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Reddit launches image uploads, ditching alliance with Imgur (techcrunch.com)
501 points by coloneltcb on May 26, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 398 comments

Having a third party host Reddit's images gave away a bunch of control to the point that imgur has its own community based upon the site . At the time Reddit didn't have the resources to make a competitor but this seems to be a good move now that imgur is doing dark patterns.

I want to know whether Imgur's dark patterns are because the site isn't profitable, or because it isn't profitable enough. Because they've sort of cut their own throat here, and it would be interesting to know whether it was from necessity or greed.

Imgur was successfully bootstrapped and profitable enough to afford employees in a San Francisco office for 5 years. The bloat issues didn't really start popping up until after they took in $40MM of VC capital in mid 2014.

Their transition has VC written all over it.

It should also be noted that reddit has an ownership stake in imgur, so they must have really been concerned about the degrade in imgur experience to have done something like this.


Lots of image upload sites does this, start out good and eventually add a lot of crap to monetise.

Does it mean they cut their throat or does it mean the creator just set himself up for a life of money? Genuine question, maybe this is just a way to become rich, maybe these shitty upload sites make enough money that they simply pick this way instead of keeping it pure.

My guess is that imgur started out profitable but that ended when gifs became popular. /r/all is about 50% gifs nowadays. The low bandwidth of an image host makes it possible to allow hotlinking but that doesn't work with videos.

Good point! I distinctly recall Imgur being started because it was one of those "this used to be something hard, but now Moore's law has made it easy" services. Imgur could afford to allow hotlinking because actually serving images had become a trivial cost. Because no other image-host had capitalized on this, Imgur cleaned up—for a while.

Once people started shifting to sharing content mostly as really-inefficiently-compressed ten-second videos (which are still pretty large when efficiently recompressed), Imgur's original business model was dead in the water. Maybe one day gifs will be as cheap to serve as images are now—but it won't be any time in the next few years.

Any modern browser visiting imgur gets H.264/WebM instead of the uncompressed gif. They introduced this 2.5 years ago. After a couple smaller gif only sites made the practice popular.


That is indeed what I meant by "efficiently recompressed." 10 seconds of H.264 video are still a lot larger than a JPEG.

of comparable resolution maybe, but the file size is still not large for say a 640x480 video, less than a few Megabytes.

I stopped clicking imgur gifv links a looong time ago. They worked for me maybe one out of eight times. By now I have an allergic reaction just to seeing them, even if the issues may have been fixed by now.

October 2014 -> May 2016 is 1.5 years, not 2.5. It's all of 2015 and bits of 2014 and 2016.

No it started when 4chan allowed WebM

2.5 years and it still never works on mobile.

As others have mentioned, most of the videos are served as "gifv" videos, which are much more bandwidth conscious than actual gifs.

It's worth highlighting that Gfycat is managing to operate as a short gif/video hosting service without turning awful, though I obviously don't know what their financials look like.

Gfycat does have a homepage of popular gifs, but they've never shown them to me unless I wanted to see them. The viewer page is just the viewer.

The drive to make imgur its own community with its own comments, logins, etc greatly predates its support of gifv. If anything gifv has saved it tremendous bandwidth. Its been hosting gifs since the beginning, even absurd 50-100mb ones. They never bothered to put in a reasonable file size limit. Also, this move also only happened when a lot of traffic was going to gfycat, which supported mp4/h264/webm/whatever files for ages. gifv support from imgur pretty much killed them.

I think the larger narrative is that imgur wasn't some geek's side project. It was a VC-run enterprise that will eventually find a way to be profitable. I think ultimately, this type of service is difficult to monetize. Reddit running its own makes a lot of sense.

From an experience perspective, my god, its terrible. I'm constantly being nagged to install the imgur app and sometimes Im not sure if the comments I'm seeing are reddit's or imgur's due to using a dark theme on my reddit app. Its all around a shitshow and I'm surprised reddit tolerated them for so long.

But it was some geek's side project originally.

Actually the funny thing is, they mostly aren't gifs, imgur is converting them to mp4s for as many users as possible.

They are still often 1-2MB however, which I'm sure adds up, compared to the jpegs they started off distributing.

I'm guessing imgurs switch to webm (gifv) has helped with at least bandwidth costs.

it's funny that imgur is turning into the sites it was replacing in the first place

"You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain"

(or until you get an investment from less ethical companies)

But to be honest monetizing things like imgurl is hard. Most of the users cost more than they earn

I think with adblockers becomming more common we'll have to think of better ways of coming out with feasible arrangements. Sharing bandwidth between users? JS bitcoin mining (or some other kind of processing)? Mechanical Turk style work for users?

> Most of the users cost more than they earn

I call bullshit. Can you spell datamining?

also: native advertising.

That's rather hard to do if your site mainly serves hotlinked or embedded images. You don't have the level of interaction required for meaningful data.

Hits and content analysis is all google needed to become successful. There are native comments in /all/, on reddit and maybe the referrer set in the header.

I would be very interested to hear what data you think imgur could sell.

Also, I know that on a website like imgur native pays about as little as display. The fact that imgur tried Taboola a while ago and eventually ditched it seems to corroborate this.

Imgur's users are pseudo-anonymous, just like reddit and HN. Advertisers aren't really willing to pay much for that when they can target accurate user profiles like Facebook or anything that connects with Facebook.

Heavy emphasis on the pseudo part of that I assume? A quick glance at third party sites accessed when loading imgur.com:

   - facebook
   - twitter
   - amazon ads   
   - google ads 
   - quantserve 
   - google analytics
   - scorecardresearch

Because this is pretty much the standard list for any major site, each of those providers has a highly detailed profile built for the average web user. While the top three will often have login data associated, there's plenty of capability for data mining without that. This excludes data other providers can glean from the actions taken and data rendered by those top three providers - I haven't kept up on the state of that and I don't know how possible it still is.

And how many of those services share their user profiles with imgur so that imgur can monetize that data by selling expensive premium ads to advertisers?

No one is arguing that facebook/google/tw... (well maybe twitter heheh) aren't profitably mining lots of user data. But imgur probably isn't able to mine much value out of it's own data.

scorecardresearch is the endpoint for comScore which is used to do exactly what you mentioned. Imgur buys the data from comScore as a sort of "online Nielsen rating" in order to sell the value of the site to ad vendors.

If imgur has to buy profiling data from someone else, it isn't really their data is it? That is, imgur could not recreate that same data alone, they need the partner who can get the missing data from the rest of the partner's network.

The bottom line is imgur's data is probably not worth much, what _is_ worth a lot is imgurs traffic, and that traffic is taking a hit from adblock.

They can play the old switcharoo and sell the data to that vendor.

Sure, good luck datamining a hotlinked image (or showing ads there)

Well. You could add ads to hotlinked images. They would not be clickable though

As if a facebook-like was much more to go by ...

> I call bullshit. Can you spell datamining?

Pretty sure you just suggested they make money by datamining cat gif and dank meme traffic...

I get the feeling that Imgur set unrealistic expectations when it launched, and they can become very difficult to back away from when they become untenable.

Imgur launched as a side project, a 'gift' to the reddit community.

While I certainly can't speak to the intentions of the founder, I would assume that he didn't have many exceptions at all.

What dark patterns are they implementing?

"direct" links to an image uploaded sometimes/usually redirect to imgur page, with lots of ads and shitty content, obnoxious, animated overlays that block out part of the image on mobile, etc

None of that is a dark pattern.

A dark pattern is an UI design that motivates users to use the program/site in a way profitable to the site, but contrary to users' interest. To trick people, see http://darkpatterns.org/. Redirecting to the whole page instead of the link is just a hotlink protection (as debatable as that is for an image hoster). Animated overlays in mobile is just shitty advertising and UX. But no dark pattern here.

I saw that multiple times here on HN now that people misuse the term. It's a pity, the original idea is something to be aware of, and diluting what dark pattern means hinders that awareness.

Having links that used to be hotlinks no longer be hotlinks is a dark pattern; also URLs that look like hotlinks (ending in .jpg or similar) but aren't. I'd argue that serving ads sometimes but not always is a dark pattern (particularly if they use cookies or similar to never serve ads to the original uploader).

Again, no. A dark pattern is an UI that makes the user do something he does not want. The best example is linkedin trying to get people to spam their contacts with invites. The pre-checked "subscribe to the newsletter" checkbox is a dark pattern. Same is the checkbox you need to check to not subscribe to the newsletter.

A hotlink is no user interface, changing its behaviour is not a dark pattern. Serving ads never is one (though ads itself can use dark patterns), regardless whether the uploader sees them or not. Those are different kind of tricks that have (edit: almost) nothing to do with what the term dark pattern describes.

Edit: I'd argue that links that used to be hotlinks not being hotlinks can maybe be part of a dark pattern. If an UI tried to get people to share a site, and the people do that only because they think the links are hotlinks, then that UI could be a dark pattern and the non-hotlinks a part of that. But the dark pattern is then the UI presenting the hotlink, the "share this image directly" widget, not the hotlink itself.

> Edit: I'd argue that links that used to be hotlinks not being hotlinks can maybe be part of a dark pattern. If an UI tried to get people to share a site, and the people do that only because they think the links are hotlinks, then that UI could be a dark pattern and the non-hotlinks a part of that. But the dark pattern is then the UI presenting the hotlink, the "share this image directly" widget, not the hotlink itself.

I'd say the URL itself can be UI - users know what a URL to a direct image looks like and how that differs from what a URL to a page tends to look like.

That does not matter. An URL alone does not entice users to do nothing. You need more to get a proper dark pattern, to get the "convincing the user to do things" part of the definition of what makes something a dark pattern in the first place. Please, look as well at the website http://darkpatterns.org/ to see what a dark pattern is about.

So you're saying if it's not on that website it's not valid?

Come on.. If I see a URL that ends in JPG, my understanding is that I am about to load an image. If the site then shows me a page full of ads with my image somewhere on there, that's exactly what you described.

The site is tricking me into doing something that is to their benefit and to my detriment. Showing me a URL that looks like a link to an image is absolutely encouraging me to do something. It's telling me "hey click here you'll see the image right away"..

I did not want to see a page full of ads, I wanted to see a single image, but now the site has monetized me without my consent.

It feels like you're arguing for argument's sake here.

One last try. I'll stop then.

If you are really arguing that you are inherently more likely to click on the direct link, and it is this click impulse that is used to manipulate you, and that going to a page containing that image plus ads instead is the big negative outcome, then I understand why it is a dark pattern for you.

I did not see that direct link have a higher affordance (that might stretch the term a bit too much) to be clicked on. I still don't – but if you think that there are people that are conditioned to click on those direct links, but would not click on the normal link, then I'll have o give you the point that the heuristically changing of the result page might be a dark pattern for those people.

I'm not aware of that effect, but I can't be sure that for example on reddit for people without adblocker or on mobile for some time the direct link wasn't a positive click signal that conditioned them.

I think that explains why I'm arguing. Dark patterns are a manipulation, and simply showing another page is not something I can count as a manipulation – it is not the same thing as in a window making people click on the wrong button (even though I understand that there is a similarity if you follow a specific line of thinking).

Direct link is a significant "positive signal" for the following reasons:

- you implicitly expect it won't load code to your browser

- you implicitly expect it will serve the one and only one resource that you need

- you implicitly expect that after receiving the resource no further data will be exchanged between the client and the server

- you implicitly expect it will work well with the standard UI of your viewing platform - for instance, it will be pinch-zoomable on mobile, or zoomable with mouse in desktop browsers

- you expect to work well with applicable context; for instance, a direct image link should work in "href" attribute of "a" tag (resulting in an image being embedded on a website), it should work with curl or wget (resulting in a single image file being created on your hard drive), or just browser's "save" feature (again, resulting in a single image file being created)

I'd call breaking these things a dark pattern. A particularly nasty one at that, since it's poisoning the well. Breaking users' trust in that URLs do is one of the many subtle ways of fucking the Internet for everyone for personal profit.

"Showing another page" is not a manipulation? So the redirects of yore when you would change the link-text to a URL that does not match the link-URL is not a manipulation? That is effectively what imgur does.

Agreed, this fits the definition when in this context and with this intent

> A dark pattern is an UI that makes the user do something he does not want.

You mean like clicking a *.jpg link and getting something other than a raw JPEG file?

I just disagree with your definition of dark pattern then

It is not mine, it is the definition. Have a look at http://darkpatterns.org/, the video and the library, to see how it is defined.

Masters degrees, card carrying, secret-handshake knowing designer here. I remember when the notion of dark patterns was first discussed and differentiated from anti-patterns and I think this current discussion is quite ironic.

It's ironic because it is hinging on a narrowly constrained definition of "user interface" design - one that has been appropriated by web/app designers in recent years. UI goes well beyond what is IN the browser window. Discussion of user interfaces occurred before they were graphical user interfaces, well before they were web browsers. So for a discussion that hinged on the idea of the misappropriation of terms, this scores high for irony, IMHO.

SO, now that we're clear on the idea UI's can include many things, it's also clear that the URL and the items return based on the url requested absolutely fall under the notion of UI. And, this is most definitely an example of UI manipulation to create unexpected and negative results for the user to the benefit of the website.

Additionally I should point out, the whole notion of interaction design once meant something much broader than digital interfaces - as an easy example, look at Don Norman's early work and you'll see that interaction and interfaces go well beyond windowed interfaces or even digital interfaces.

Guess in what my masters degree is ;) Design of everyday things is one of my favorite books, and definitely the HCI book I enjoyed reading the most.

I'm aware that you can think of many things as being an interface. I even agree that heuristically switching the result page is deceptive. But there is a difference, though it gets hard to pinpoint it. The manipulation is on another level. It is not the same type of thinking as pre-selecting a checkbox in an installer [0]. I don't agree that it is an UI manipulation in the normal sense. I don't see which psyhcological effects are used, where the manipulation is. There is a deception if a .jpg link does not go to the image, but how manipulates that? Is the ending .jpg a something prone to be clicked on? I don't think so.

Still, while I still value the difference between a dark pattern and any random deceptive behavior, at least I understand a bit better now why people persist on mixing up the term.

[0]: http://darkpatterns.org/java-update-february-2014/

The Psychology of Everyday Things (later retitled "The Design of Everyday Things") is indeed a great book. I call out the original title, first, to be a hipster but more to point out that his very aim was to talk about things not Human Computer Interaction. It is not a book primarily about Human Computer Interaction and your regarding it as such or at least lumping it in with HCI shows a serious misunderstanding of the larger point.

It isn't that you can think of many things as interfaces it is that many things are interfaces and interfaces were around long before they became graphical or even digital/computer-based. So, URLs themselves are definitely interfaces – they're UI's and machine interfaces as well, given their multiple roles.

For the concept of Dark Patterns, the manipulation you're talking about is, at its core, abusing convention, expectation and perception to steer people into an experience that they wouldn't choose if it were more obvious. So, essentially, dark patterns are deceptive.

What I gather you're asserting is that they must also be manipulative and get people to do something, themselves? By that bar, I think the imgur returning of pages instead of images when the convention is to return an image for a url ending in .jpg, etc. may be questionable. No URL request will ever rise to the level of nuance that a visual interface will. However, I still think this case fits. It is abusing a set of conventions and intentionally guiding a user into something they weren't expecting.

Additionally, think about the multiple use cases here. It's easy to focus on the casual browser clicking a link from Reddit but it's also about the user creating the reddit post. They are following convention, using what they think is an image link, choosing to post it, only to then unwittingly be involved in serving up that annoying as hell moving cat paw ad on top of the image they're trying to share with others. That sounds a little like a dark pattern at work to me...

> It is not a book primarily about Human Computer Interaction and your regarding it as such or at least lumping it in with HCI shows a serious misunderstanding of the larger point.

The primarily I did not say, did I? The book was required reading at the first university I heard a HCI lecture. It was recommended at my masters (in HCI, both the masters and the lecture), and contents from it were teached. I'm not sure about everyone in my current team, but I know at least some have read it, and I saw general references to its content. And those guys are pretty much the core of european academic HCI.

Everyday things has that role, as I could see, exactly because it is not talking about computers. It manages to show concepts and principals in a way that makes clear how they are universal. Besides, computer interaction does not happen only through display interfaces.

> I call out the original title, first, to be a hipster but more to point out that his very aim was to talk about things not Human Computer Interaction

Actually, the foreword of the 2002 edition I have open right now explains the change of title. It describes that it is because psychology in the title made it go to the wrong bookshelf in stores, in that people did not capture that it was talking about objects and design instead of psychology itself. Where do you have your explanation from?

> What I gather you're asserting is that they must also be manipulative and get people to do something, themselves?

Exactly. Or to not do something they'd usually do.

> That sounds a little like a dark pattern at work to me...

A little, yes. I stand by that manipulation is not enough included, and deception is not enough, and the link look is not enough. But like I said, I now understand why others are mixing it up – and the point with the different use cases might apply. I was serious in my explanation in another comment that there might be a group of people for who it really works as a manipulation, even though I can't see it working in a general way without prior conditioning, and then it fits the dark pattern definition reasonably well.

I think that was his point, different people can define the same word in multiple ways. Just because you/your favourite source says one thing, doesn't mean everyone else agrees, for better or worse.

Actually my definition of "definition" is that it is strict.

> Redirecting to the whole page instead of the link is just a hotlink protection

Sounds like something that's profitable to the site but against the users' interest to me

But not a deception triggering an action on the user side.

The deception is really in the URL. If I see an address ending with .jpg, I expect it to load a raw JPEG, and I have some implicit expectations following that that are being broken if the site serves HTML instead.

Also, it's actually much simpler than the discussion makes it to be. Just look at the big picture. The user wants a picture, free of irrelevant or harmful bullshit. The site promises that raw image, by means of providing what looks like a direct URL. Then, it does not deliver on the promise, serving the irrelevant and/or harmful bullshit along with the picture. It's pretty clear that one side is trying to exploit the other one.

Here's a screenshot of their Share UI: http://i.imgur.com/6J3CvKD.png

There is something labeled very clearly as a "Direct Link." When I paste that link into my browser, I go to the image file.

If people are posting the Direct Link and it is indeed redirecting to the full site (per the claims), then that is most certainly a very dark pattern if not an outright example of blatantly lying to their users.

So in this case it is very much about the UI and what is presented to the user at the time they are grabbing the URL.

That's actually a good point and argumentation.

I tried to explain above of why that does not feel right to mix it in as dark pattern, but it gets muddy and based on the votes people don't seem to understand it, or just don't find it convincing. Short, adjusted for here: I'm not convinced people would not share and click those links anyway even if it were correctly labeled. But the widget looking like this is a good point against that argumentation of mine.

> if not an outright example of blatantly lying to their users.

That of course. Hotlink protection for an image hoster when even providing official direct link is in any case a deception, maybe a lie. Please don't mistake my argumentation against the use of the dark pattern term as a defense of the behavior.

> A dark pattern is an UI design that motivates users to use the program/site in a way profitable to the site, but contrary to users' interest.

Doesn't this definition cover all advertising ?

No. Advertising can also just provide information. It is also not an UI.

It's a UI element and a UI with just one element is an UI already, so an UI-element is itself an UI. Let's argue semantics on a Site for Hackers.

Advertising is a verb (or a genre). It is not an ad. An ad itself can use dark patterns (good example: the skype ads looking like UI elements) – but that does not make advertising itself one.

Ad is short for advertisement, but I pull the "I'm not a native speaker" card.

using reddit on mobile when viewing imgur content was horribly painful with their app spam covering the top

That is quite possible :) I'm not disputing that.

To be fair, bandwidth isn't free. Imgur can't serve hotlinked content for free, forever.

Which is what drives the circle of life for image hosts.

"Man, all the image hosts suck ass and get in the way of me just seeing the damned image. I'm gonna create a new one, without all the cruft!"

"This image host is going well, but the bills are killing me. We'll have to add ads, but obviously only where they're unobtrusive."

"We're still bleeding cash, but we've got a huge userbase. We need to monetize it better. We'll toss in a couple interstitials to drive up ARPU."

"Man, all the image hosts suck ass and get in the way of me just seeing the damned image. I'm gonna create a new one, without all the cruft!"

Yeah. https://sli.mg seems to be the new imgur. I wonder how long until they start going downhill.

I like their moderation log though, that's a good step.

sli.mg is the new imgur for /r/the_donald, and other subs whose content imgur regularly censors. I haven't really seen it used "in the wild" on more mainstream subs. It does have a nice, clean and minimalistic interface, similar to what imgur used to have.

It was started in response to censorship of fatpeoplehate content.

Here's the AMA


How bad are they that they're getting censored off imgur? What for, racial hatred?

It's like on Facebook - if something gets reported enough times on imgur it get's auto-censored until it maybe is manually restored by a imgur employee.

Because of that a lot of relatively benign Trump content gets censored on imgur because a lot of people find even his name to be offensive. Some even think his name is violence.


Not racial hatred, images of Robert Byrd kissing Hillary Clinton will get censored. Basically anything that is a joke at the expense of Hillary Clinton will get removed.

Please don't do this here.

Somehow I was surprised to see slimgur here. No accompanying reference to https://voat.co? :)

Funny, so limited it's good

https://sli.mg/lrrDOF #testt

I don't think that's it, quite exactly. I think it's more that when people see stats for lots of eyeballs they too often think "if we monetize those to the max, think of the money we could make" and then that shifts into thinking they're leaving money on the table.

The thing is, while there is huge demand for image hosting sites, that demand is really low "quality". After all, we're talking about sites hosting memes and screenshots from games, not original works of art created after tens and hundreds of hours of laboring in Photoshop.

All the pictures of text too, just because text posts on Reddit don't earn karma

And to get around the 140 character limit on Twitter. Though admittedly, most of those are on twimg rather than imgur.

To be fair, they could have operated a simple and effectively profitable business, and grown at an economically normal rate. But hey, I guess I wouldn't say no to $40M of a16z's money and a $200M valuation either.

I assume your familiar with their operating costs somehow? I have direct experience at a different (older) host. It was simply not possible to serve the tremendous bandwidth needs without increasingly aggressive monetization. I have no idea what they're costs look like and bandwidth is much cheaper than it was 10 years ago, but I'd wager that there was no profitable business for them at any point without intrusive ads.

> but I'd wager that there was no profitable business for them at any point without intrusive ads.

5 years ago: "but it's profitable enough to hopefully hire another guy or two this summer."[0]

The founder has completely bootstrapped the site since day 1, and has done an AMA on Reddit talking about the whole situation[1]. Ads are absolutely necessary to make it profitable, but clearly taking investment now means they are going to squeeze every ounce of dollar out of the site and hence the sentiment of "aggressive monetization".

[0] - https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/eicjf/im_the_imgur_gu...

[1] - https://www.quora.com/How-profitable-is-Imgur-com

That was five years ago, they've experienced explosive growth since then which changes the equation. Because they were profitable then doesn't mean that you can simply linearly grow that as the amount of content being served grows. Particularly when you rely on ad revenue which has been on a downward trend over the last few years.

Point being: unless you have been directly involved in the decisions accusing them of either malevolence or greed is a pretty tough accusation to make. Sometimes (usually) it's cold hard business realities that drive people to adopting these sorts of monetization strategies.

So now the cycle will repeat. Someone will start a host that simply serves images. People will use it. They'll add some ads, people won't care much. They'll start serving more aggressive ads and someone will start another host... over and over again.

>To be fair, they could have operated a simple and effectively profitable business

How? I don't see a way from Imgur to monetize on sharing images directly.

That's literally what they did for years until taking a16z's money...

They did it by building a community around the non-reddit related traffic. Basically redditor's would share imgur links outside the reddit ecosystem (Facebook etc), then other people would visit imgur directly instead of going through reddit. These secondary users are monetizable.

Imgur had to eat the costs of supporting reddit's hotlinking (though not all reddit posts are hotlinked) but that was more or less imgur's "marketing budget."

Datamining. What FB is doing. Sell the info.

Data mining what exactly? Unless you know what in the image, it's hardly interesting that a user with browser fingerprint X viewed some image with a random hash or name.

Sure it is, you can track the site it was hosted on and follow the fingerprint around the web. The image content isn't the juicy bit.

If I can see you viewed an image referred from /r/woodwork I might offer you some woodworking tools and drive up the conversation rate of my advertisements.

> The image content isn't the juicy bit

It is. The wealth of images alone, the sheer amount, from memes to vacation pics is worth so much now that image recognition is taking off.

I was perhaps too dismissive, it is certainly full of information. But I mostly meant for the moment the information most likely to be gleaned will be from referral links.

That's a reason for a pattern, not a dark pattern, though.

As someone who spends millions of dollars on targeted advertising, I can safely say Imgur and similar sites have no worthwhile targeting options unless Facebook buys them.

Then they should never have started. Why does every 'free' service on the Internet inevitably devolve into an ad-laden, tracker-enabled shitfest?

Because they probably aren't charities, and can't afford to donat e Free resources for your perpetual enjoyment?

> Because they probably aren't charities, and can't afford to donat e Free resources for your perpetual enjoyment?

Then why did they start a free service to begin with, if they knew from the start it couldn't last?

Right, to trick people into becoming dependent on the free service so they'll be reluctant to leave once the shady, UX-degrading monetization starts.

You'll forgive me if I'm not sympathetic to that business plan.

Back to reality: would imgur have become so popular if it wasn't free? Who would pay? Reddit users? I don't think so.

You seem to be asserting that anything is okay as long as it makes money.

Nobody has to make a website. If the only way you can think of to make money is bait-and-switch, then you can choose to do that, or you can choose to go back to the drawing board and come up with a less unpleasant business plan. If you choose the former, don't expect me to cheer because you found a way to make money, and you think that's the only thing that matters.

I agree with you. When imgur started there was a definite need. Now it's being replaced because there's a new need (caused by imgur changing the way it operates).

Also, I don't think you're going to make everyone happy as a business, and that's (probably) okay.

It's far more reasonable to think there are other explanations than what effectively comes across as very negative intent from the beginning.

For example, they may have hoped or believed they could find a better business model over time, an alternative to the traditional ad models. Based on watching their various experiments since the day they got started, I can say for a fact they did try other things (two examples: Imgur as a service via paid API and Imgur Pro accounts).

Is it more likely the Imgur founder was naive or malevolent? The answer is extremely obvious.

They still provide a 'free to the user at point of use' service. The service they provide doesn't include hotlinking by other site hosts, that's been normal since about 2000 IIRC.

The service they provided DID include hotlinking from other sites, which was one of their major distinguishing features and which is why I (for one) used them almost exclusively as an image host.

I can be sympathetic to the fact that their previous 'business model' wasn't financially viable while still being annoyed that they've changed it.

+1 to this. People should stop being soften with unrealistic business that uses the ad hororem tactic. Imgur can explore dozens of models.

I think you're forgetting that we live in a world of capitalism. Nobody promised no one nothing. Owners and share holders decide a business model and it's up to you, the consumer, to decide whether you go with it or not. There's always alternatives, if a service seems bad to you, choose a different one, but don't blame the owners for not choosing a business model that would suit you personally.

Shame on imgur for providing a service that was sought-after by everyone, and provide it for free by serving ads.

While we're at it, let's demand the end of free TV, free email providers, free forums, and even youtube.

> While we're at it, let's demand the end of free TV, free email providers, free forums, and even youtube.

If you have a sustainable business model for such a thing, knock yourself out.

If you're just making it free for a couple of years to suck people in before you ratchet up the (not necessarily monetary) cost then yeah, we can do without that.

I think the problem with this particular web service area is that you can set up an image sharing site easily and for little cost. But when it gets popular, and there's a shift to higher bandwidth usage, then costs mount beyond the ability of most people to sustain it. If it's popular then it's going to get acquired or have investors who will push the site to be more commercial; the only other way to go is to close the site or perhaps beg for donations.

> to suck people in before you ratchet up

It's an image hosting service.

You upload cat pictures, you pass the link around. That's it.

Once the hosting service stops being a hosting service, you move on and upload the picture somewhere else.

Then we're back to my initial point: they never should have started as one.

The problem is that these sites start out as a small, useful service and then some VC with dollar signs in their eyes throws a few million dollars at them. The clothes make the primate, and suddenly what was three guys in a back room living on instant noodles feels obliged to "act like the million-dollar company that they are."

I imagine you in a grocery store somewhere, railing against free samples. "You never should've given me a piece of sausage if you were going to start charging for them."

Not comparable since supermarket in-store free samples are tiny servings of a product you can purchase in the same establishment.

Supermarkets wouldn't allow, much less encourage, anyone to consume large numbers of free samples instead of buying the actual for-sale product.

That is possibly the worst analogy I've ever read on HN.

Only if you speak Dutch.

You're wrong. It would be awful to live somewhere where you get to choose which companies are allowed to start.

A lot of sites/services start for a laugh, and/or because the people who start it assume/hope there'll be some way of making money from it when it gets popular. For a few, this is true. Some go dark, some give up, some sell up. It's up to them I guess.

Counter-argument: Wikipedia.

unfortunately nothing is free in this world

that's fine. nobody is demanding their services now including Reddit.

The biggest problem with imgur is that their mobile site is slow and sluggish as hell.

On my Moto G2 loading and rendering even a single image takes way longer than it should be so I guess there is a lot of "beautiful" Javascript hackery going on in the background doing who-knows-what.

My money is on the JavaScript for the stupid ass swipe left/right functionality and cat paw.

The same functionality that loves to go off when I'm scrolling down on an album and lose my position.

The cat paw is absolutely obnoxious. It's funny that a service that started to get rid of all the crappy image hosts would do that.

I can understand the redirect to a page with ads, and even showing unrelated images. But the cat paw... what in hell.

Especially since it only shows up when you're directly linked to a single image or album. Even worse, it seems to link only to unrelated content.

Probably not the right answer, but I only upload to imgur with a CLI client. You get a direct link back that has never shown that behavior. Also if the client only outputs the direct link you can pipe it to `pbcopy` on Mac to put the link in your clipboard.

No, you get a link that looks like a direct link (eg https://i.imgur.com/whatever.png) but it's not (always) a direct link. This is what people are complaining about. Sending that link to people sometimes results in them getting redirected to the ad-laden imgur page.

The "direct links" only ever redirect to the non-direct version on mobile for me. Doesn't happen on desktop though.

I've seen the direct links get redirected to the non-direct page on desktop.

It appears to still happen if, e.g., the link is on Twitter - random example https://twitter.com/SilentRENE/status/735732252877819904 (seems to be inconsistent - first time I was redirected, but now it goes directly to the image. Opening the Twitter page in another browser also resulted in a redirect)

I think they redirect to imgur page also when they are shared on facebook.

And aside from that, years back, they've been banning embedding on certain domains.

It depends if the referrer header is set to reddit. Try clicking a direct link from facebook or twitter.

I get redirected to the shitty ad page even on my desktop now.

Like I said, that hasn't happened to me ever in the couple of years that I've used that method. The people I send links to would complain. I do believe you though—sounds like something they'd do.

probably they only do it IFF the image receives a sustained rate of visualizations? That would explain why it didn't happen to you (nor me) for "simple" usage.

Weird. I've never experienced this or heard of it.

I've seen it. It depends on the referrer. When coming from Reddit, visitors will not be redirected.

test link: http://i.imgur.com/PhY2HUP.jpg

is this happening for anyone in thread?

maybe try holding down CTRL and hammering the link to see if it's a probability thing?

I have never seen the behavior being described.

Result: http://i.imgur.com/86BlJiS.png

There does appear to be some kind of heuristic at work here. For example, following the above link results in the traditional behavior for me, but following your link leads to the full imgur page.

EDIT: Ah-ha, figured it out.

1. Click on an i.imgur.com link

2. If it takes you to the full page, right click on the image and click "Open in new tab"

3. The original i.imgur.com link will now take you to the direct image.

Amusing heuristic. After following these steps, I'm unable to reproduce my own screenshot. http://i.imgur.com/PhY2HUP.jpg always takes me to the direct image.

I got redirected only on the first click. Thank god for uBlock Origin.

It still redirects on iOS Safari.

It's not a probability thing, it has to do with the http accept header you are sending.

When you click on a link the browser sends 'html' as http accept header. If you link the image using img src the browser sends 'image' as http accept header.

So if you send image with a small expire header, the server can redirect you to the site, if you click on a link.

Following that link on mobile safari leads to a page that contains ads and comments in addition to the image.

Got redirected on first click, but not on second or third.

I'm not on mobile.

Interesting. The first click brought me to the imgur page but a second click brought me directly to the image.

It redirects if I have a referer. A benefit to blocking them for cross-site requests, I suppose.

huh interesting. the first time it brought me to a page but after that it's direct link

I've never seen imgur redirect either. I suspect it's user-agent related.

Make it HTTPS and the direct link works: https://i.imgur.com/PhY2HUP.jpg (for me, at least).

Nope, same thing. First time I get html, second time the direct link.

Looks like part of it is that after you've visited the direct link once it's served from cache.

Happenned just this week to me; I was wondering if I had not copied the wrong link somehow. Annoying enough to look for another image host.

> "direct" links to an image uploaded sometimes/usually redirect to imgur page

Actually I like this. It's so stupid that people directly link to the image - I'm always interested in reading the imgur comments, and especially the text comment by the uploader.

Anecdotally, you are the first person I've ever seen say this.

Most people I've seen vastly prefer direct links, since all they want is the image content.

It's likely significant that I mostly encounter imgur links via reddit, which of course has its own comments/community.

also on mobile, every time you look at a photo there's a banner encouraging you to get its app

On mobile, Imgur has the most distracting, obstructive, and bewildering modal window I've seen. I'm not being hyperbolic; it's worse than the dark patterns on Forbes.com.

It's in the form of a cat's claw, animated – sliding and extending from the top of your screen almost to the bottom – and slow, making users either click it accidentally or wait in frustration until it can be closed.

Despite having seen it countless times, I still don't even know what it's designed to do or what action it's prompting me to take (e.g. login, capture my email address, etc.).

Not only that, but the damn app pop-down from the top of the page when using AlienBlue on iPad is infuriating once it happens enough. Slows the entire experience down.

Slide to the left and right for the next and previous images?

I often get "authentic" looking "Your Android device is 63% infected! Install this software to fix it" scams on mobile when opening gifv files on imgur. To top it off, they make my phone vibrate and hitting back just reloads the page and causes another long vibration, which is infuriating. If that isn't a dark pattern, I don't know what is.

It only happens when coming from reddit if I open an incognito tab in chrome (chrome opens incognito tabs in the foreground, rather than the background, which saves me a bunch of taps). It never happens if I use normal tabs, which leads me to believe they're only doing it for non-reddit referers or direct links.

>If that isn't a dark pattern, I don't know what is.

It isn't. What you are describing is better describe as malicious advertising, or malvertising.

"A Dark Pattern is a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills." [1]

Presenting an authentic looking UI dialogue which appears to come from the operating system, and using vibration to further impose the authenticity of a dialogue as having come from the operating system seems very much to be covered under any definition of dark pattern I can find. The aim is to make you click the ad, and they use dark patterns to do that. Simply because the ad content is "malvertising" doesn't mean it's not utilizing dark patterns.

[1] http://darkpatterns.org/

I checked out that site before commenting. All of the examples they use are of sites that employ the so-called dark patterns as part of a larger, otherwise legitimate site. So while your ad fits the definition that they offer I believe that, given the examples listed, the label is applied more narrowly. This might just boil down to descriptivism vs prescriptivism.

I'd guess they're referring to the way Imgur puts sponsored content in among the images now, looking almost like any other user-uploaded post.

Edit: evidently, direct image links are serving ads on mobile. I haven't tried it to confirm this myself.

On iOS, they override the swipe-from-left-to-go-back gesture and instead use it to cycle you through new images.

That's an OS gesture. It can't be overridden. If it cycles you to another image, you did't begin your swipe far enough to the left.

This suggests that's exactly what they did. Includes a screenshot https://www.reddit.com/r/iphone/comments/46cjo5/i_just_want_...

Edit: I was wrong. Apple, please fix.

Please do find a source that backs this.

1) It appears I was wrong. I just tested in "private" mode, since it never happens to me otherwise.


Other comments on this thread say image posts not working on mobile and virus warning ads .

Well, their "gifv" "innovation" was enough for me to stop using them completely.

The ability to host a silent webm and then link to either gif version or webm version is something you find negative?

My only annoyance there is that sometimes the embed bugs out a bit, but that's mostly firefox's fault.

No, the fact that they put it as if it was their invention, and the fact that linking imgur.com/XXX.webm redirects to script-ridden ".gifv" nonsense is what I find annoying.

Bugs out extremely often on mobile chrome.

>> At the time Reddit didn't have the resources to make a competitor

But a self-funded (and then donations) college student working in his spare time did.

It's called priorities. Reddit didn't need an image uploading service, it had other shit to worry about.

>imgur is doing dark patterns

Would you mind explaining that to me? I've never heard the term.

Edit: Nvm, sorry; easy to google.

For everyone else wanting to save Google's bandwidth bill:

"Dark Patterns are User Interfaces that are designed to trick people."

>>> to the point that imgur has its own community based upon the site

The interesting thing is there are a ton of people who are on Imgur that have no idea Reddit exists and vice versa. A lot of people on Reddit have no idea Imgur has its own thriving community.

On the other hand it let reddit offload most of their bandwidth to Imgur, and I don't think they lost much ad revenue over it.

I know several people that don't know that imgur was born from Reddit, so I am also happy to see this.

What is the dark pattern that Imgur is doing?

Imgur forgot its roots as a dumb image host, rapidly crufting-up its service with things that were not only annoying but interfering with its basic function. If you can’t easily see an image as soon as you click on it — on mobile or otherwise — then the image service has completely failed.

The sad thing is, they could have added non-intrusive ads. DaringFireball does it; write a single line of text such as “This image brought to you by FooBar, Inc.” and SHOW THE LINKED IMAGE. No pop-ups, no tricks, no obscurity; ad+image, done.

"Daring Fireball does it" has to be the worst possible comparison imaginable. Gruber has super differentiated, high editorial value content that folks will pay a premium to put their message next to. Imgur is about as far away from that as possible. They have to try to make money, it's crazy to sit here and think you know better than they do on this. Don't you think if they could make enough money doing what you think, they would do that instead? They are in a tough industry. They host images (relatively expensive), they have almost no user information for targeting, most visitors never come back to a page again, and most of the content posted is super low value. Unfortunately, this is the result.

I wish an image service existed that did some image recognition on the picture and provided you with relevant, but subtle 'Learn more about this thing' links.

Oh yes. I run a image hosting service and adsense cant serve any relevant ads because the page hardly contains any text. The only text they identify is 'image hosting' and start serving ads to competitors T_T. My service has more information about user interest though based on topics and other user interactions etc but there is no way to forward these hints to adsense :(

Any tips on ad providers that support more explicit choice of topic per page load?

Or even links sending you to the original source of the image (comics especially)

Hey, yes! If reverse image search is possible now, it should be easy to automatically give credit to original creators, connect them with audiences and bypass blogspam!

How would you determine which reverse image search result is the original content creator? Just curious.

Finding the oldest image would probably work for most cases, as long as you found every instance of the image on the internet.

It might work ok for some of the larger comics/image producers.

I was referring to the way that DaringFireball does ads. I was not talking about any other aspect of DaringFireball.

If Imgur wants ads, there is a way to make ads sane and still make money.

For what anecdotes are worth, DaringFireball’s method is about the only form of ads that has ever worked on me. I actually read what he says about these companies, and I often am curious enough to go learn more. And he’s charging a lot for these ad placements for a week.

Whereas, I have never, ever been interested in something that tried to use trickery to pop up in my face, play audio, play animations, steal my clicks or otherwise force me to acknowledge its existence before continuing. I can’t even remember what those products were; I can only remember the speed at which I searched for a black "X" button to close the things.

The way that Daring Fireball does ads is a product of the entire way that Gruber runs the site - you can't only talk about ads. Not to mention the point that Gruber can do whatever he wants with his site and does not need to maximize revenue or provide a venture-scale return. He certainly makes a lot of money with ads the way they're set up - he could certainly make more with "better" ads. He deserves a lot of credit for valuing his readers so highly.

Can you point to a single Imgur-like property using the sort of ads you cite to generate any kind of significant revenue to the point where they could possibly offer a return on venture cash? I don't know of a single major web property running that style of ads that does so successfully. In fact, we see progressively worse ads are what publications are choosing to run instead (looking at you WaPo, running inline "videos" on mobile that are really huge GIFs). I agree that it sucks - certainly no argument there. But I am unaware of anywhere where what you're suggesting is working competitively with unobtrusive options.

I just want to chime in with a simpler answer. That's not really how Internet ads work. Ad deals between companies are fairly large and complex, at least the kind that are going to support a site like imgur.

Content is king and imgurs content is random and most likely junk. There's no consistency you could sell to a partner where'd they be willing to pay enough to allow something like DaringFireball does to work. The only way they're making enough is to put the junk we're dealing with now.

>If Imgur wants ads, there is a way to make ads sane and still make money.

There is also "a way" to win at the Olympics.

A lifetime of dedication and training?

I've never seen Grubers blog until today... Does he only mention the sponsor at the beginning and end of each week?

I don't see any other occurrence of the sponsors name.

If you Google 'DF Sponsorship' you can get all the info (&rates). I believe a weekly sponsorship is about $13k and he does $15k-20k per podcast across 3-4 ad reads.

It's 9K. I really wish you'd Google'd that yourself. I have no idea about the podcasts.

Here's the link for reference: https://daringfireball.net/feeds/sponsors/

There are ads from The Deck (which is a semi exclusive advertising network) on the sidebar.

> Gruber has super differentiated, high editorial value content

Oh, you mean: "Apple products are the best! Google sucks!"

Yes, high quality content indeed...

Gruber has done more to get high-level Apple people talking publicly answering unscripted questions than maybe anyone else in the media. Read him, learn from him, and like him or not, that's up to you, but at least respect what the guy has done.

Sorry, but it is just a fanboy blog for fanboys.

The only thing I give him credit for is markdown. That is a very good contribution, but I really don't have to read his "blog".

> Imgur forgot its roots as a dumb image host, rapidly crufting-up its service with things that were not only annoying but interfering with its basic function.

Imgur is my main form on entertainment and the app currently lives on my homescreen. Mindless fun and good vibes unlike reddit which makes me angry/sad/depressed.

Imgur would have been dead with this Reddit move if they had not evolved, they obviously saw it coming. Building an image hosting site is not hard; building a fun community is. And Imgur did a great job with it. I love imgur.

I know there is some kind of community on Imgur, but I wonder what percent of it (or the content it enjoys) only exists because it was the unofficial image host for Reddit.

Once Reddit is largely gone, will the community survive?

Yes, absolutely; the Imgur community is completely and totally distinct from Reddit (to the point where people bitch about even seeing the reddit stuff! There's even the comment-meme 'roddit pls' etc)

The big question is simply how Imgur will continue to (sustainably) grow that community. This really brings the question back to the very root: "How do we make Imgur the de-facto image hosting/sharing site in the world"

They bitch about the obvious reddit stuff, but do they realize that most of their content comes from reddit? What happens when most of their posts disappear?

I wish I had an actual statistic, but it's definitely not most. It is quite a large, active community, and they seem to vastly prefer content submitted directly to imgur. I would expect that few will even notice a difference, honestly.

Imgur has its own community. By now you can't even tell if something is posted on imgur and someone submits it on reddit or if a reddit user uploads something and it gets upvotes on imgur.

I think that imgur can exist on its own and will have more than enough content.

> Mindless fun and good vibes

And then, sadly, the periodic misogyny-denial post, anti-feminist circle jerk that usually originates on Reddit but then enough people in the Imgur community upvote. This exact thing has made me decide to stop even looking at Imgur. :/

I'm currently working on a competitive image hosting project with a feature called SafeSpace. Just configure your profile with your various triggers and enjoy safe browsing!

More details soon...

I really hope you're joking.

Imgur had to pay its investors by shitting up its service.

Imgur would have been dead because they were running out of money.

So why did they terminate my recurring paypal subscription? I got an email saying "Hey, we don't need your money anymore!" and after that their service went downhill fast.

That's interesting I didn't know that, have you any figures to hand?

Imgur was able to pivot from a simple image hosting service to a standalone community. Many people browse imgur every day without ever having visited reddit. That's no small feat, and definitely much easier to monetize than dumb image host.

> Many people browse imgur every day without ever having visited reddit

I didn't even know you could do that. Last time I went to the site directly (years ago) I recollect all you could do was upload an image or browse random images.

You can search by tag (and anyone can add tags).

You can now browse entire subreddits.

>Imgur forgot its roots as a dumb image host

I think they are just the most recent organization to figure out that there's no viable standalone business model in "dumb image host".

Which is, unfortunately, what users need. I wonder if we're doomed to have a new "dumb image host" every few years or if someone will someday figure out how to make a sustainable business out of delivering value in this space, without having to clutter the site with crap.

I think it would have to be a larger organization that has other revenue sources and provides the image hosting as a loss leader. Someone where the bandwidth costs are a drop in the bucket, local edge caches already exist, etc. Netflix, Cloudflare, Akamai, Amazon, Google, etc.

There were several other such services that learnt it the hard way, back the when MySpace was the big thing and decided to host their images themselves (and video too). One such service survived in those days (Google bought Youtube), the others died.

Another narrative is that Imgur got tired of its roots and created their own community, that for some people was better than Reddit in more or less any conceivable way.

The mobile experience was horrible. They were doing some weird scrolling thing where it would really mess up my viewport.

Yeah, and when you have multiple images the zoom/expand thing is maddening because it can be super hard to figure out how to unzoom to scroll and see the next image.

Now they're getting those horrifying autoforward fake-virus-scan vibrating ads.

The mobile experience needs a lot of tlc.

> The mobile experience was horrible.

that's promoting the app installe :(

There's a difference between serveing mostly text content and mostly image content. Just the difference in bandwidth/server cost makes this a bad comparison.

I think you're severely underestimating the success of Imgur. It has essentially become an image-based Reddit clone, with its own thriving community of users who never leave the site.

It's no longer just a place for Redditors to dump their images. And it's a good thing too, because this probably would've killed them if they hadn't gone that direction.

DaringFireball does it;

John Gruber needs to feed and house himself, his wife, and his kids. I'm just guessing here, knowing nothing about the internal workings of the company, but I'm pretty sure Imgur has a few more mouths to feed than a single founder's immediate family.

imgur didn't forget its roots, its roots were a marketing ploy to win Reddit's trust before dialing up monetization.

imgur got popular because it originally eschewed the bloated ad-laden crapware that paid the bills of the previous imagehosts, until the runway ran out and imgur took its turn in the cycle.

It seemed like Imgur has been getting ready for this for awhile. The experience using it hasn't been that great since direct linking stopped working on mobile.

Last time I've opened an imgur link on mobile I got served with an ad popup and a "virus warning" dialog. That is something I haven't seen in a long time. Imgur seems to go the way of SourceForge.

This seems like a common pattern

1. Realize you need to make a lot more money (to meet investor expectations, pay for the fat the company has accumulated, etc)

2. Panic

3. Apply dark patterns (http://darkpatterns.org/)

4. Something better comes along and eats your lunch

5. Repeat.

It's sad because imgur was originally created as the "something better".

I'm sure they made mistakes but when you see massive growth like imgur did someone's gotta pay the sever bills somehow. Plenty of image uploading sites have come and gone because of server costs.

Dear lamb, we had a great time but now I have to eat.

These are all good points but I have a strong feeling of déjà-vu with another thread in these comments...

SourceForge got bought by new folks who reversed all the misleading ads and bundling stuff:


This is good, but I wonder how hard it will be to turn that negative momentum around.

To be fair, I think those are usually the fault of malicious ads getting into whatever ad networks imgur uses and they usually get rid of them fairly quickly. They used to pop up every few weeks but I haven't seem them recently (in my experience as a daily imgur user for the past year or so).

> At this time, the Reddit community can still choose to use Imgur or other sites for image hosting.

The fact that they used the phrase "At this time" makes it sound like they are planning to disable external image links in the future.

Or just convert all image links automatically. Some websites do it.

There can be very good reasons for this. Gmail, for example, rehosts embedded images with google to protect users against invisible pixel trackers.

I assumed they hadn't done that so as to keep the wholesale copyright infringement at arm's length from the parent company - is that still Condé Nast?

The company that owns Conde Nast, Advance Publications, still has a stake in reddit. There's a variety of other investors involved:


1. Provide a better 1st party image hosting experience free of ads and clutter.

2. Block other image hosts from your service forcing people to use yours.

3. Introduce ads.

4. Profit!!!

Looks like it's backed by S3

  x-amz-storage-class: REDUCED_REDUNDANCY
  Content-Type: image/jpeg
  Server: AmazonS3
Can't imagine that AWS bill...

At Reddit's scale they would be able to negotiate directly with AWS for lower rates. I'm sure they already do so with servers.

[ deleted ] -- I removed it because I got tired of trying to explain the nuance.

That is absolutely false. Plenty of large companies are able to negotiate their rates on AWS. You just have to be huge.

Do you realize that the person you're responding to used to run Reddit's servers?

Is that why the comment was deleted?

I didn't say he was right. And I also have no idea why his comment was deleted.

[ deleted ]

Hardly huge. When I was at a web agency with about 70 people on staff here in Australia, we were an AWS partner with negotiated rates, and honestly we weren't doing massive clients really (aside from some government stuff now and then).

How much was the monthly bill ($) ?

[ deleted ]

It has happened, though I'm not sure if it's common or not. I worked for a big hadoop user (5 years ago: 6k boxes/over 50k cores/30 pb) that aws really wanted on their platform. They offered huge discounts to get us as a marquee customer, much better than their public pricing. Unfortunately, they were still ludicrously expensive compared to O&O but we were good at running huge automated clusters with 1.5 ops.

You don't have to be huge, just not tiny.

Depends what. We pay significantly lower than label price for Cloudfront prices. EC2? Never seen a reduction in that

TIL. After reading about Spotify negotiating with Google Compute Cloud I just thought it was common place for such orgs to negotiate vs everyone else that will rarely reach that scale.

According to Reddit's source code they're using a provider called Imgix - https://www.imgix.com/ - who I assume use S3.

Came across an incredible photo series of their dataserver. http://photos.imgix.com/building-a-graphics-card-for-the-int...

> Apple’s operating system offers numerous advantages over other platforms when it comes to image processing, and it is also favored by many designers for the same reasons. imgix has written tools which allow us to leverage these strengths with our service, using OS X for image operations where it provides superior quality and performance.

What advantages? If you're running these as headless servers, then what advantages does OSX possibly provide over cheaper, more powerful Linux boxes using e.g. ImageMagick (ok, ok, not having massive remote code execution vulnerabilities is one of them).

Same thing jumped out at me--having racks of mac mini's seems like a waste

Does ImageMagick have access to GPU hardware acceleration?


Who in turn look like they're using fastly for their cdn judging by them sharing the exact same pops.

(Guessing they use the fastly private cdn or have some sort of deal with them considering the imgix branded cages on their blog).



They're using reduced redundancy which should save them a pretty penny.

What are some better alternatives to s3?

Colocation hosting your own servers around the world... you know, the original way.

s3 is awesome. Keep using it but put your own boxes in a colo with a direct connect to aws (not all colos offer this unfortunately). Your boxes can then g3 20+tb of ssd cache in front of your raw pb+ datasets in s3.


Even cheaper and easier is just to rent dedicated servers or VPSes.

One of the earlier Imgur style hosts, ImageVenue, did this very successfully (they were extremely large in terms of traffic at their peak and for the time, until better options came along).

The founder, Vlad, used to rent out cheap dedicated boxes with about 500gb of bandwidth per box for $60 to $80 per month. He'd cycle upload machines - eg 123.imagevenue.com - and fill up the drives on them until no more space was available; when bandwidth was exhausted, that was that for the month. Typically image file downloads would decline on any given upload over time, so machine resources would free back up in terms of bandwidth and deleting images that weren't viewed after N amount of time.

For image-heavy use I found its just cheaper to build your own box and cohost instead of renting.

How do you figure that? You can rent the exact same server as a dedicated server. The difference is, you have no capital outlay up front, you don't need to ship and rack it or replace broken parts and there is only a month-to-month commitment.

The boxes with lots of disk and memory are much more expensive when rented vs buying. SSDs are super expensive to rent, for example.

I made a Skylake Xeon system with all enterprise components for $2k. You can't even rent Skylake Xeons anywhere right now.

I've never had problems ordering custom hardware from my dedicated server providers. At worst, all I've had to do is pay a one-time fee for a particular component. SSDs have never been a problem. Neither has any Intel CPU.

It of course depends on your provider.

Rent vs buy depends a lot on the circumstances. Maybe if your requirements don't change and you don't upgrade your server hardware it's cheaper in the long run to buy. However, when I've kept a server for more than a year, I've always been able to negotiate a discount.

You didn't post your config, so I can't tell how exotic your requirements are.

Is that really cheaper than S3, though?

Even at Amazon's cheapest posted bandwidth tier you're paying $50+ per terabyte for bandwidth.

Any dedicated hosting company (OVH, Hetzner, etc...) will cost less than 3% of that (and that's on the high end).

Bandwidth is cheap, but AWS marks it up roughly 30x-50x what you'd pay in a dedicated environment.

Then why isn't anyone running an AWS-like service focused for bandwidth-intensive applications hosted on "OVH, Hetzner, etc..."?

Many people do. S3 is convenient though. It handles durability, replication, uptime, etc... and even with the insane markup on bandwidth many startups / companies can afford a $10k/mo bandwidth bill because it's cheaper than hiring some devops and a team to build out the appropriate infrastructure.

That's what I meant with "really cheaper". Sure, bandwidth costs are lower with Hetzner, but that's not everything.

It depends on how you define AWS-like services. Lots of VPS providers cater to bandwidth-intensive applications and are hosted on cheap dedicated servers.

But you don't have to store and serve all the content from Amazon or your own platform. You can easily set up aggressive caching, in a network you control, backed by S3.

And you pay premium for premium bandwidth. You can't just assume that all your users will have a good experience if you buy hardware and bandwidth from the cheapest providers around.

Amazon bandwidth isn't particularly premium. It's just expensive.

Way cheaper. Amazon is a middleman for hardware. Even at smallest scales the cost of buying a server pays off within a year. In exchange you get convenience and the ability to scale up on demand without buying more hardware.

I'm sure buying the server pays off, but what about running and administering it?

What's the minimum commercially you'd spend to get cross-continent redundancy on hardware you manage in-house. Just the accounting cost of paying wages for technicians in two countries probably means you need to be a quite large company.

There are middle grounds, managed co-location say, but then you're not likely to save much over using AWS are you?

Even managed co-location is cheaper than AWS when you factor in the egress bandwidth charges at scale.

Another way to do it is to use dedicated servers. The datacenter will take care of repairs and remote hands functions and all you need is to manage the server from the OS level upwards. No need to have technicians in multiple countries, everything can be done remotely.

Yep this is what we do. It works well.

You still have to manage/ administor the aws instance. It only really saves you from the overhead involved with hardware failures.

Yes, way, way cheaper. Amazon egress bandwidth is 10-100x more expensive than IP transit.

Depends on what you compare it you. Amazon sells you not only the hardware, but also the management services.

Massively cheaper at scale. Do the basic math.

can you explain the math? I honestly don't have a working knoweldge of the inputs, but let's say i wanted the equivalent of ec2? How would I go about setting it up and the costs? If I wanted to serve a few million english speaking people my web application, how coud I calculate the price? Do I literally buy my own hardware, or I rent hardware at a dedicated rate? These are real questions btw, not rhetoric, it's hard to find a solid blog post or comparison of setting this up and the long term cost v convenience benefits of scaling this because almost everyone uses cloud providers, and by cloud providers I mean digital ocean, AWS, azure, rackspace or now google. Heroku (last I checked) sits on AWS as well and maybe even ngineyard does. actually pretty curious now if a few million people would be worth running your own gear, and if running that gear was lease v buy

The cost difference depends on how much your administration costs go up because you need to do things yourself, rather than through the AWS API. That's why it's hard to calculate.

Not sure if this is just for your private photos, but it's cheaper: https://www.backblaze.com/b2/cloud-storage.html

Use S3 but put a cache in front of it, at the very least.

Reddit use Cloudflare on both reddit.com and redditstatic.com

> Can't imagine that AWS bill...

That's not how things work over here.

We can and do imagine. We even calculate estimate values so we don't have to stay in the dark and reason without a solid basis.

I'd encourage you to find some traffic numbers provided by imgur and some S3 pricing to do a rough estimate. Maybe someone more knowledgable will pop in and improve on that. When we argue everyone involved shall be wiser after. That's how it works around here.


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