollars a month just to keep the site going, dollars that usually web hosting companies paid for. He also put some contingency plans in place after other controversial sites that had stayed up for years were shut down. Or let’s look at a more fandom centric example, a furry art site started up with lots of hype as their owner was a big name in the community. Initially they allowed the controversial cub fetish (underage furry characters in sexual situations), leading to a furry militant against that fetish to threaten to leave that site. The furry started a thread asking for it to be banned, started a poll to get it banned, and linked to the poll off site. As the site had insufficient protection against multiple votes and didn’t need an account to vote the poll was rigged and started a flamewar on the site. The site bent the knee, banned cub, and other furries reacted either by digging up more dirty laundry about the site owner in the past or by asking “Will X fetish be banned as well” to protest it, and in the end the site ended up dead in the water. Nobody uses it and it was forgotten about quickly. Even the person who made the complaint quit using the site for the most part.
So as an admin you have to decide. Are you going to bend the knee to the first nutcase you see and risk losing an audience (because that’s why people are fed up with your competitor) or will you dig deep to find hosting and pay out the ass just to keep your site afloat? Sure, a normal person could host a normal site running similar code funded by Google ad dollars and maybe a few other ad networks. But once you host NSFW content you can find your site struggling to make a dollar and you won’t be the first to have this issue either. Hell even mainstream social media sites bleed money, Vidme couldn’t make money either and that wasn’t a porn site. You’ll be paying thousands of dollars a month that the userbase likely won’t fund just to keep the site going.
Then you look at the communities themselves and you realize. They’re just not the same anymore. The furry fandom has devolved from just wanting to draw NSFW art and maybe comics once in a while to trying to be some stupid political statement. Go to a dealer room and you won’t find much furry art compared to years ago, but you will find tons of pronoun badges and random sexuality flags that look like those of obscure foreign countries. Even if you started up a new site, the community that populated those old sites has gone away. It’s never coming back at all. The people there either went insane, got jobs, or ruined themselves on drugs on a slow path of self-destruction.
Oh and artists? Yeah, their skin tends to be thinner than the newest Apple product you can see ads for everywhere at any moment. It doesn’t take a lot for an artist to DFE or decide to leave a community. If you didn’t save art to your hard drive now, good luck finding it a few years down the line when the artist you liked has a Spoony or Narcissa Wright tier meltdown, deleting everything you liked. You might like it, but they don’t want you to enjoy it because someone called them a bitch online. So good luck pandering to them when they’re more unstable than a Windows 10 laptop. There’s nothing like seeing people in a community refer to an artist who drew some good pictures and still has their content as someone who went insane.
In the end, those site ideas weren’t exactly a good idea. Maybe the internet of today doesn’t deserve it. Maybe another time would be good, but the internet of 7-8 years ago isn’t coming back. It’s just 3 channels now, all with curated content and it’s all garbage.