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With 20 million bloggers and counting, Tumblr explodes with images

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Tumblr's rapid rise in popularity is no secret. Still, 20 million bloggers?

it came as a shock that Tumblr, a maker of simple blogging tools for posting text, pictures, and videos, has attracted more users than its more established competitor Wordpress.com after just four years. Although Tumblr's lead is slight, its momentum is incredible. Just six months ago, Tumblr was only one-third its current size. 

Comparing the two services, and their published metrics -- along with data we've collected at the Daily Dot from public Tumblrs -- reveals a few points that help place the meteoric rise of Tumblr in better perspective. 

Is it microblogging or mediablogging?

Both Tumblr and WordPress's maker, Automattic Media, have put effort into making self-publishing simple, but the focus of the two rivals is very different. Tumblr, in the spirit of microblogging, opted for dead-simple tools which sacrifice some of the more complex features WordPress offers in favor of a platform which encourages viral spread through reblogging and mostly eschews inline discussion through comments. (Both have yet to catch up with Google's Blogger, which has had a long head start as the first real blog-publishing platform.)

To put it simply, WordPress is about words; Tumblr is about multimedia.

WordPress's own statistics page -- which presents a running total of the number of blogs it hosts, along with a heap of numbers about traffic and content -- focuses almost exclusively on the volume of words its publishers generate. 

Our own data, as well as some quick browsing through Tumblr, paints an entirely different portrait. The most popular posts on Tumblr are nearly exclusively single images, often with little or no commentary. It's true, a picture is worth a thousand words -- maybe more. Posts tagged "long reads" or "prose," to pick two common keywords used on Tumblr to denote text-heavy posts, fall in the lower third of the top 40 tags across the site's 20 million blogs. 

Far outstripping tags which portend content you'll need to put your reading glasses on to enjoy, are lifestyle and visual tags. The top five -- "LOL", "GIF" (an image format), "fashion", "art" and, "vintage" -- are joined among the top 40 tags by "design", "tattoos", "architecture" and "black and white" (as in photography, usually).

If we're not too busy to read, we're certainly too busy to write

The ultravisual nature of Tumblr and its rapid rise to the top points to a future of shorter, more visual content. Is this a reaction to our hustle-and-bustle, too-busy lives? Possibly. More likely however, this is a natural outcome of excellent posting tools for multimedia content combined with the fact that, as much as we all want to be Hemingway, writing takes time.

Tumblr's top 10

So who are the top ten most popular Tumblr users? Here's a peek, based on exclusive Daily Dot data:

bergdorfprincess Fashion, fashion, fashion. 
livinoffthegrid Hip-hop, sexy, black and white photography.
carpr0n Sexy, sexy cars you can't afford.
cyhyraeth Beautiful gore. 
lovelylovelyfood Food is art. A beautiful tumble of food porn.
theartofanimation Lovely stills from animation, with a focus on beauty.
lacendleather Sexy fashion with a bit of a Gaga slant.
suivezlamode Lifestyle porn. Food, fashion, design and the finer things.
ffoodd Food porn with a focus on dessert. Yum!
thefastlifestyle Cars, clothes, girls and a hip-hop focused asthetic of beauty.