Tumblr, a blog site famous for cultural humor, this week broke into the top 10 most visited sites in the U.S. The site is ranked at No. 9 with more than 61 million visitors a month within the U.S. and 168 million worldwide, according to online stat service Quantcast.
The hipster blogging site of choice since its launch four years ago, Tumblr could be poised to become a lot more mainstream. About half of Tumblr users are between ages 18 and 34, but the percentage of users over 35 now exceeds those under 18.
The new Tumblr
What was once a haven for avant-garde artists and anorexic teens has matured into a creative hotbed for political commentary and news — a sort of "Saturday Night Live" in picture form. Tumblr users offered a steady stream of politically charged memes during this year's presidential campaign and exploded with clever takes on the iPhone map debacle and the loss of Twinkies.
The "media" of choice on Tumblr is often animated GIFs (photos stitched together to create a looping video clip that's often humorous). Tumblr partnered with The Guardian to "live GIF" the presidential debates, pioneering a new form of coverage that was undoubtedly selective, but fit the bite-size bits of humor model that Tumblr has made famous.
The serious side of Tumblr
But Tumblr is not just fun and games. Its recent partnership with New York photographer HONY raised more than $300,000 in 10 days for Hurricane Sandy relief , showing that Tumblrs can be moved to action for worthy causes, despite the fact that about two-thirds make $50,000 or less. (Expect this figure to rise as college grads, Tumblr's core users, get higher-paying jobs.)
Tumblr also cracked down on its users who found support for their harmful habits such as starvation and cutting, issuing a new set of guidelines that banned self-harm-promoting posts .
Not all content is appropriate for work, and Tumblr provides a safe mode that filters out posts that could be unsuitable. You can turn on the filter in your settings.
Ready to Tumbl? You can explore Tumblr without even making an account. Start on the Web-based Tumblr version with tags displayed on photos. For instance, if you click on #fashion on a photo you like from Tumblr's homepage, you'll be taken to a page of photos tagged with #fashion, along with specific designers and genres such as #street style. Opening that photo will give you the option to click on the Tumblr blog it came from.
If you create an account, which takes about a minute, you can also choose to follow other Tumblrs, which will result in a stream of posts about topics that interest you. You can easily start your own Tumblr blog as well. For each post, first choose a format: text, quote, link, photo, video or chat (a script format that lets others add a line of dialogue). Then add your content. You can share your posts to Facebook once you've connected your two accounts. To learn more, see: 3 Simple Steps to Get Started with Tumblr .
Tumblr recently made mobile access easier with updates to its free iPhone and Android apps. The simplicity of posting to Tumblr makes it a natural for mobile. Plus Tumblr has added new gestures for more tap-and-go and less typing. For instance, if you hold down the reblogging icon, the app will let you add the post to your newsfeed without leaving the page. The company has yet to launch a version for iPad and Android tablets, which should encourage more mobile users.