Tumblr finally gets a ‘real’ instant messaging feature

Possibly the most surprising thing about Tumblr’s decision to introduce instant messaging to its service is that it’s taken this long to do it.

While other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have long been building and enhancing IM functionality for their respective services, Tumblr has seemingly been puttering along, showing little interest in launching a traditional messaging system similar to widely used existing options.

But not anymore. On Tuesday, eight years after the site’s launch, Tumblr announced it’s time for “real” instant messaging. Well, almost time. The rollout’s a bit quirky, with only a small pool of users able to fire off messages using the new feature right at the minute. However, the company promises that everyone will be able to use it in “a few weeks.”

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You’ll know you have access to Tumblr’s IM service when you see “a little smiley balloon icon” (shown above) on your dashboard. Once it shows up, simply click on it to get started.

When the feature goes global next month, any Tumblr user will be able to get in touch. However, if you’d rather receive messages only from Tumblrs that you follow, be sure to jump into your blog’s settings to alter your privacy preferences.

Yahoo-owned Tumblr introduced a kind of messaging system called Fan Mail three years ago, though threaded conversations weren’t a feature. In other words, this latest effort falls in line with the many already-popular messaging apps out there today.

The site’s new messaging tool is coming to iOS, Android, and Web, and you’ll need to make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of the app for it to work.