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That's what the lore tells us, but maybe it's just plain wrong and the old incumbents were just greedy and terrible. I think imgur was bootstrapped for a long time and didn't have much in the way of monetization, certainly hotlinking still worked then.

The changes came when imgur took VC money.

imgur worked because a CDN named voxel could readily use the bandwidth bump provided by hosting images to decrease their overall network costs.

Voxel founder here.

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 ;)

Hi! I'll admit it's poorly worded. My intention was to say there was an economic value in providing less-than-cost (or even free -- only you and your accountants knew) bandwidth in order to scale out your network and increase value to customers paying much more.

though not as often today as in times past, there are points where 10Gbps is more expensive overall than 20 or 30Gbps.

Hi. You're absolutely right.

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.

Oh wow you guys re-branded. You could do with a landing page knocking about somewhere mentioning your old name! I was trying to dig through the web fairly recently trying to find you (Knowing you'd survived hosting imgur for at least a time!)

Ended up with KeyCDN for now

We got acquired by Internap. They killed the brand. I would have loved for it to live on but it was their decision ;)

please explain, doesn't make sense

I guess traffic gets a lot cheaper beyond a certain volume. I suspect it's dollars/TB to cents/TB? So they can cut prices for their offerings and have more revenue and growth due to paying less for the traffic. Having these volumes of data also allows them to approach potential clients with some solid data (e.g. we serve 1/5 of image clicks on the net every day and below 20ms response time... I have no data, just speculation)

I could imagine that imgur traffic paid for itself.

So I should start a burger joint and give away food for free to prove I can handle the throughout and my cost will be essentially zero?

If you have robots in the entire supply chain down to the production of the fertiliser for the plants without any humans then why the hell not?

Burgers are not bits.

how does that work?

I send 5Gbps to an eyeball network (let's say Comcast, for the sake of discussion) it might cost me $5000/month to do that through my transit provider (intentionally inflated cost). Comcast will interconnect, settlement free, to networks who exchange 7 or more Gbps. Three optics and three cross connects are $3000 + $600/month.

How much is that additional 2Gbps of traffic (to Comcast) worth?

Maybe the only people willing to nurse along a free image host are the ones hoping to somehow, in some way, get rich off of it.

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