Tumblr -- land of teenage girls photographing their outfits in a mirror, home of the instant meme, and world of very, very pretty photographs of all things loved by hipsters -- is a pretty fun place. The micro-blogging network will turn five next year, and 2011 saw its big shift from the adolescent edge of relevance to a global social media powerhouse. It was the year that Tumblr passed WordPress as the most popular blogging platform, and one that saw multiple mind-boggling traffic records shattered. When we reached out to the folks at Tumblr to ask about their year, Mark Coatney told us that the number of monthly pageviews increased by nearly 500 percent this year. In December 2011, a startling 115 million people visited Tumblr sites, making Tumblr the number one blogging platform in the world and a top 40 domain.
Though Tumblr still hasn't quite achieved the we-helped-start-a-revolution status that Twitter and Facebook have in the past couple of years, Tumblr is starting to gain some serious potential as a spot for political action. In August, Tumblr more or less birthed a movement when the "We Are the 99 Percent" blog went viral, showing America the faces of those raising their hands in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. It's not at all out-of-line to say that Tumblr has become to Occupy what Facebook was to Egypt or Twitter to Iran. Then, in October, everybody freaked out when Barack Obama became the first American President on Tumblr, perhaps because his 2012 campaign wanted to get back on the same level as the young voters that helped put Obama in office in 2008. News and politics, we think, may be the future of the platform, and pending the outcome of the Occupy movement, Tumblr might just get its revolution after all.
But let's be honest: Tumblr is hilarious. The one-off meme factories; the Ryan Gosling tributes (Hey, girl); the animated gifs; there's a lot to be said for Tumblr being straight-up old-fashioned Internet fun, and we've based our list of best Tumblrs largely on those that made us want to pull a LOLcopter and send the URL to all our friends. So in coming up with our Year's Best Tumblr list, we asked our readers for suggestions. With the exception of a couple must-mentions, we've crowdsourced this list through our Tumblr account (with a little bit of help from Twitter). We've added a Tumblr-like "via" field to point back to the respective tipster's microblog, where applicable, but we have to warn you straight away. Not all of these Tumblrs launched in 2011, and more broadly speaking, there's nothing scientific about this list. It's pretty much all about the lulz. Occasionally, it's about the news.
This is obviously the must-mention Tumblr we alluded to at the top of the post. By now, you know the basics and you've probably seen the spinoffs. But We Are the 99 Percent remains one of the most powerful collective memory experiments we've ever seen. The above image is just the latest post out of nearly 3,500 total images of self-identified 99 Percenters. [via @beccarosen]
Like many popular, single-serve Tumblrs with strong viral potential this one is pretty zeitgeisty. However, if only to offset the very serious implications of the 99 Percenter meme, the Ryan Gosling meme literally exploded on Tumblr this year. It's really easy to make your own Ryan Gosling blog. Just imagine what RyGos would say after the token but oh-so-dreamy, "Hey, girl" line and BLAMMO: you've got yourself a blog. The above image of Ryan Gosling is from the Notebook, but we also love this one of the star in that white silk jacket (before it got covered in blood) is from the movie Drive. And that puppy is from the most adorable of our nightmares, caused by that movie's haunting scenes of brutal violence, a feeling of discomfort alleviated only by the buttery French disco-themed Drive soundtrack. [via @megbirds]
With a similar logo, Kateoplis looks a little bit like Slate, but it's much better than Slate. (Sorry, Slate!) Kate _____ is the eponymous, semi-anonymous and incredibly consistent curator behind Kateoplis. If you decide to follow her -- and you should -- be prepared for an overload of beautiful pictures and terrific, timely news updates.
We were huge fans of MG Siegler's voice at TechCrunch, and since he left to work with this old boss Michael Arrington at the new venture capital firm CrunchFund, we've been thrilled to see him take to his personal Tumblr for a sometimes several times daily rant about what his old colleagues are getting wrong. He even called us out on Parislemon once for this item we did about Facebook's leaky PR team; Siegler disagreed with our thesis, strongly, and called us a four-letter word. No hard feelings, MG. (You were actually right -- 20/20 hindsight, y'know.) Keep up the good blogging. [via @parislemon]
This is the epitome of a one-off, single-serve Tumblr pegged not just to a single news event but a single photo. So everybody was pretty confused about this picture of a cop petting a kitten. Slap some ALL CAPS statements in Helvetica font and you've got yourself a meme factory. Thankfully it was much more fun than the actual news coming out of Oakland that day. Since then it's pretty dormant but still a great way to spend 15 minutes of your workday. [via @melissagira]
Everybody knows Reuters' social media editor Anthony De Rosa is awesome at Tumblr. The New York Times even crowned him the King of Tumblr earlier this year. As such, we can't not include him on this list. You also can't not follow him, if you're on Tumblr. His side-project Neighborhoodr.com, a hyper local Tumblr experiment, is also worth a gander. [via @nytimes, sort of]
We have to admit, this Tumblr sort of served as inspiration for this post. We also have to admit that we didn't crowd-source this entry -- it came to our attention when it viral back in October. It's like a game: does the photo depict kids hanging out wherever on Halloween or does it depict kids hanging out in Williamsburg on any day of the year? It's a difficult game! It's funnier if you've been to Williamsburg, the most moustache-heavy neighborhood in the boro of Brooklyn; it's just plain depressing if you live in Williamsburg.
Ohmygod. That little polar bear probably isn't real, but it's without a doubt the cutest image to appear in our feed this year. Literal Bears I'm Jealous Of, meanwhile, represents Tumblr's classic tendency towards the meta. It's a meme-about-meme, in this case, another Tumblr called simply Bears I'm Jealous Of. But that one's about a different kind of bear. [via @Francis_Lam]
A late addition but a must-mention is this Tumblr devoted to nothing but, as the name suggests, long reads. Make yourself a cup of coffee, find your comfy chair and get ready to waste a few hours combing through the readings lists of the writers who write what you like to read. It's awesome. [@alishalisha]