Tumblr today introduced a change to its service that will encourage users to purchase or fund products and campaigns on other websites, including Etsy’s online marketplace and Kickstarter, for example. With an update to its mobile application for iOS, posts that link to those sites as well as DoSomething.org will now automatically be given buttons that let others “Buy,” or “Pledge,” or “Get Involved.” These buttons appear at the bottom of the post itself as well as on Tumblr’s dashboard, and in the case of the “Buy” button, also include the item’s price.
The new feature appeared in the updated version of the Tumblr iOS application this morning, but does not yet seem to be live in Tumblr’s Android counterpart. [Update: we hear it’s going to show up on Android today as well.]
The rollout is an expansion of tests Tumblr announced in late 2014, which then saw the company trying out the then-new feature as a way to give its blog posts more interactivity on the web. At that time, Tumblr said users would see action buttons that appeared at the top-right corner of posts, allowing people to “buy,” “browse,” “pledge,” or “do something.”
There were four supported websites announced in December: Etsy, Artsy, Kickstarter and DoSomething.org. In today’s rollout, however, Artsy is no longer mentioned, but it’s still included.
In testing the new feature on iOS this morning, the new buttons would appear at the bottom of a blog post when viewed in Tumblr’s mobile app, and, when tapped, would redirect you by way of the iPhone’s Safari web browser to the appropriate page on the site in question.
What’s interesting, however, is that those same buttons didn’t show up when viewing the blog directly on the web or mobile web by way of its direct URL. They’re only visible when viewing the blog in the mobile app, or when scrolling through Tumblr’s dashboard on either web or mobile.
Our understanding as to why this is the case has to do with the fact that Tumblr blogs on the web have custom themes, so Tumblr doesn’t always roll out new features as quickly to the whole blog network.
On the dashboard, they’re located in the same position as before – the top-right corner on the web, or the bottom of the post on mobile, again as a small green button you can click to visit the Etsy page, Kickstarter project, or DoSomething campaign.
While a relatively minor feature release for now, Tumblr’s embrace of social commerce could potentially become more interesting in the months ahead if it chose to expand support beyond these still somewhat niche sites to include larger online retailers or marketplaces, like Amazon or eBay for example.
It could also position the now Yahoo-owned blogging service to better compete against other social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, all of which have begun to experiment with “Buy” buttons or e-commerce functionality of their own.
Facebook, for instance, began testing a buy button on News Feed posts and ads last summer, and Twitter soon followed with a Buy button that let you buy directly from tweets in the fall. Meanwhile, it was reported only last month that Pinterest would do something similar this year.
The new feature is live now on iOS, here on iTunes.
NOTE: Updated 3:15 PM ET to include more information on supported sites and Android launch.