NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Twitter buys Tumblr rival Posterous

Pos­ter­ous, a start­up that com­petes with Tum­blr in the microblog­ging space, has agreed to sell itself to Twit­ter for an undis­closed sum, the com­pa­nies joint­ly announced today. Launched in May 2008, Pos­ter­ous’ ser­vice is known for its ease-of-use; it bills its plat­form as the eas­i­est and best way to blog by email.

“Today we are wel­com­ing a very tal­ent­ed group from Pos­ter­ous to Twit­ter,” the microblog­ging giant said in an announce­ment. “This team has built an inno­v­a­tive prod­uct that makes shar­ing across the web and mobile devices simple—a goal we share. Pos­ter­ous engi­neers, prod­uct man­agers and oth­ers will join our teams work­ing on sev­er­al key ini­tia­tives that will make Twit­ter even bet­ter.”

“The oppor­tu­ni­ties in front of Twit­ter are excit­ing, and we couldn’t be hap­pi­er about bring­ing our team’s exper­tise to a prod­uct that reach­es hun­dreds of mil­lions of users around the globe,” Pos­ter­ous’ team said in a blog post. “Plus, the peo­ple at Twit­ter are gen­uine­ly nice folks who share our vision for mak­ing shar­ing sim­pler.”

They stressed that Pos­ter­ous’ ser­vice would con­tin­ue to oper­ate.

“Pos­ter­ous Spaces will remain up and run­ning with­out dis­rup­tion. We’ll give users ample notice if we make any changes to the ser­vice. For users who would like to back up their con­tent or move to anoth­er ser­vice, we’ll share clear instruc­tions for doing so in the com­ing weeks.”

Many Pos­ter­ous users left com­ments in response to the post express­ing skep­ti­cism or out­right oppo­si­tion to the deal.

“Don’t like the sound of this at all,” wrote Mark Zahn.

“Twit­ter ruined Tweet­Deck. Bet­ter not hap­pen to Pos­ter­ous. I just spent a ton of time mov­ing every­thing I had from Tum­blr.”

Ran­dal Math­eney was even more blunt. “Not good. Not at all. Twit­ter will be the death of Pos­ter­ous. You had a good thing going and now you’ve ruined it.”

“This may sound odd because it’s a free plat­form but I feel slight­ly betrayed by all this,” agreed Ian Cum­mings.

“I am hap­py for the Pos­ter­ous guys, they get new stuff to play with and I don’t begrudge them that, but I have an emo­tion­al invest­ment in my blog­ging plat­form. I don’t blog much and it’s only for fam­i­ly, but it took me a long time to start and Pos­ter­ous got me going. It’s great to use and now it’s just going to dis­ap­pear and I’m left to sort out the mess. This is the sort of thing that keep peo­ple away from star­tups and going to Blog­ger or Word­Press cos they’re going to be around in 5 years time. Any­way, good luck guys, and thanks for all the fish.”

A Seat­tle-based web devel­op­er, Eric S., was less harsh.

“Don’t like. I real­ly liked the Pos­ter­ous plat­form before the SPACES mod­el emerged, and I thought the mobile ser­vices avail­able for iPhone was a good direc­tion for the plat­form. I have even con­sid­ered pur­chas­ing the third-par­ty iPad app Blogsy which sup­ports blog­ging for Pos­ter­ous, but I’m less like­ly to do so now. Thanks for offer­ing the ser­vice while it last­ed, and best of luck to all of you.”

Oth­ers struck a more hope­ful tone.

“What’s all this pes­simistic talk about Twit­ter ruin­ing Pos­ter­ous?” asked Fran­cois Gui­te. “I say let it be the oth­er way around and hope you guys will improve Twit­ter. Con­grats on your work and many thanks for the great ser­vice.”

Hun­dreds of user Pos­ter­ous users, mean­while, react­ed pos­i­tive­ly to the news by “lik­ing” the announce­ment.

But those users who are unhap­py have well-found­ed con­cerns. Twit­ter has made it clear that the acqui­si­tion was about secur­ing qual­i­ty tal­ent, not adding Pos­ter­ous Spaces to its prod­uct port­fo­lio. Spaces will undoubt­ed­ly con­tin­ue to oper­ate for at least a few more months. But then what? If the Pos­ter­ous team is focused on improv­ing Twit­ter’s ser­vice, who will be left to devel­op Pos­ter­ous?

Nobody, and that will prob­a­bly result in Pos­ter­ous’ demise. His­to­ry tells us that star­tups that get bought up by big­ger com­pa­nies for tal­ent tend to either go down­hill or get shut down. For instance:

  • Gowal­la, which Face­book bought back in Decem­ber, just announced that it would cease oper­a­tions a cou­ple of days ago. Users will be able to down­load their data for a lim­it­ed time.
  • Jaiku, a microblog­ging ser­vice sim­i­lar to Twit­ter, was pur­chased by Google in late 2007 and sub­se­quent­ly neglect­ed. It was shut down ear­li­er this year.
  • Going, a hyper­local news net­work, was shut down by AOL around a year ago, less than two years after AOL closed a deal to buy it.
  • GeoC­i­ties, bought by Yahoo dur­ing the dot-com boom, was uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly dis­man­tled and destroyed in late 2010 after Yahoo decid­ed it could­n’t be both­ered to keep it online.
  • Deli­cious almost got shut down after Yahoo decid­ed to dis­pose of it, but a buy­er for the ser­vice was found, so Deli­cious con­tin­ues to oper­ate.

An “acqui­si­tion FAQ” post­ed by Pos­ter­ous all but con­firms that Spaces will ulti­mate­ly be going the way of the dinosaur, once Twit­ter decides to pull the plug. It con­tains ques­tions like “How can I back­up or export the con­tent of my Space(s)?”, “What hap­pens to my con­tent if I don’t do any­thing to my Pos­ter­ous account?” and “I bought a cus­tom domain from Pos­ter­ous – what hap­pens to it?”.

When Pos­ter­ous clos­es down, it will hard­ly be the first blog­ging plat­form to set its users adrift. For exam­ple, Google alien­at­ed a num­ber of long­time Blog­ger users when it decid­ed to dis­con­tin­ue FTP pub­lish­ing a cou­ple of years ago. (We used to pub­lish The Advo­cate this way, but now we have our own Word­Press instal­la­tion, which is total­ly under our con­trol. We could­n’t be hap­pi­er).

And Microsoft pulled the rug out from under its users when it dis­con­tin­ued MSN Spaces (lat­er Win­dows Live Spaces) — though it did pro­vide Spaces users with the abil­i­ty to trans­fer their blogs to WordPress.com, Automat­tic’s host­ed Word­Press ser­vice, for a lim­it­ed peri­od of time.

We actu­al­ly con­sid­ered using Pos­ter­ous to pow­er our microblog, In Brief, before we launched it in 2009, but we ulti­mate­ly went with Tum­blr, which has expe­ri­enced phe­nom­e­nal growth since we began using it back in 2009.

How­ev­er, our expe­ri­ence with Tum­blr has­n’t been that great. Tum­blr sim­ply has­n’t improved its ser­vice to the extent we were hop­ing it would. We plan to move In Brief over to Word­Press as soon as Word­Press has bet­ter microblog­ging sup­port, which will hope­ful­ly be the case with the next release, or the one after that.

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