So, to catch anyone up who isn't familiar with the situation, Tumblr removed its reply feature yesterday. The reply button's functionality was already fairly limited, but it was still a tool many people used to communicate with each other. In the announcement of the change, made a few days in advance, Tumblr staff promised that a replacement feature was coming, but they provided no ETA, and no details of how the new commenting feature was going to work. (I've heard that the new version is in the process of rolling out, but I haven't seen it yet; I'm not particularly hopeful.) Also in yesterday's update, Tumblr took away tracked tags, apparently blending them into the search feature. Unlike the end of replies, the change to tag tracking was not announced in advance. To no one's surprise, response to both decisions has so far been overwhelmingly negative.
Removing replies I understand, even if I don't agree with or like it. Tumblr's initial design and the way it has evolved over the years makes it clear that promoting conversation among its users is not the company's priority. As I've said before, Tumblr is designed to be a broadcast medium. Every aspect of its DNA encourages you to reblog and share content. If you can respond to a post without reblogging it, then the content of that post isn't being shared more widely. Given that, I'm surprised that a change like this didn't come along earlier. And although a lack of a comment field makes interaction more difficult, it's not impossible -- we can still have conversations in reblogs, awkward as that is, or in the backchannels of asks and fanmail.
Removing tracked tags makes a lot less sense to me, and in the long run I think it will be more damaging to Tumblr, especially as a platform for fandom. Tracking tags was one of the easiest way to find new content, particularly content relating to smaller fandoms, less popular characters and 'ships. You can't count on the people who follow you to reblog everything that might possibly be of interest. Whenever I discovered a new show, book, or game that I wanted to talk about, the first thing I would do is check the tags. Tracked tags are also by far the best way to find content for an f-yeah blog.Tumblr's search feature has never been very good, and the results tend to be heavily weighted toward posts with more notes. In short, tracked tags have many uses, and abandoning them in favor of search has no logic to it that I can see. I would think that Tumblr has an interest in its users being able to find and share new content, so why make it more difficult? The real problem, though, is on the posting side. If it becomes too difficult to find new content, those posts will never be seen, and the users who post them will never receive the likes, reblogs, and other interactions that are so necessarily for fandom to thrive. Remove that incentive to post, and people will start leaving for greener pastures.
I don't expect the mass exodus to start anytime soon -- people have already devoted quite a bit of effort into fixing these problems. Enough folks are committed to making this platform work for fandom, even though it's proven itself a poor fit again and again. And it's not a poor fit in all ways. Tumblr remains the best platform for viewing and sharing fanart, videos, gifs, and other primarily visual media. It's also good for liveblogging, and for sharing random thoughts that are too long for Twitter but don't feel substantial enough to post on a journal. I have no intention of abandoning Tumblr entirely.
But as far as longer form posts go, including both meta and fic, I think the time has come for me to move primarily back to DW. I've wanted to do this for awhile, and this crosspost feature is the tool I needed to take the plunge.
Not everyone is going to want to migrate to DW. I totally get that. If DW was the platform that fandom wanted, they would have come here in the first place, rather than fleeing to Tumblr when LJ finally became unworkable. And if any of you want to continue to comment only on Tumblr, that's part of the reason I'm crossposting entire entries rather than just links. (I also always have Anon and OpenID commenting enabled, so there's no need to create an account to comment here.) But if you're at all willing to give DW a try, I hope you do.
This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/721006.html. There are currently comments on DW.