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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They are still often 1-2MB however, which I'm sure adds up, compared to the jpegs they started off distributing.
(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?
I call bullshit. Can you spell datamining?
also: native advertising.
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.
- amazon ads
- google ads
- google analytics
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.
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.
Pretty sure you just suggested they make money by datamining cat gif and dank meme traffic...
While I certainly can't speak to the intentions of the founder, I would assume that he didn't have many exceptions at all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
- 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.
You mean like clicking a *.jpg link and getting something other than a raw JPEG file?
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.
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 . 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.
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...
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.
Sounds like something that's profitable to the site but against the users' interest to me
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.
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.
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.
Doesn't this definition cover all advertising ?
"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."
I like their moderation log though, that's a good step.
Here's the AMA
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.
5 years ago: "but it's profitable enough to hopefully hire another guy or two this summer."
The founder has completely bootstrapped the site since day 1, and has done an AMA on Reddit talking about the whole situation. 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".
 - https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/eicjf/im_the_imgur_gu...
 - https://www.quora.com/How-profitable-is-Imgur-com
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.
How? I don't see a way from Imgur to monetize on sharing images directly.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Also, I don't think you're going to make everyone happy as a business, and that's (probably) okay.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Supermarkets wouldn't allow, much less encourage, anyone to consume large numbers of free samples instead of buying the actual for-sale product.
The same functionality that loves to go off when I'm scrolling down on an album and lose my position.
I can understand the redirect to a page with ads, and even showing unrelated images. But the cat paw... what in hell.
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)
And aside from that, years back, they've been banning embedding on certain domains.
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.
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.
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.
I'm not on mobile.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
It isn't. What you are describing is better describe as malicious advertising, or malvertising.
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.
Edit: evidently, direct image links are serving ads on mobile. I haven't tried it to confirm this myself.
2) WHAT THE HELL, IMGUR?
My only annoyance there is that sometimes the embed bugs out a bit, but that's mostly firefox's fault.
But a self-funded (and then donations) college student working in his spare time did.
Would you mind explaining that to me? I've never heard the term.
Edit: Nvm, sorry; easy to google.
"Dark Patterns are User Interfaces that are designed to trick people."
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.
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.
Any tips on ad providers that support more explicit choice of topic per page load?
It might work ok for some of the larger comics/image producers.
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.
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.
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.
There is also "a way" to win at the Olympics.
I don't see any other occurrence of the sponsors name.
Here's the link for reference: https://daringfireball.net/feeds/sponsors/
Oh, you mean: "Apple products are the best! Google sucks!"
Yes, high quality content indeed...
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 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.
Once Reddit is largely gone, will the community survive?
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"
I think that imgur can exist on its own and will have more than enough content.
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. :/
More details soon...
Imgur would have been dead because they were running out of money.
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.
I think they are just the most recent organization to figure out that there's no viable standalone business model in "dumb image host".
Now they're getting those horrifying autoforward fake-virus-scan vibrating ads.
The mobile experience needs a lot of tlc.
that's promoting the app installe :(
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.
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 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.
1. Realize you need to make a lot more money (to meet investor expectations, pay for the fat the company has accumulated, etc)
3. Apply dark patterns (http://darkpatterns.org/)
4. Something better comes along and eats your lunch
It's sad because imgur was originally created as the "something better".
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.
2. Block other image hosts from your service forcing people to use yours.
3. Introduce ads.
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).
(Guessing they use the fastly private cdn or have some sort of deal with them considering the imgix branded cages on their blog).
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.
I made a Skylake Xeon system with all enterprise components for $2k. You can't even rent Skylake Xeons anywhere right now.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.