Originally it seemed like Imgur was a benevolent gift to Reddit users... a clean, simple, easy to use image hosting service that everyone could use for free. I guess it was too good to be true, because now it's tricky to link to a direct image (though not impossible), and the standard landing page is filled with unnecessary clutter.
As an aside: if you're looking for an amusing read, the "IgnorantImgur" subreddit is filled with examples of people from the Imgur community who seem to be oblivious to Imgur's origin as an image hosting site for Reddit users.
However, GIFs completely upended that calculation by increasing the average file size by an order of magnitude and pushed the viability of a cruft free image host further down the road by another few years.
Frankly, I'm surprised Google never just bought imgur and absorbed it under youtube or something. Being the default place on the web to host images seems like something way more strategically valuable to Google than any standalone image host.
Imgur is just a commodity. Youtube is not.
Yes, Google can create a infinite scalable image hosting overnight, but creating a community is a lot harder.
Is PBase free?
Even if you throw in some machine learning to figure out if the user's looking at memes or gifs or porn, I can't imagine the marginal value of that data being of use to Google. It's essentially unmonetizable, which is why most image hosts disappear after a few years.
Imgur was successful in avoiding that fate by pivoting to a community, but that community would be of no use to someone like Google.
Also, google has now had success building photo sites / photo products, but at the time of the youtube purchase, hadn't had much success building a video product.
So, sure, anyway halfway competent developer could bang out a YouTube (or Facebook, etc) prototype in a few weeks, but going from there to a reliable, usable service at scale is something else altogether.
You're going to need some project managers, SREs, sysadmins, front and back end web developers, programmers who know about video encoding, content experts, lawyers, etc...
So not at all unless you change what having a monopoly is.
They did make their own version of youtube at one point, apparently it wasn't enough and they wanted the userbase too.
"The acquisition of the privately held YouTube will enable Google to thrive in one area of the Internet where it has so far failed to gain footing. According to Hitwise, which monitors Web traffic, [YouTube] has the lion's share of online video traffic (...) a 46 percent share, MySpace has 23 percent and Google Video has 10 percent."
Meanwhile, this 2006 article from the Economist  stated:
"the deal is 'an aggressive, mature move for Google, one that shows that senior management is not too proud or stubborn to see that they can't build everything themselves,' says Henry Blodget, an analyst at Cherry Hill Research. Indeed, Google's Mr Schmidt freely conceded that YouTube is the 'clear winner', especially in creating social networks around its site."
Google had very much the power of building a YouTube-like community themselves, but buying out a competitor is a short-cut since it has the positive side-effect of removing that competition in our business. After buying YouTube, Google didn't have to waste time in building a community around a new product or "converting" the YouTube masses to theirs.
This short-cut way of acquisition is nowadays preferred by large companies rather than risk everything by doing innovation and "real" competition.
Summary: userbase/community was what drove the network effect, which made it impossible for Google to catch up, and that's why Google made the decision to purchase Youtube.
Video hosting + community is a commodity.
Image hosting + community is a commodity.
Just scroll down on this page: http://imgur.com/gallery/tWWxi4D
Voting options, and lots and lots of comments.
The whole point of this discussion thread is that Imgur is f*ed because they aren't independent enough. Otherwise there's nothing to worry about, right?
Non-monopoly is a commodity.
I wanna see the entire game 7 of the nba finals online. Show me where besides YouTube.
I wanna see the Red Wedding scene again. Show me where besides YouTube.
I wanna find a quick entertaining video to show my kid. Show me where besides YouTube.
I wanna find a compilation of the longest homeruns in baseball history. Show me where besides YouTube.
Heck most people try to ignore YouTube comments. It's not really a community at all. The actual content is the value prop.
Youtube isn't a commodity. It's the place that even your aunt, mother, grandmother, uncle will visit and knows to visit for entertainment or music. People who would never have a reason to visit imgur.
Sex. Corporations tend to keep faaar away from everything related to porn, and a fair share of imgur images is nsfw content. Cleaning it up would be more trouble than it's worth.
It is by many considered better than purpose built porn search sites, such as pornmd.
Yahoo's purchase of Tumblr and many bids for SnapChat seem to be evidence to the contrary. Cable companies and premium channels also make a lot off of porn.
Porn is fine for large companies as long as they have some cover (the product isn't just porn).
No kidding. The whole front page is all animated GIFs (or .gifv/mp4/whatever
As it is:
1. I hate gifs (with very few exceptions).
2. I lack a decent place to host images associated with Reddit.
3. Subscription-based services are a risk on several fronts.
This is cyclical, an image site gains critical mass, builds in size and then buckles under the weight of providing a free, clean, high-bandwidth service.
He made a second Reddit post the next day.
> I posted it on Reddit, Digg, and a couple forums that I frequent at the same time.
Imgur was never a reddit exclusive thing. It was just mentioned to advertise and gain loyalty from reddit users.
Which, honestly isn't a bad thing if he did.
Notably, when that post was submitted to Reddit, it got eviscerated, nothing that "hey, they provide a service for free, they deserve ad revenue!"
EDIT: The server was moved off of shared hosting after about 4 hours of release. It's now on a dedicated server with a 100mb port.
EDIT2: This is an old post and it's no longer on just one 1 dedicated server. It's on many, and utilizes a CDN provided by Voxel.
This was the original post  announcing the creation of imgur 7 years ago. Maybe in 7 years from now you have your own img42 image hosting emporium! :)
I have been hosting img42 off a $5 a mo/ droplet :P. It has served XXm+ impressions, and 1m uploads since its creation. I also have been sustaining a ~3m a day DDOS from Russia for about a year now.
It was actually that drawback that lead me to making/using my own image host! With my own host, files that were uploaded back in 2012 when it first started working are still there - with the same URL (despite URL scheme changing since then)
But I have some scalable plans if it were to take off without breaking the bank.
Hosting images is a high cost service that most people don't want to pay for, so there's very little ways to make money.
EDIT: It's actually worse if you read their wiki . They were profitable enough early on to have 10 employees AND move to San Francisco, going as far to win a "best bootstrapped start-up award". THEN they took 40 million in funding.
How do you monetize such a site without bloating into the current Imgur?
It seems like the only way to have a "clean, simple, easy" image hosting service is to be a billionaire and to do it out of the goodness of your heart.
The changes came when imgur took VC money.
That doesn't really make sense, as others have pointed out.
Imgur was indeed a valued customer, and we grew together and had a great relationship with them.
Customers like them helped us achieve the necessary scale to build out our network.
But pushing more bits costs more, not less ;)
though not as often today as in times past, there are points where 10Gbps is more expensive overall than 20 or 30Gbps.
Getting high traffic customers like Imgur allowed us to negotiate better commits, establish new peering and interconnection agreements, and otherwise lower the "unit costs" of the network we built.
It was generally never worth it to do this for free, but you're spot on that in certain cases it was worth it to do it for less than (current) per unit costs.
Ended up with KeyCDN for now
I could imagine that imgur traffic paid for itself.
How much is that additional 2Gbps of traffic (to Comcast) worth?
We really need a better way to pay the people who create and serve the content we all love to consume.
Reddit gave Imgur an almost impossibly wide berth compared to other "made for Reddit" sites and allowed the owner to get away with all kinds of site policy violations. Imgur also set up various restrictions on content that were conveniently waived for Reddit images.
It turns out it was because Reddit took an investment stake in the service and didn't make it known for a long while.
Then Imgur decided to just become Reddit because, hey after all, they're responsible for some huge percentage of all traffic for the site -- this being entirely contrary to the communication the site put out about what they were and were going to be doing.
Now Reddit is just wholesale replacing it with an internal service -- which is what should have happened in the first place. It's been obvious for years that this should have been a core service, but the terrible previous management of the place had pretty much frozen all improvements to the site.
I think this move speaks more to the sane new management team doing the correct things than anything else. I'm really happy with the job that Steve Huffman et al are doing with the site, the decisions seem reasonable, well intentioned and generally in a good direction.
As far as I can see, you can put the link to imgur (like http://imgur.com/gKt0Owa) or directly to the image (http://i.imgur.com/gKt0Owa.jpg) and both (as well as the html, bbcode and markdown versions) appear directly in the image page.
(I'm pretty sure the way it works is: it shows the image for certain referrers, and when you load the "full" page it requests the image with a referrer of imgur. That way you get the image, and then subsequent requests to the image are served from your browser cache so the direct links work)
Anyway, thanks for expanding on it; I've shared a few images through imgur and never had this issue (maybe it was before this change, or maybe the people receiving them never complained), so I was a bit puzzled by your comment.
... aaaaand now I want to make a malicious image host that always shows you your uploaded images but serves up goatse to anyone you link it to. Or maybe just flips the images, upsidedownternet style.
It's a reinforcement of how important setting expectations with customers early is very important to avoid stepping on their toes later on.
reddit is trying to squeeze back some of the juice from the third-party devs who use their API without being too overt about it, because they know the community would revolt. Twitter did the same thing much more loudly when they realized that they were giving away the farm by letting most of their userbase access the content via third-party apps.
This works because imgur and other image hosts are already well-integrated into third-party reddit apps, but reddit's image hosting isn't yet, and they can change things around/break it repeatedly until users get annoyed and just move to the official app to try to get a more seamless experience.
If the plan of trying to monetize mobile fails, I wonder who, or if, someone will just try to buy them out and try to do it better themselves. I am convenience that the reddit brand is very popular. The other day I started compiling something, and reflectively I alt tabbed and went to reddit, after realizing I was in the middle of doing something I closed it and got back to work, but I went their out of mussel memory - and I think that just goes to show how valuable their brand is.