Tumblr’s Growth May Not Be As Fast As Predicted

Confidence: Medium
Impact: High
Disposition of finding: Negative

Tumblr, Inc. is one of the fastest growing social networks in the world. It’s been included in many of the darlings of social websites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. However, I’m not seeing the kind of growth that people are suggesting it is supposed to have.

If you look at Tumblr’s homepage it says “221.5 million blogs” as of the time of this post. That would imply a huge growth rate, and would actually be plausible even though the company is only 8 years old. But there are some concerns here. Firstly, I’m only seeing a growth on the order of thousands per month, not hundreds of thousands or millions per month. Now my sample size might be slightly off, but I doubt it is many orders of magnitude off. At this growth rate I’d expect there to be millions of sites, but not hundreds of millions.

In attempting to fact-check this, a Google search like site:tumblr.com which includes a lot of duplicates seems to turn up only 100 million links. Even if they missed a certain set of poorly linked sites, that still seems extremely low. That said, to be fair, Tumblr does have a feature to point domains at their sites but even counting those domains it still doesn’t equal even one percent of their total claim so it can be discounted as a rounding error.

My guess, based on what I can find, is that their growth rate is at most half as much as claimed, and maybe considerably less. This might be due to the fact that they must remove spammy Tumblr accounts and they may not remove old accounts from the total blog count. It’s unclear, but without a sitemap or a list of all accounts it’s difficult to be certain. It could also be inflated numbers completely devoid of reality, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

Either way, I don’t see exponential growth, but rather a linear growth that would make it less likely to be as dominant as other social networking companies in the future. Typically an exponential growth is required for a large exit, and most executives would be wary of exiting a company that couldn’t demonstrate an exponential growth curve.

Obligatory legal disclaimer.