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Tumbeasts are fictional mascots used by the microblogging platform Tumblr to indicate their temporary service interruptions (also known as “503 Service Unavailable”). Since its introduction in late January 2011, the green, fluffy, hardware-chomping creatures have become a popular icon within the Tumblr userbase, similar to Twitter’s Fail Whale.
We may have forgotten to feed the wild tumbeasts that roam our datacenter, resulting in gnwaing and/or mutiny. Animal control has been alerted.
On January 24th, 2011, Matthew Inman, author of the webcomic The Oatmeal, published a post titled Winter 2010, the State of the Web (last modified January 25 2011), a series of illustrative commentaries poking fun at many well-known Internet-related websites and platforms like Facebook or even Apple. Among them was a peculiar illustration about Tumblr’s downtimes and his proposal of green monster-like mascot called “Tumblbeast”:
The Tumblbeast illustration was also posted on his personal Tumblr blog, gaining over 3,000 comments, reblogs and likes.
On the same day, Inman tweeted and blogged a thank you message to Tumblr’s staff, adding that they decided to adopt his “Tumblbeasts” as the official mascot for 503 error page, with a minor change in name to “Tumbeasts.”
As Tumblr’s traffic continued to increase, many people were eventually drawn to see the new 404 page and many have commented on it via Tumblr.
On January 24th, Tumblr blog and Twitter account for Tumbeasts were created. On January 25th, New York Observer published an article about Tumblr’s new mascot and a followup article the next day, stating that “Users Prefer Tumblr’s Tumbeast to Twitter’s Fail Whale In a Landslide”.
Throughout the rest of January, online media outlets also reported on Tumblr’s new 404/503 error mascot, including Buzzfeed, Mashable.com, Geeksaresexy.com, CNNMoney.com and Manolith.com among others.
On February 27th, a definition entry for “Tumbeast” was registered via Urban Dictionary. On March 27th, Cybergata Blog reported on the parody phenomenon, curating dozens of user-generated artworks depicting Tumbeasts.
Fanart & Parodies
As often it is the case with new mascots (also see: 4chumblr), people began creating and sharing their own fanart illustrations and parodies of Tumbeasts. Some of the notable examples include discussions about how to catch Tumbeasts or those who want to adopt them as pets: