advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

Tumblr’s NSFW castaways are flocking to these lifeboats as a ban looms

Existing networks, new projects, and emergency archives are all offering refuge for Tumblr posts and blogs that might get banned on December 17.

Tumblr’s NSFW castaways are flocking to these lifeboats as a ban looms
[Photo: StockSnap/Pixabay]

For an update on Tumblr’s NSFW successors, see our latest coverage.

advertisement
advertisement

Something will happen to potentially hundreds of thousands of Tumblr’s 12 million blogs on December 17. That’s the date the company plans to hide from public view all content flagged as “adult” by its image-tagging software. Given how error-prone Tumblr’s algorithms have been, users fear that entire blogs could disappear. Even if the glitches are eventually remedied through an appeals process, lots of content currently on the service (like porn) will not pass the new restrictions.

Since Tumblr announced the ban on December 3, bloggers with NSFW content have been scrambling to move to other sites, build new sites, and/or archive blogs till they can figure out next steps. As the deadline looms, here are some tools, companies, volunteer projects, and individuals offering lifeboats.

Making emergency backups

As a first step, blog owners should make a backup before December 17. Tumblr says that users will still be able to do this afterwards, but given the buggy-ness in the AI system, and the scale of the take-down project, why risk a technical glitch that may wipe out content?

Tumblr offers its own export tool under Account>Help>Your account>Blog management>Export your blog. This will download a zip archive of folders and files containing posts, media, and messages. Getting that compressed content back into something functional could be quite a challenge, although some new sites are working on ways to help.


Related: Seven weeks after NSFW ban, Tumblr still bulges with porn


That said, the process appears to be rather glitchy. It took about 18 hours from the time I pressed the button to back up my small blog until I got a message that the 4.2MB zip file was ready to download. A software developer who goes by the handle Little Woofy Bear has documented the challenges of the process and provided some tips in a Google doc.

advertisement

A Tumblr spokesperson declined to comment on my experience, or on efforts by users to migrate from its platform.

In the meantime, a group of volunteers called the Archive Team is in the midst of a mass download of 700,000 Tumblr blogs identified as NSFW and plans to preserve as many as it can get on the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive. To date, it has saved over 100,000.

Migrating to a new blog

There are a few options to keep your Tumblr blog up and running on a different server. For now, this is more about staying online than maintaining anything like the community you had on Tumblr.

Timbr. The platform was quickly built by engineer Kirill Nikolaev after the content ban was announced as a refuge for blogs. Simply enter the blog name in its import tool, and a functional copy quickly appears on the server. Timbr aims to ultimately re-create what Tumblr has been: a community with all kinds of people and ideas, including NSFW material. Several other projects aspire to do the same thing. It’s unclear which, if any, will succeed. But Timbr is at least a place to keep your blog alive in the meantime.


Related: The frantic, unprecedented race to save 700,000 NSFW Tumblrs for posterity


Partiko: This is a bit of a mind-bender. It’s a new, decentralized social network build on blockchain, which makes two things possible. First, posts can’t get deleted by some authority that decides to change content policies. Second, bloggers can get rewarded in the cryptocurrency Steem, based on the popularity of posts (upvotes). Between people uploading their own Tumblrs and Partiko staff going out to archive others, they have already copied over 12,000 blogs, according to founder Sida Wang. Wang says he will allow people to remove their blogs and also to export them (once a tool is built) to HTML or JSON formats—techniques that should make it easier to transfer content to another site than Tumblr’s zip files.

advertisement

WordPress. The blogger juggernaut’s Tumblr import tool works even if you just use WordPress software on your own web domain. If your blog also lives on WordPress.com, you will face restrictions against “visual depictions of sexually explicit acts . . . that can be considered pornographic,” but not, “text, images, and videos that contain nudity, offensive language, and mature subject material.” Expect headaches arguing over which bucket your content falls into. But WordPress policies are more permissive than those of Tumblr, Squarespace, and Blogger.

Joining existing communities

Twitter. Given its pretty liberal content policies, Twitter has emerged as a reluctant refuge for many folks with edgy blogs–even though it lacks the customizable community feel of Tumblr. You can find the Twitter handles (and some other accounts) for nearly 1,000 popular bloggers on a crowdsourced spreadsheet called The Tumblr Exodus Lifeboat.


With limited resources and an aged codebase, Dreamwidth presents an un unironically retro interface.

Dreamwidth Studios. This labor of love has been hosting all kinds of material for a decade. Porn is welcome–except, of course, child pornography. And offensive speech is tolerated as long as it doesn’t incite real-world violence. Over a decade, Dreamwidth has emerged as an eclectic collection rich in erotica and fan fiction. Surviving on modest subscriptions from power users, the 10-year-old platform lacks funding for slick design and multimedia. Accounts provide just 500MB of storage, only for still images.


Related: Are.na Is What A Designer-Led Social Network Looks Like 


Building future communities

Pillowfort. This Kickstarter darling has emerged as the hottest hope for NSFW refugees. Pillowfort has the feel of Tumblr, with Facebook-like privacy controls. For instance, each post can be made viewable to everyone, followers, followers whom you also follow, or just you. Users can also turn on or off reblogging and commenting for each post. Though still in beta, the site—founded by Julia Baritz—has absorbed 10,000 new users in two weeks and halted new signups until an unspecified future date.

advertisement

TumblrX. Emerging from a humorous conversation on Twitter, this site is now under construction, with a demo home page showing a sparse design. Despite the name, it aspires to be a diverse site with more than just NSFW content. The platform is temporarily housed on the very permissive image-hosting Booru Project, but will eventually live at tumblrx.com. One of the organizers—who goes by the handle @Riot_Cinema—says they aim to create a tool for importing zip files of Tumblr blogs.

Mojo Fire. Like TumblrX, Mojo Fire is founded by the sex-positive community and wants to welcome less-kinky members, too. The creators aim to build and import tool, too, says a spokesperson who goes by @MsLolaBohemia. Also like TumblrX, Mojo Fire has just a teaser page on public view.


Related: Meet the Tumblr castaways trying to find a new home for their adult content


Given the challenges—financial, logistical, inertial—it remains to be seen if anyone can re-create, or maybe even top, the freewheeling community vibe that Tumblr has fostered over the years. But it’s a testament to how important that community has been that so many are trying.

This article has been updated with new information.

advertisement

Contact me confidentially at seanjcaptain@gmail.com or Twitter DM @seancaptain. We can also set up a Signal call.

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Sean Captain is a Bay Area technology, science, and policy journalist. Follow him on Twitter @seancaptain.

More