"When you consider the latest highly annoying changes to Tumblr, never forget that they aren’t meant for you. Yahoo, Tumblr’s owner, is under a lot of pressure to make some money. That means that Tumblr has to either pull its weight or be shut down. In the Web-ancient adage, “If you aren’t the customer, you’re the product.” That is, if you aren’t directly paying for any Website, then the Website is selling you, in the form of advertising. Tumblr desperately needs to monetize you. To monetize you, they need to know your personal demographics, so that they can sell groups of similar users to advertisers."
“If you aren’t the customer, you’re the product.”
Let me repeat that again: “If you aren’t the customer, you’re the product.”
This is why I really, really don’t like websites where advertising is part of the revenue stream. I would rather pay up front–in donations or user fees–and be the CUSTOMER who is catered to instead of the PRODUCT that the website is SELLING to its advertisers.
What Tumblr is doing now? That’s what LJ used to do, back when LJ was the fandom hub. The great advantage of DW over LJ is that DW’s users are its CUSTOMER base, because DW organized their finances from the very beginning so that they didn’t need ads. User revenues–paid accounts, merchandise from the store, extra icons, etc–pay the bills. DW is never going to be a huge goliath of money-making, but it doesn’t have to be because it is financially self-sustaining and makes a decent income for the owners. (And they manage it on a freemium basis, where basic accounts are free, and you get more features if you pay but you don’t have to to use the site.) DW has other issues, but we are not the commodity we are the customers.
AO3 is similar. The whole POINT of AO3 was that a big enough segment of fans got fed up with being the commodity and not the customers, and wanted to own the servers that fannish work was on. AO3 has problems–huge problems–but at that they are quite successful. We own the servers. Our donations fund a service designed by, for, and about US.
Pinboard is also user-supported. That fee you pay? That means that we are the customer, not the commodity. Which means that while Pinboard may eventually close down, it won’t do like Delicious did and make itself unusable for us while making itself more attractive to its advertisers.I know tumblr has a lot of great features. But maybe that shouldn’t be the number one thing we as fandom look for in a website. Because what do the features matter if they get yanked out from under us every time they’re not profitable enough?