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The Decline of Imgur on Reddit and the Rise of Reddit's Native Image Hosting (minimaxir.com)
270 points by minimaxir on June 20, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 265 comments

Imgur recently started doing something really annoying on their mobile site. If you keep scrolling past the picture you were linked to, it shows a bunch of other pictures that were not posted by the person who posted the first picture. These extra pictures seem to be generally in the same category as the picture that was meant to be linked to, so if the original picture is a slightly risque photo, the photos that follow might be straight up porn. It's very annoying to me.

Reddit killed the model that allows them to be financially viable and "not annoying". I suspect the alternative is to shut down.

The bit of community that exists solely within imgur can't be enough to subsidize the bandwidth costs of everyone else, can it?

Thus far every image hosting site has gone the cycle of initially good, annoying attempts at monetizing, then shutting down. Which, of course, leaves a trail of forum posts, comments, etc, with broken images and links.

I wish some entity with deep pockets would just offer it as a public service / loss leader so we could stop the cycle. Google, Amazon, etc.

I want to talk about that community, because it genuinely boggles my mind. Their culture is as if they were crafted by /r/circlejerk as some sort of cosmic joke. They repeat the same memes ad nauseam, in every post, seemingly completely unaware. They lack any measure of what I consider healthy internet cynicism - if you post a picture of your face and say "I beat cancer!", you're getting upvotes, and there won't be a single comment in the thread along the lines of "this is a picture of a face." I mean, it's easy to bot upvotes on reddit, but it's trivial on imgur, because of the total lack of self-awareness of the community.

I get that I come off as a total asshole - "why don't they hate the world, as I do?!" But honestly, they seem like the most gullible bunch of back-patters on the internet.

I guess I’m an Imgurian, since I’ve been on Imgur for a few years, and hell, I even met my partner at Camp Imgur in 2015—basically a 3-day summer camp for (mainly) young adults.

The culture is…hard to understand if you’re not a part of it, which I think is probably true of any sizable social site. And different users probably have different attitudes about it.

Yeah, there’s a lot of memetic trash, because the culture definitely rewards repetition, and I guess the only unifying factor of everyone on Imgur is that we like to look at pictures. But that’s also an advantage in that the community seems to be more diverse than on any given subreddit, or even HN. (Although it definitely skews young, male, white, and progressive.)

It’s kind of nice to be part of a community that’s unabashedly earnest, even if it means getting taken for a ride sometimes. I don’t think there’s no self-awareness, it just doesn’t seem like it from the outside.

For example, take Lassannn. He’s a user who makes up stories for points, and is completely honest about that fact. Some people hate him for that, believing that if you’re posting a story in the first person, it ought to be true. So they started saying “Fuck you, Lassannn” on all of his posts. But now there’s also a sizable cohort of people who love him because he’s a good guy and produces good content, so they post “Fuck you, Lassannn” ironically to make fun of the people who actually hate him. And crucially, you can’t tell the difference if you aren’t aware of the whole story, which has taken place over years. And there are countless stories like this.

For me, Imgur has all those aspects that I loved while growing up on forums in the early 2000s. It also rewards clever puns, remixing, ironic shitposting, even intelligent discussion if you look for it. I’ve learned countless things from people with completely different backgrounds, been exposed to world news I would never have seen otherwise, and been able to reach loads of people with my bad jokes, shitposts, and encyclopedic knowledge of linguistics and trivia. It’s fun, and that’s all that matters.

If you listen to most conversations in the street between persons hanging around, you'll notice the same patterns. People conversations are quite dumb, and it's ok, it's human.

Imgur and the like are just recreating the "hanging around" concept, online, within a certain community. It's not rocket science.

Its no more dumb than arguing about editors, or tabs vs spaces, or metal versus opengl. You can introduce dressing to make them seem deep, or re-cast the conversations as being super critical, but all those conversations are about typing shit that goes into a file.

When was the last time you heard someone actually debate about text editors?

I'm assuming you mean the last time today.

Neckbeard here raged hard yesterday about adding netcat to systems for troubleshooting. Keep it lean. Hates Docker and this container "fad" though. Guess that's "too lean"?

Usually rants once a week about not needing more than vi

Not even vim, but vi

Perl is the only language the world needs

He is very serious about these things. Shuts PR's that challenge his world view in anyway

He's barely 40

Little sympathy for him and his back problems lately. It means he's working at home and not around the rest of us.

At least once a week if not more. Of course I'm biased coming out of a CS degree program...

almost never, but i've seen a lot of debates about the relative merits of vim (a text editor, for the uninitiated) and whatever it is people use to painstakingly insert glyphs into a file.

I poked fun at someone's choice of an editor about a week back. :P

> if you post a picture of your face and say "I beat cancer!", you're getting upvotes, and there won't be a single comment in the thread along the lines of "this is a picture of a face.

objectively, and putting aside the kneejerk reaction against being fooled, i cannot see a single thing wrong with this. no one is asking for money or trying to con the audience out of anything tangible; either they're telling the truth about the cancer (in which case they'll be happy for the upvotes) or they're trying to game the imgur community for upvotes (in which case they'll be happy for the upvotes). you might argue that that's cheapening the upvote, but the sole value of an upvote is what you, personally assign to it. you want upvotes that are worth something to you, post in a community where they are rare enough for you to feel they are worth something.

as for the rest of it, if the backpatting keeps them happy, what's wrong with it? it seems infinitely better than e.g. the cringe-oriented communities who get their social bonding and dopamine hits from making fun of the more earnest sections of the internet.

The meme problem I see on Reddit and Twitter too - so many sites developing their own meme dialect that's completely incoherent if you're not up to your elbows in it.

I have to use http://knowyourmeme.com/ more than I care to admit.

I tend to see this as personally beneficial. Once the patois diverges enough, I stop wasting time attempting to decode it, unless I'm bored enough to treat it as anthropology.

A big part of what makes the comments so poor on imgur is that they have an arbitrary character limit of 140. When you limit people to a single sentence, memes and jokes are all they can post. This comment, for example, can't be posted there.

Eh, people regularly get around this by splitting their comments in much the same way as on Twitter, dividing them into multiple 1/2

comments as a nested chain of replies, which is also often abused for humorous effect. 2/2

Which I find obnoxious enough to avoid reading entirely :P

Is your quote ("why don't they hate the world, as I do?!") just off the cuff or a mockery of something or a repeating of something already out there to be sourced? If there's a source please share.

Off the cuff comment to indicate that my observation isn't a serious proposition, but just me sharing my general feelings, and acknowledging that my feelings should be considered fairly cynical.

Sounded like it may have been drawn from a good piece of satire critical of something like PC/free speech or climate change or some controversial thing. I was imagining a funny characterization of a crowd berating some perceived antisocial individual who doesn't truly hate the world but just won't conform to ideas he does not agree with or is not convinced by whatever they may be. Either way works as great quote for a dissenting opiner to play.

it's the original poster displaying some self-awareness about his rationalization of pointless contempt and constant misery as "healthy cynicism"

That does seem like there are more bots in the community compared to organic posters.

i think it's just what happens when the unifying identity of the people in your 'community' is "i need to upload pictures somewhere." well, that and "i have no prior attachments to more specific internet communities," or "reddit is too niche for me."

i hate to use the term 'normies', but...

I feel like you just described reddit.

FWIW /r/no_sob_story/ is dedicated to highlighting content that is only interesting due to post context

Yeesh, the users on that subreddit all seem really unhappy.

Imgur's big act of hubris was accepting VC money so they could expand.

They were fine before that. They were making enough money to stay afloat, but the founder wanted to expand. So he took VC money... and then the VCs began making demands of him. And then Imgur started sucking.

I remember one of the first changes that the VCs forced on them: Imgur debuted a new API, and if you want to access albums through the API, you have to pay a huge amount of money. There were some allowances for small, limited usage for free, but any app published on a major app store would blow past that limit easily. The cost might be fine for a big company, but it screws over one-man operations like...well, like most Reddit apps. The developer of Sync got hit pretty hard by it.

As far as I know, Imgur actually started off as a bit of a public service. From Wikipedia:

"Imgur was created as a response to the usability problems encountered in similar services. Designed to be a gift to the online community of Reddit, it took off almost instantly, jumping from a thousand hits per day to a million total page views in the first five months."

it was created by /u/mrgrim as a programming side project because all the other img hosts were shitty, and as it was born of reddit, essentially for reddit, it blew up.

I cant stand the new i.reddit img service, but that could be me just being an off-my-lawn-er...

but I am wary of reddits motivations, as I dont trust the admins all that much given the fact that they are a huge social manipulation tool - and if you don't toe the corporate line in the US, they shut you down.

For me it's quite the opposite. I like browsing the web in the evening on a 5 year old tablet. Ever since imgur started redirecting mobile clients to the full site for all direct image links the experience gets worse and worse. They keep adding more scripts and shit over time so currently when opening an imgur link the tablet freezes for about 4 seconds until it starts showing the loading spinner and then it takes another couple seconds depending on image size until I can finally see a plain old jpeg. Every fucking time. I mean I don't understand the decision to redirect mobile but not desktop at all. Desktops are faster (cpu and connection) and got more screen space to show ads. Why not the other way round?

Me too. That awful gifv has never worked on my older Samsung tablet. I don't understand why not and I gave up trying to diagnose the problem.

Other imaging hosts that serve up .mp4's as substitutes for .gif like giphy work just fine. It's just Imgur that couldn't figure out how to make this work properly.

It's very likely the terrible redirect shenanigans they do on gifv. And have just expanded to all files on all platforms, oh boy.

Imgur has a ton of flaws, my gripe with reddit is the admins; as a mod of a controversial /r/ - I just don't trust their ability to be for free speech...

> Reddit's motivations

It's effectively a tracking "pixel" for what you click, even if you block their javascript/redirect.

It also keeps that data in house which they can sell (if they need to) rather than give all that data away to imgur for free. Though I wonder if the bandwidth costs will break even.

They can also use it in order to craft personalised suggestions.

I imagine they will also start checking referers and presenting pages, instead of images, to certain visitors. If that isn't happening already.

> I wish some entity with deep pockets would just offer it as a public service / loss leader so we could stop the cycle. Google, Amazon, etc.

Doesn't work because the usual deep-pocket entities are trying to stay as far away from "nasty" stuff as possible... with "nasty" ranging from harmless stuff like nipples over porn to straight out gore (like Liveleak).

There are always some puritan but loud "activist parents" trying to f..k up stuff for everyone else.

I see what you mean, but Google seems to manage this problem in YouTube via end user flagging and machine learning. Similar for Facebook, etc. I see why it might take Amazon out of the running to provide it.

I think the parent's point is that they ultimately remove this content. Imgur basically removes things that are illegal in the USA, and pretty much nothing else.

That's a feature, but it's not a feature most conglomerates want to provide.

I'm surprised none of the big companies have done this, and used the fact that images are tagged and commented on to improve their search results in some way. They could really harvest a lot of data from it.

They don't need to. They can just cheaply crawl the image sites for those informations. Easier. Less resource needed. No community to manage.

Not only that, but they already have cloud environments that allow them to get all of that data anyway. Android phones come pre-configured to automatically upload every photo you've ever taken to the cloud, Amazon offers unlimited personal photo storage, and Google and Amazon offer the two largest enterprise cloud computing environments available, so they can likely just analyze imgur's logs.

Are you claiming that Google analyzes all of people's images automatically, with no consent, taken on Android and uses that data internally?

And that Amazon and GCP analyze customer info (off the disks? off unencrypted HTTP?)?

Yes, I 100% believe they analyze cloud photo backups and use the data for their own purposes, and I would be surprised if they don't explicitly allow this within their privacy policies and Terms of Use. That's the motivation for them to offer unlimited free storage. I would guess that they probably have a human look at a random image, identify the objects, and then use that to train their CV pipelines.

They do some types of automatic analysis/processing which you can see when the Google Photos app delivers an automatically composed album, panorama, or movie to you, and you can also go into Google Photos and sort your photos by the objects and/or people that Google recognizes within them.

They do this for all speech-to-text run through official Android/Google search applications. You can go to a Voice History page within your Google Account and download recordings of every "OK Google" you've performed, and I've heard that they have human transcribers who spend all day listening to random voice searches and transcribing them to provide the corpus to compare against the computerized transcription.

As for EC2/GCP, I am sure they analyze whatever data they can. I doubt they go into the disks, but they would necessarily see the endpoints of the conversations, the volume of the average transmission, and other such details. The datacenter has a lot of knowledge from metadata without having to actually introspect the bits that you're sending over the pipe or storing on disk.

Disclaimer: I am not involved with Amazon or Google in any direct way and this is mostly hearsay.


EDIT: On re-reading, I realize that I flubbed in the original post (now past its edit expiration). I was in a hurry and didn't realize how flippantly my statement came off.

I don't mean to imply that Amazon/Google casually spy on the information of specific users for competitive intelligence, just that interesting metadata is available to the platform host without requiring them to look at anything that they wouldn't normally have access to, and that they already have a vast abundance of the types of images that people are uploading to public hosts like imgur.

Sure, why not?

They're already using metadata from users devices to supply traffic map data. Thought that was way cool, then discovered how it worked; Google Maps app actively reports your location behind the scenes.

Was creeped out, but I still use it all the time, despite never remembering giving explicit consent.

Be trivial for them to scrape EXIF data but not actually "peak" into the image data

I have no knowledge of what they do. I doubt the latter; that would be trouble. But the former - why not? They do it with your email.

> Which, of course, leaves a trail of forum posts, comments, etc, with broken images and links.

I remember this from long long ago, when I was a student and helped running a vBulletin on the side for fun. When I noticed this trend while browsing older posts that had the a lot of imageshack embeds (they apparently deleted old files which weren't accessed that often, also the url format might have changed once) I cobbled together a plugin that would save all posted images locally and then serve those instead. This lead to some protest however by people who had those fancy dynamic images in their signature that would show the currently playing song or similar, so those had to be excluded...

Imgur has developed a very active community and they have a MINIMUM of $20,000 per "promoted post" (ad). Considering how often I see new ads on there (at least once a month), I'd say they've finally figured out how to actually monetize an img hosting site. Whether they can avoid throwing away all that money on inefficiency and poor management is another story though. If anyone here knows how to scale an imgur clone properly, and can do it as a one or two person team, you'd probably have an amazing startup right there.

Yes, but it currently depends on them being annoying.

They would lose a lot of eyeballs if a new, non-annoying imgur like service popped up. Similar to how they initially killed off some existing image hosts.

As an advertiser, if I see a site with placements that are only available via direct buys, and the advertisers cycle through there quickly without staying around for a while, that's often a sign of a poor performing placement that they tested and moved on from.

I'm not clear on the specifics of their inventory, but some of their placements are available on the Google Display Network, and presumably exchanges as well. So I'm not sure if the inventory with the $20k min. buy overlaps at all with that to reach this sort of conclusion.

Would anyone be interested in creating an igmur clone and then fund it via Patreon? It seems like such a basic public good, like Wikipedia.

I remember when “image hosing” meant copying the file into your machine’s public_html directory and sending out a link. Now somehow we need a third party to do this.

Sending out a link to what? I mean... maybe I'm too young to know what you're referring to, but if I have my local computer, sitting behind a NAT, sitting behind a firewall, sitting behind a personal router, on another NAT, and you're on the other side of the country, what am I sending you a link to? Did every machine have a domain name? Was your local DNS somehow broadcast publicly?

Did you just send a link for "C:\documents\public_html\picture.jpg" (or /home/ryan/public_html) and somehow it worked? I'm in need of a history lesson because I cannot fathom how that would have worked.

Simpler times. Public facing IP address, web server running on my machine and serving from /var/httpd/public_html or some similar directory. People go with 3rd parties nowadays for the slick web interface and that they do the "hard" work of setting up bandwidth caps and security for you.

> People go with 3rd parties nowadays for the slick web interface

No, they go with 3rd parties nowadays because most home users don't have bandwidth to host their own images.

One of the current top posts on reddit/r/funny has had over 1 million views after being posted to imgur 8 hours ago. The image file is 1.7 megabytes. That means imgur has transferred 1.7 TERAbytes in 8 hours of just that one image. That's an average of about 59 megabytes PER SECOND of bandwidth, or nearly half a gigabit per second.

Less than 1% of home users have that kind of bandwidth, and that's only to host a single image.

If you REALLY think "Oh, people only use image hosts because of the interface", you're not living in reality.

In the times the gp was talking about, you'd set up a cron job to download a 1.7mb file overnight, and be happy if it finished by morning. So yeah, apples and oranges (of the gp).

Errr maybe also because not everyone has their own webserver in their home ? Most people don't let their computers run 24/7 just to host a picture of their cat.

simpler times

Back in the day, the bulk of Internet users were on university networks, and they gave everyone access to Unix systems where anything you put in public_html goes up on the university's website under your username.

For example, I went to UTD from 2003 to 2007. This was long after the days of "the bulk of Internet users were on university networks" were over, but the infrastructure was still there. All students had ssh access to a handful of machines, the main one being apache.utdallas.edu.

So I could do this:

    $ scp picture.jpg ajb0##000@apache.utdallas.edu:./public_html
And then anyone would be able to access it at:

(FYI, at UTD, everyone's username was their initials followed by a six-digit number where usually only the second and third were nonzero... I ##'d that part out because I don't feel like giving out the exact username I had back then... especially since my initials were different)

Edit: And even if you weren't at a university, back in the dialup days it used to be that even with home internet, everyone's computer was directly on the Internet with no NAT or any kind of firewall, so you could just install Apache on your box and serve what you wanted. On paper, most ISPs banned that practice in their TOS, but it was never enforced. The real impediments were that a) dialup connections would usually disconnect if you went idle too long and b) most people had dynamic IP addresses that changed every time you dialed in (for the latter, DynDNS was a godsend). And of course dialup bandwidth was shit, so hosting anything substantial (especially an image!) would slow down your connection (seriously, people would actually buy second phone lines from their telcos and maybe even get a second account with their ISP so as not to tie up their main connection).

Broadband made it easier: even with a NAT router, you could just forward port 80 to your desktop, and you won't have to worry about bandwidth, your connection would stay up 24/7, and even if your IP was technically considered dynamic it would almost never change. What really sunk the concept of hosting your own was a) mobile (good luck running Apache on your phone, and getting port forwarding on a mobile network is impossible) and b) the rise of services like Imgur that let you host shit with no hassle (Facebook killed self-hosted personal home pages for the same reason).

For anyone interested in re-living the old days and not wanting to host the infrastructure themselves, check out https://sdf.org.

Huh. TIL. I didn't think I was that modern having gotten Internet access in the mid 90s, but I wasn't at a university, and by the time I got to university everyone was on a NAT and was behind firewalls.

What the GP describes is still more that possible. I happen to have some physical hosts in a data center, but you can have the same effect with a Linode VM.

It is massively convenient to run your own server. But you need to know how to maintain it (or be willing to learn). It isn't that hard, depending on what you're doing, but there's some effort and learning if you don't do this for a living.

Well worth it, at least for me.

thoooose were tha daaaaaaaayyssss

Remember commercial shell accounts?

Everyone used to have a public IP back before the days of NAT. Your modem would dial in, and your computer would be assigned a publicly accessible IP address.

In the unix world, iirc, many systems were configured to expose a folder on the user's home directory (www). Which would expose that to something like: www.mit.edu/~<username>

A link to your server. I have servers, at home, on the internet with no NAT, through a business cable ISP.

I took a picture of my thesis which somehow got viral. In a matter of hours the total data used for that image was ~500GB or so. Not viable sharing from my own computer or even my own server.

[1] https://m.imgur.com/r/bicycling/b1ImCo8 with 770000 views

Because not everyone has a web host? It's easier for the average person to just upload to a website.

Similar to the issues with the advertising model (and content creation), it again boils down to people want value on the internet but unlike everywhere else in the world, here they don't want to pay for it.

If we want to keep nice things, we need to make an ecosystem where we can pay small amounts for useful things.

gift economy seems to be working okay for gnu/social/mastodon

Reddit's builtin images always seem very slow compared to imgur's. They would have done better to integrate imgur instead of rolling their own, I think.

Absolutely agreed. I don't see why Reddit would not just attempt to purchase Imgur outright in this case. They could thereby avoid link rot in the case that Imgur ever were to die, and also integrate Imgur's tech. Does reddit just think Imgur's tech is worthless?

If/when imgur closes, it would be scary to think of how many old reddit posts might become completely lost.

Or you could, you know, pay for it.

I was paying for it, then they removed that option and went 'free' for everyone....with ads. Never understood why really....and always always wondered about the bandwidth etc

The problem is that it requires everyone to pay for it. Any one individual will get no noticeable benefit by paying for an image hosting site, since all the rest of the content they view will be from free sites. As a result, no-one pays for these sites. It's a vicious circle.

Even if I'm willing to pay, there aren't enough other people to make it viable. Plus, a large part of the value is the low friction upload.

That doesn't make sense to me. You could do this now with S3 (although you might need to write the slick interface); scaling shouldn't break anything, though pricing might need to correspond to how much you upload.

The S3 model means content creator pays for bandwidth, content consumer pays nothing. For the use cases that imgur and similar image hosts provide, that wouldn't work. And as you mention, that's high friction for the uploader.

I don't have a solution to the problem other than big pocket provider offers it as a public service. Somewhat like Let's Encrypt, or Cloudflare.

Edit: I suppose somebody could make a slick interface that uses parasite type storage and redirects...stealing storage from various free services like Google Drive. Offer some kind of karma points for creating and donating new Google Drive, OneDrive, etc, credentials. Would likely get shut down though.

That is still better than the giant animated cat paw they had a year ago. It was active just before reddit went live with their image service and I imagine it was a desperate grab for some last minute conversions.


That thing was so atrocious

That was really surprising to me. Recently saw some picture with a woman in it (very SFW picture, nothing risky about it at all) then scrolled down and BAM immediately very NSFW. I thought I did something wrong but I think it was imgur who screwed up now.

Fortunately this is an easy thing for Imgur to solve in 2017 if they really want to with machine learning. Enough is available online that almost anyone could do it at this point.

Indeed, this is a solved problem. See: Not Hotdog.

You don't even need to do that.

Just have people opt in for NSFW content on their accounts. Leave them opted out by default (or public).

There is no reason it shouldn't be a human controlled flag.

There is a Mature filter on imgur already that's human-determined. The problem is that people posting pictures will mark things mature unnecessarily, and there have been trolls who put up hardcore pornography without marking the image as mature. The problem is, as always, trusting humans to do the right thing without massive consequence for doing the wrong thing.

I agree that should be the default but getting the data to do it automatically is hard if you're going to ask users to mark things NSFW on their own accord.

What is really annoying is that it makes you think you're watching an album but as the image is not related it's confusing.

> What is really annoying is that it makes you think you're watching an album but as the image is not related it's confusing.

They even do it with albums, which is unbelievably annoying on mobile devices. If you don't click the "Load X remaining images", and just keep scrolling, instead you see related images from other posts.

More than once, I've clicked through a link, gotten confused why the fourth or fifth image doesn't quite seem to match the original description, and then realized that I never loaded the full album.

I don't know who made that UI decision, or why. I can't think of a single good reason for it, because it doesn't even incentivize you to click through images to see other albums.

That was my biggest wtf when I saw that, along with how they managed to grind a macbookpro to a halt just showing an album of a dozen or so pictures on the page.

Mine is that imgur simply doesn't work much of the time with JavaScript disabled. They serve images. Inline images have been working with HTML for over twenty years now, and somehow imgur breaks them. It's madness!

Probably intentionally. They have a very, very, very large and aggressive javascript package.

They probably intentionally break the site for anyone who doesn't want their script payload.

I doubt they can make any money without it anyway.

It's funny because they've quintupled the team of engineers to make changes that most people are criticizing. The strategy of Youtube to offer similar content and hold the user for a longer time on the site works because they are very good at understanding the average user's taste. But Imgur is very weak, totally dependent on the information the uploader provides, not from the viewer. They could have grown in markets where Reddit is weak like South America, Asia and Africa as a totally independent and mobile-focused product. But they make little effort in that direction.

Is there an equivalent to "every program expands to read email" for web services? Because just about every image hosting service seems to go down this feature creep route.

Probably "every web service expands to become a social network."

Everything with more than one human does really.

I like it (heh).

It's because image hosting is a nothing business. It's basically one step up from serving text in the list of bread-and-butter internet functions.

Sure, there's some complexity in doing it at scale, but it doesn't actually need to be done at scale to be done easily. 50 different small image hosts is as good as one big one from the perspective of end users.

As a result, it's /really/ hard to get people to pay for it, and you cause exoduses by trying to embed advertising. The only thing you can do is grasp for features to validate your business.

funny how nobody wants to pay for bread and butter functionality, and yet the internet survives on such bread and butter.

I'm really not sure what point you're making. It's not surprising that Reddit rolled their own image hosting. In general, most major websites have done that, because it's easy to do. If your business relies upon image hosting, why would you trust others to do it?

Anyway, Reddit gets paid via ads and gold, so people are paying for it. They just won't pay for it on it's own, because image hosting on it's own is not really worth much. You could make your own perfectly adequate image host on a raspberry pi. Reddit's value is not in it's image hosting. Nor is Wikipedias or 4chans.

Imgur picked a shit business model, the internet will survive their inevitable passing.

I read the OP as pointing out that image hosting, like email, is an awful business to be in, but is something on which tons of other services depend.

Think of it as analogous to sanitation. Being in the garbage hauling business isn't something that really revs that many people up, but civilization literally depends on it.

Imgur picked a good business model, they were profitable years before Reddit came close. It also managed to stay good as the best image hosting on the Internet for a decade.

It didn't last forever, but Imgur was great for a long time.

No independent image hosting service can scale because of pricing. It gets too expensive and users will never pay for it so they rely on ads + annoying ways to get ad revenue.

Their apps also suck. Uploading on mobile has extra steps pushing their app, but then their app sends push notices for shit I don't care about.

I use imgapp for imgur. It's not perfect but it's better! What I'd love would be images to be marked as seen so I don't have to scroll past again, and I'd like it to be a meme social network so I can share the lolz with my friends without inundating group chats or Facebook/Instagram.


This isn't just annoying, its a dark pattern to get people to scroll their listings instead of going back to reddit. Its one of the more dishonest interfaces I've used.

Worse, it just doesn't do this, it purposely collapses galleries that before would auto-expand, so its easy to miss the expand button and keep scrolling onto other galleries and pics.

Would it be possible and good to use desktop users' browsers as WebTorrent hosts for images? This would make the users pay for their browsing, allowing for the experience to be without ads.

Isn't what projects like https://freenetproject.org/ or https://www.torproject.org/ essentially do?

I don't know about freenet, but definitely not tor. Tor uses a kinda-p2p net to mask the destination of your traffic, but doesn't reduce your bandwidth hosting bill.

Grief, their mobile site is horrible. I tried using it today after reading this article. I won't be tomorrow.

It's ok. It's just images. Nothing important is hosted on those sites, and only on those, so that it will be lost forever when they close.

It's kinda a good system really: investors pay to host our images. So the money is here. The service is here.

Free hosting for your pictures for 1 or 2 years paid by VC is a cool with me.

also if you accidentally hit the left or right arrow (which i have an unfortunate habit of doing when on a website, it's sorta part of my idle animation).

They also got rid of the link to the upload page. They really want you to download the app.

They do it even on normal website. Iv seen a couple of cases of twitch streamers showing viewer submitted fanart (pre screened), and the MOST VIRAL IMAGES sidebar had some almost pron 'click to look at tits' suggestions :/

I use imgur for work sometimes, and this throws my team off every time.

Yes I noticed that too; it's most likely an image recognition algorithm paired with a AI tag parsing program generating a related image.

I know right? I noticed this too and it really put me off the platform.

The most offensive feature is how it tricks novice or unsuspecting users into "sharing" their just uploaded image to the "Imgur community". It's a big green button after the upload.

If you click it, not only is your image now public but you'll be ridiculed by imgurs army of sexist unemployed neckbeards that they refer to as "community".

It's a shame, because for the first two months the community was nice.

There's just no way to do a free image hosting site without it turning to crap sooner or later. When Imgur started making it hard to copy the direct .jpg links, it was game over.

What's interesting is that Imgur managed to pivot into a full-blown community site, with threads, communities and voting. I don't think they're very dependent on Reddit anymore. From a few cursory glances, they have a relatively large amount of participation, and it's not unusual that an image shared on Reddit has a huge comment section on Imgur, with Imgur users not getting the context (that of course is over on Reddit).

Reddit is doing a smart thing here by hosting the images themselves. They're now at a scale where hosting images is feasible. Being dependent of Imgur (and Imgur not being dependent of Reddit) is a bad thing for Reddit, since most of the popular content on Reddit is images, and so Reddit gives away a huge amount of traffic to Imgur (which is basically a Reddit competitor now), trading that for the expenses of running an image hosting site. I guess Reddit realized it wasn't worth it.

Imgur pushing it's own website over direct image links is the exact reason I've stopped using it. I understand they have to make money by but I just want to put a damn picture on the internet and send the link to others. I don't want to have to deal with Imgur's album/site link crap and dumb expansion into being a social network. It's hard now to even find the direct link, nevermind avoid Imgur's annoying messages about downloading its app and using its other features.

As it turns out, it's really hard to monetize an S3 bucket at scale.

Things like that makes me wish NDN[1] would succeed.

Essentially in this network instead using addressing to address hosts, they address the data. This brings interesting properties, since routers are aware what data is being transferred they can start caching it.

In the end no CDNs are needed (network takes care of it) so people can host data themselves without worrying of it getting too popular.

[1] https://named-data.net/

Except the end-user ISPs are quite content with requesting traffic from the providers; they like the imbalance as it gives them something to negotiate with (that's why inbound is free on cloud - they're happy to fight the imbalance). Why would they start caching your images for free?

Also doesn't that mean everyone in between know you're requesting degeneration.jpg? Vs now where they'd only know the domain and maybe could do transfer size analysis? Sort of the opposite direction of TLS everywhere (CloudFlare exempted)?

Also how do you bootstrap it? If I upload some image and it's instantly popular on reddit and generating many Mbps of traffic, don't I have to stick around long enough to get it up and cached? Or would there be free seed services that will get the first several GB out?

> Except the end-user ISPs are quite content with requesting traffic from the providers; they like the imbalance as it gives them something to negotiate with (that's why inbound is free on cloud - they're happy to fight the imbalance). Why would they start caching your images for free?

Normally that would benefit ISPs (they do have a network of routers so it would naturally help them, since they would not need to send the same thing over and over again, they do pay for traffic to their uplinks).

But, on the other hand ISPs artificially reduce their bandwidth and expect companies like Netflix to pay and do peering with them. Well, this won't help against it, but while it can replace TCP/IP it can also work as an overlay network and you can skip the ISP.

> Also doesn't that mean everyone in between know you're requesting degeneration.jpg? Vs now where they'd only know the domain and maybe could do transfer size analysis? Sort of the opposite direction of TLS everywhere (CloudFlare exempted)?

The protocol itself doesn't leak that information. Remember, there are no addresses to individual machines to people, only addresses for the data. When you request something the routing protocol will route the request to the source of data. Each router remembers the previous hop the request came from. On each hop a router checks if it already caches the data and responds, otherwise forwards request further. So even the source website doesn't know who requested it. I suppose the issue might be that router immediately would know what you requested.

You can mitigate it in two ways:

- encrypt the data and only give key to decrypt it to subset of people who supposed to be able to access it

- encrypt data individually per user, in that case you no longer can rely on caching properties of the network and the source server needs to be aware who requested what (since it is encrypting the data). i.e. you falling back to the way how TCP/IP now operates.

> Also how do you bootstrap it? If I upload some image and it's instantly popular on reddit and generating many Mbps of traffic, don't I have to stick around long enough to get it up and cached? Or would there be free seed services that will get the first several GB out?

Well you're expected to host it all the time. The network won't be caching it forever individual packets have TTL and also routers can purge data if they need to make space for other data that is now popular.

I suggested NDN as a response to that S3 bucket doesn't handle highly popular content well. The NDN properties allow highly popular content being hosted even from places with low bandwidth, because the network will handle the load.

Sounds exactly like https://ipfs.io.

Not really. IPFS from what I understand is a P2P application, with filesystem like functionality.

NDN on the other hand is a network protocol that is capable to run without TCP/IP (it's actually designed to be able to replace it). They actually built a testbed: https://named-data.net/ndn-testbed/

Similarly to TCP/IP you can build application that utilize the protocol. In fact I suspect implementing IPFS in NDN would be much easier than in TCP/IP.

In fact looks like someone did just that: https://named-data.net/publications/techreports/ndn-tr-27-nd...

and source code: https://github.com/named-data/NDNFS

Is there a 140 word summary of what that is? It's website is a confusing mess of consortium speak.

Not 140 words, but: https://named-data.net/project/execsummary/

Essentially the big change is that instead of using addresses for servers what if you put addresses on the data itself. That approach gives some properties:

- network can cache the data - no CDNs needed, no slash dot effects etc - free multicasting (a hard problem at scale with TCP/IP) - better handling of slow/lossy network - easy multipath routing


It's very efficient for things that can potentially have many people interested in. Like streaming popular videos, hosting images (like discussed here imgur). The benefit for these sites is that they would have lower costs to operate because they would require less bandwidth, because anything that's popular will be cached by the network.

Edit: Also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Named_data_networking

Sounds like a less shady version of Freenet.

In a way, it also was created by people who contributed to developing Internet and is NSF founded. The head behind it is Van Jacobson[1] who was responsible for implementing congestion control in TCP/IP also creator of popular tools such as traceroute.

Unlike FreeNet it was designated that while it can work as an overlay network it is actually capable to run without TCP/IP so it could even replace it.

Also unlike FreeNet it's not trying to obscure who is hosting the content. Basically you get a prefix (which looks like unix file path) which you start advertising to neighboring routers (like IP is advertised in TCP/IP) so then all requests under it (as long as no cached version is available anywhere) will be forwarded to you.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Jacobson

What if they moved to their own infrastructure?

I imagine being an image hosting service it would be cheaper in the long run, although I have no idea by how much and if it would make sense all things considered.

Unsplash wrote a nice piece last year on how much it cost their site to run.


Thanks for the great article.

Would it be easier to monetize a small S3 bucket?

No, but my $3 AWS bill is much easier to ignore than their $300,000 one.

An interesting side effect of imgur integrating a social feature is that imgur-only users now push back against reddit users using 'their' site.


It's hilarious, I see it all the time on /r/fitness. Someone will post progress pics and get huge upvotes because the reddit post goes into detail on their lift schedule, diet, etc. Post will be hovering at 2-5k upvotes on reddit, but meanwhile will have been downvoted to oblivion on imgur, where I doubt the OP even meant for it to be a "post."

> I just want to put a damn picture on the internet and send the link to others

Either put up with the free-image-host cycle of crap[1], or pay for your own domain and hosting.

[1] Free image host N is awesome, bandwidth is expensive so free image host N needs money, free image host N starts to add shitty anti-features, free image host N+1 enters at the start of the cycle, free image host N closes...

Before Imgur there was Photobucket, Imageshack, and many others. Now Imgur is at the end of the anti-feature cycle. Reddit's own hosting is entering the cycle, right on cue.

ironically, image hosting sites being crap was the reason imgur was created in the first place. turns out you have to pay the bills somehow

And most of them were crap because of mess, noisy sites with intrusive ads.

The basic problem seems to be that the web has a trust issue, not between users and services. But between services and advertisers.

Until that trust issue is solved, so that sites can bring ad hosting under their own domain rather than embed unsupervised ads from third parties, there will be no end to this runaround.

That said, inhouse ad management do not always do a good job either. Right now i have Reddit ads killed because i got tired of having some rotting face glare at me from the sidebar just because i visit the odd gaming sub-reddit from time to time.

Do you think it's possible to create an ethical ad network? It's something I wonder about at least once a month, but I'm not sure if it could compete.

There was one that I recall: The Deck, which shut down recently [1] after more than ten years. Could be seen originally on sites like A List Apart where its ads were small, felt relevant and were of good quality (they had a limited monthly pool of decent brands and artists that used them last time I checked).

I actually liked them, though after switching to uBlock Origin years ago I'd forgotten about the network and to whitelist them, sadly.

[1] http://decknetwork.net/

> Do you think it's possible to create an ethical ad network? It's something I wonder about at least once a month, but I'm not sure if it could compete.

I'm highly skeptical, in that I believe the nature of ads makes this inherently unfeasible.

The point of ads is to be seen by as many people as possible. In dramatic terms, you could say the purpose of ads is to invade your mental space against your will on behalf of product makers. How could that ever be ethical?

That aside, ads also present a conflict of interest for content makers. You want your site to be nice and high-quality. But you need money, so you put up ads and comprise on the aesthetics. You want more people to see your ads so you're tempted to make more content, or arbitrarily divide your content into smaller pieces (fighting the end user's ultimate desire which is to peruse your stuff).

And then there's the whole "biting the hand that feeds" problem. I personally don't believe anyone showing ads can be truly objective regarding them. So maybe Google is evil, maybe not, are you going to turn down their money either way? Most smaller ad networks seem shady to me.

I think this seemingly theoretical problem is why ad blockers are still on the rise, going so far as to be baked into browsers (Brave on mobile is awesome). Not only do people dislike ads, I think they don't trust advertisers, and I think most users nowadays are aware of these ethical conflicts at least on a semi-conscious level.

In short, this is why I've personally made a promise to myself never to rely on ads. Maybe that means I can't get rich off of "killer apps", or even earn a living. But part of me believes that anything useful is worth paying for, so I'm focusing on building something useful.

Edit: Didn't mean for this to turn into a rant. Oh well!

> I think they don't trust advertisers

Considering malvertising is a thing, attempting to spread malware through ads, users shouldn't trust advertisers.

I don't just run an ad blocker to prevent annoyances, I do it to increase security.

There is projectwonderful, which is serving ethical ads and has a uncomplicated bidding method (bid for a day on a website).

They're explicitly on all my adblocker whitelists since their ads only amount to a PNG image with a link.

The advertisers know where they are advertising, the site owners can control who advertises, the payment is transparent and everyone is happy.

Wow I haven't seen Project Wonderful in a long time. Good to know they're still around.

No. See http://www.cluetrain.com/ - paid advertising is inherently unethical on a network where genuine mass interaction is free.

They used to offer a paid account which I gladly signed up for.

Apparently they saw that the ad model was the way to go and discontinued the paid accounts.

Which is too bad because that's where we stand right now. I wish they would still offer an ad-free paid account.

I guess in the long run we'll see how Imgur current business model will last.

I too was a (happily) paying customer of Imgur and was surprised when they refunded my prepayment for the year and went free. I had a feeling it was going to go downhill quickly thereafter.

They really have some dark stuff going on. When I upload an image, right clicking to copy the URL copies a useless blob URL the first time. When I try again, it copies the proper URL.

Why not use Dropbox public links or something similar?

Afaik, they discontinued offering public links as a way of hosting.

My friend links me to pictures he's put on Dropbox all the time, usually screenshots. Is that what you're referring to?

No. Dropbox used to have a folder that let you share direct links.


It's been retroactively removed from accounts.

What do you mean by direct links? My friend can link me to things, but they display in the "dropbox viewer", and I can download them by clicking "download" in that webpage.

Direct links, as in <img src=""> usable, etc.

Not viewer, not ad/conversion/signup/referral filled bloated javascript page.

It was pretty much the only reason I even kept a dropbox account. No point after that.

There's limits on what you can share. imgur's big benefit is no cap on hosting, so if your meme goes nuclear you're not going to get a "bandwidth exceeded" page.

Fair enough, wasn't aware of the bandwidth limits. Thanks!

I've used imgur in the past because it is upload->url, no further messing around required.

If you're sharing with a limited option all you have to do is right click the file in your Dropbox folder and click "get public link" -- others are suggesting there's bandwidth caps so this isn't ideal for a Reddit post or something that might receive large amounts of traffic.

That link does not go to the image. You have to manually edit it.

Because they have traffic limits.

Unless I'm mistaken, that requires an account, accounts suck.

It does, but it was just an option.

Really you have three options, free services have ads, paid services which require an account, or host your own.

Or, for now, use imgur.

That falls under the free service with ads

Didn't even realize they had ads, I guess I should have assumed. Does it really count if you link directly to the jpg though?

Imgur is essentially a parasite upon reddit which exploited and relied upon reddit's lack of native image posts. Imgur's dependency on reddit led to it trying to compete directly with it to ensure its survival without its host (Imgur is now also a place to find and comment on images), but also ensured reddit would eventually drop it, thus paradoxically also hurting its survival.

Ultimately I think Imgur is destined to the same fate as TwitPic.

It started as a symbiotic relationship. Reddit had no good image hosting solution and it was a real problem. Before Imgur came along, you'd often find image posts where the link was dead, dog slow, or took you to a page filled with ads and malware. Imgur made Reddit better.

If anything, Reddit was the parasite because its users used a ton of Imgur bandwidth and by direct linking, didn't give anything in return.

Once Imgur decided to actually try to become a sustainable business, they had to change how that worked by trying to ensure that people coming to the site also saw ads. Then they started building their own community and working to become a direct competitor to Reddit.

At that point, the right biological metaphor is probably too organisms with the same food source in the same ecosystem, competing for resources.

Given that, it's no surprise that they are both working to sever ties to each other.

But that was back in a time when reddit really was a news-sharing site. Huff huff get off my lawn and all, but back in the day it was more akin to hackernews, and so the "problem" of hosting images wasn't a problem at all - you'd be linking to articles that had their own image hosting solution. Nowadays it's a heavy picture, meme, whatever browser. Makes sense that imgur is trying to take over that niche.

Was it ever a news sharing site? I think you might be mis-remembering history.

Honestly before RES came out the proportion of images on reddit was very low. Going back further before subreddits I remember it as largely just news articles and discussions, much like HN.

Before subreddits, yes, it was mostly links to articles. But pics was one of the first subreddits, and images made an increasingly large fraction of posts over time. I think RES was as much a response to that as it was a driver of it. If anything, I think the rise of smartphones was the big push. It's simply easier to consume imagery than text on a small screen like that.

That's some strong words. Imgur wasn't a parasite, it was offering a service that Reddit didn't offer but we needed. Yes Imgur was quite dependent on Reddit at the beginning but now Imgur has its own community and the two are quite different.

If you look at the numbers, after the beta Imgur was starting to grow again. It was a hit yes, but not an exodus.

> Imgur wasn't a parasite, it was offering a service that Reddit didn't offer but we needed.

Well… sure, you could say at first it was more of a symbiotic relationship, though probably providing more benefit to reddit than to Imgur, the latter absorbing the former's bandwidth costs and not getting much in return.

The parasitical part comes with

> but now Imgur has its own community

because, in order to ensure its survival, Imgur has tried to grow itself into an independent community on the back of reddit, to eventually be self-sustaining.

Now that reddit's cutting it off, maybe it actually will be self-sustaining. All the more power to them if that works.

But I don't think “parasitical” is an unfair characterisation of how things have worked so far. It's not really intended as a value judgement on my part.

Edit: Whoops! I was definitely wrong here.

It was absolutely a parasite. It would not have survived to grow to the size it did without Reddit. Parasites can offer a beneficial service to the host but cannot live without it.

It has since evolved into something possibly capable of existing on its own but only time will tell.

My guess is it lives for a few more years at best.

>Parasites can offer a beneficial service to the host but cannot live without it.

Incidentally, this is not what biologists consider parasitism. To a biologist, a parasitic relationship is one that benefits one while harming the other. Do you think that reddit was harmed by imgur? If imgur benefited but reddit was not harmed, their relationship was commensal. If they both benefited, their relationship was mutual.

To capture the idea that imgur was totally dependent on its relationship with reddit (but not vice versa), you would say that their mutualism was obligate for imgur but facultative for reddit.

That's absolutely incorrect. In this case, since the relationship was mutually beneficial it's literally called mutualism. It does not require that both parties require the relationship to survive.

Parasitism is when one party benefits while the other is harmed.

I don't think we have the same definition of a parasite or we see things differently. For me a parasite is a startup being a copy-cat, eating your market share, stealing your content, and stealing your customers. But Reddit and Imgur are two different websites. If Reddit was that mad about it, they could have done it in a month on S3... If you want a parasite I will say 9gag.

It's true that Imgur has to grow its product now to something bigger. I won't even give them many years if they don't do that for a product that simple and ephemeral. They have challenges here.

"For me a parasite is a startup being a copy-cat,"

The parasite metaphor does not include the idea of being a "copy-cat"; parasites in the real world do not do the same things as their host. Indeed, that is the entire point of a parasite, in some sense; to take advantage of the host setting up various expensive systems to survive and just using them instead of developing their own.

The characterisation of Imgur as a parasite isn't a value judgement. Imgur isn't doing anything wrong (nor reddit for that matter).

You may not want it to be but I'm that case you probably should've chosen a different word...

Ok I see what you mean. It just doesn't feel pleasant to my hears.

That's symbiosis.

Parasite terminology aside, this is also another entry for the 'digital sharecropping'/'own the platform'/'commoditize your complement' files. Imgur built itself on the Reddit platform; then the platform decided, like Twitter or Facebook, to eat it. Now Imgur is going to be pushed even faster along the wheel of reincarnation for filesharing/image-hosting websites...

Too bad for any of the artists or photographers or content-creators who were depending on Imgur, but, 'Mister you knew I was a scorpion when you picked me up' as the story goes.

Where else can an image be posted without having to create an account? That's not parasitic, that's a perfect service if I've ever seen one.

Everyone here is taking offense to the word parasite, when it's nearly the perfect definition of the relationship from the first day. Imgur couldn't survive without Reddit, it grew and fed off of Reddit, and it was almost exclusively dependent on Reddit for its early users.

I think a lot of people in this thread don't know that one of the primary definitions of parasite can include not harming the host and generically mean: "an organism living in, with, or on another organism."

And if you question the dependency part of Imgur being a parasite, just wait until you see how things go for Imgur the next few years post Reddit handling its own images. One can thrive without the other, it's obvious which that is.

People don't generally use the parasite metaphor unless they're intention is to paint an ugly picture. Anyway, people still use Imgur very heavily in Reddit comments. I don't know if that's because reddit doesn't have a better alternative at the moment or if people just don't know how to use it.

Doesn't help that the Imgur community tends to be incredibly toxic toward reddit's, which is hilarious given the parasitic relationship you described. There's even a subreddit for it! /r/IgnorantImgur

> Imgur is essentially a parasite upon reddit which exploited and relied upon reddit's lack of native image posts.

Given that many subreddits have in their rules that people submitting images and blog posts should copy and paste the content into Reddit rather than linking to the actual creator, it seems more accurate to say that Reddit was a parasite on Imgur.

Though it may have started as a, "parasite upon reddit," imgur does stand pretty well on its own now. Try out their mobile app and you'll see a pretty active community.

It could successfully metamorphise. Without reddit, it would have less traffic, but also less hotlinking, so it might be more profitable. But reddit traffic might be its lifeblood, I'm not sure.

> Imgur is essentially a parasite upon reddit

This is true in exactly the same sense that "pastebins are essentially parasites on freenode". Which is to say, kinda not.

That's an unfair comparison. Imgur was originally created specifically to be an image host for reddit users, and succeeding in that market, slowly tried to become a reddit competitor on the back of reddit traffic.

Pastebins are merely text hosts.

Why on earth would Reddit want to add a massive expense (image hosting) at a time that they're already hemorrhaging money? Especially since imgur was still a fairly adequate host for the site. Reddit's image hosting seems like burning money for nothing. Not to mention the Reddit image URLs are horrifying. I upload stuff to imgur just for the nice, short URLs.

Reddit did the right thing - they realized a majority of their users are on Reddit for the images, which makes it a core competency. Reddit was using Imgur as a free image host, which Imgur was obviously not ok with. I realized this last summer when imgur started redirecting direct image links into its ad-ridden bloated mess of a social image page. It was an obvious attack on reddit. I don't know if imgur ended up undoing this or not, but it made it painfully obvious that reddit and imgur cannot peacefully coexist in the way it used to.

edit: just found this, it looks like they're continuing to move away from being a simple image host for reddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/assholedesign/comments/6eip2q/imgur...

> Reddit was using Imgur as a free image host, which Imgur was obviously not ok with.

It's funny though, because that's what Imgur was created to be. The problem is it's absolutely unsustainable as a “business model”.

Imgur was more than OK with it. Without Reddit Imgur would not be where it is today.

Reddit's URLs got much shorter within a few iterations of the product.

As to why compete with imgur? User experience. It's much easier to share a picture on Reddit now, with it being a native feature, rather than having to go to imgur or elsewhere, upload something, find the best/right URL to share with, and the submit that to Reddit.

Right, but why not just pay imgur some $$$ for the privilege of a simple little upload form? That seems like a far smarter idea. Now Reddit is responsible for running not only its current business but also an entirely separate image hosting business. Keep in mind how ridiculously expensive it is to run an image host. Even imgur, which is by far the most acceptable of the popular hosts, has a ton of obtrusive ads.

I have a feeling that this image upload thing was dreamed up by an intern who thought "oh, this would improve our user flow!" while not realizing it might literally double the company's costs in exchange for a gain of a few percentage points more users.

Reddit can't run obtrusive ads (they'd piss off their user base) so where is that money going to come from?

Example reddit url: https://i.redd.it/2n0gpcrfes4z.jpg

Example imgur url: http://i.imgur.com/ykbUTZG.jpg (and that can even be shortened to http://imgur.com/ykbUTZG)

The money argument is an odd one to make. Why would paying imgur money per image be substantially different cost wise to self hosting? At reddit's scale, it would be a similar hosting cost whether done in house or passed along to a 3rd party. The difference is that with in house, Reddit maintains more control over the underlying image data. If it costs $x million to host all reddit's submitted images for a year, imgur isn't going to magically let Reddit pay them less than that. (Assuming direct linking, i.e. no imgur ads, which is what you want to be able to best deal with embedding the images inline on Reddit)

And those URL lengths are both fine. No one is typing those in manually very often. (Reddit's URLs used to have a bunch of long query params - those were a bit ridiculous)

>so where is that money going to come from?

presumably ownership of the image.

Keeps eyeballs (and thus ad dollars) on the site? Avoids allowing a parasitical competitor to grow?

> Especially since imgur was still a fairly adequate host for the site.

I'll argue against this. Imgur used to be a good site to host images, but they started getting way too big, bloated and slow. Reddit probably saw this as degrading their viewer experience, and rightly so, imo.

My significant other couldn't figure out how to easily post images on Reddit (without switching between two websites).

Now she's posting more content on Reddit, because it's easier and self contained.

There's also many advantages to keeping users "on site".

When will they start hosting short videos?

> I upload stuff to imgur just for the nice, short URLs.

genuinely curious, why is that important? is it common to memorize the URLs instead of copying and pasting?

When I want to share an image over chat with a friend, the long, odd looking reddit image urls disrupt the natural flow. It's like virtually slapping someone on the face. A nice, short and sweet URL is much nicer in text conversations.

Also, being a developer and security conscious, I inspect URLs before I click on them. The longer they are, the more frustrated I get examining them.

> being a developer and security conscious, I inspect URLs before I click on them. The longer they are, the more frustrated I get examining them.

it doens't really matter if a url is long or short, right? as long as the domain looks good then there's no reason to check every character in the url? not sure why it's more secure to have a shorter url if the domain is safe

*not a security expert

Reddit has short URLs; they're in the sidebar of every submission, e.g., http://redd.it/6idi12

That goes to the post, when I'm sharing an image I don't want it to load Reddit.

Oh; I'm the opposite: when I come upon a bare image link, I prepend `reddit.com/` to get taken to its reddit discussion. :)

The flow comment is interesting, especially because it's one I resonate with. Every time I want to hotlink an image from Facebook I cringe at the multi-line horror in the clipboard.

Short URLs are nice. Less to go wrong for starting. Slashes, and any non \w character, is potential mistake in sharing, due to copy paste errors, bad decoders, etc. Plus they look nice and can literally be typed out from a screen shot or something.

Websites like Imgur are able to detect whether the browser is requesting the image as a part of an <img> tag or a separate document by sniffing the Accept header.

So when a direct Imgur image link is opened in its own tab, Imgur can redirect to a webpage if it feels like it. In Firefox, by changing about:config value "image.http.accept" to

it's possible to avoid this behavior and it will load exactly what you asked for.

I never quite understood why do browsers let a webserver know the context you're loading the requested resource in, for privacy's sake.

Thanks for the info: I didn't know about this one. Fortunately `image.http.accept` already defaults to this in Firefox 54.0.

This is not really a surprise, this cycle happens from time to time, i.e. Photobucket, ImgShack, etc.

As soon as Imgur took funding the die was cast. They have to show more ads, get more traffic to their pages, and drive engagement.

Imgur was at its best when it was simple to upload and link. Those days are gone.

I don't see how you can make money from the following model:

>Upload an image to easily directly link to elsewhere.

From the single ad view of the OP that uploads, they expect to make enough money to fund the thousands of people that will then download the image? Doesn't make sense. I wish it did, because that's a user-friendly world, but somebody is paying to keep that server running.

Perhaps but that's how these services get so popular in the first place.

There are mechanisms where free image hosting makes sense. Remember when we used to pay for email? There are always ways to monetize products indirectly, or have value add, when direct monitization doesn't work well.

I'm not entirely sure why I don't have to pay for email. My only guess is that because it's hosted by Google, I am more integrated in the google ecosystem, which seems to be only something like google or yahoo could pull off. I can't really think of any other companies that are "spread" enough to make sense having an "ecosystem."

Just waiting for it's successor to come along...

You can give imgsir.com a go if you like. Caught with my pants down on a train but I was thinking the patreon model. No donate, basic images. More donate, things like videos etc and various inbetweens

You know how I can tell Reddit doesn't have any content creators in upper management who consider these decisions? Because at least one of them would've spoken up:

"Oh, we built many of our communities on sharing Copyright protected content by way of our weasel-cousin IMGUR, so let's go ahead and bring all that DMCA/Safe Harbors liability under our umbrella - you're joking, right?"

At least the Conde Nast lawyers will come out okay in this.

I think they did it because the writing was on the wall.

Imgur's current business model was not sustainable. Direct image linking is expensive and can't be monetized. Imgur has been making an effort to lessen direct image linking and may end up blocking it entirely eventually, which would screw over reddit.

And so reddit had to be proactive and create their own alternative.

The colloquialism / maxim "Out of the frying pan, into the fire" seems to fit here.

Reddit hasn't been part of Conde Nast for a while.

Can you link me to an article about the divestment please? I genuinely want to keep up and think I might have missed that.

Imgur has a pretty different product, and honestly - this might lower their traffic, but increase revenue (like the author mentioned).

I have friends who visit imgur regularly, and it's what I would consider a meme platform. Although, I personally use it to just share photos.

Reddit's natively hosted app, is likely why they need increased investment. Honestly, I see why Reddit wanted their own natively hosted images, but I can't see how this will increase their revenue or help them succeed.

To me, Reddits new image handling is a pain in the ass. I liked that I could either look at the image/video or read the commments. Now I have no choice but to receive them both at the same time. Videos even start to autoplay.

Also: Is it new that Reddit allows animated ads? I always had the feeling Reddit was a place where I could peacfully interact with others. Lately I am afraid it turns into a page full of animated, colorful distractions that make me feel uneasy.

Can you clarify on the animated ads you're seeing?

Mobile App iOS has autoplay video ads. Twitch prime or whatever its called was the first one I saw yesterday.

This is why you have be careful when it comes to starting a business or service that's dependent on another to keep going.

Because it's very easy for the 'host' company to take your idea, undercut it and 'force' you out of business. Or to make changes that completely kill your product or service/screw up your marketing strategy.

It's a risk you have to take with a business so dependent on another particular company or site.

Seems like a fairly valid business strategy though. Step 1: Provide a solution to a problem that isn't being addressed by an existing service with a large audience. Step 2: Try to convert users of the host service to your own users by offering other valuable features to them that aren't reliant on the host service. Getting any access and visibility to users is the biggest problem. If you can't retain the users after that point, then maybe you just aren't providing enough value outside of what the host service can provide.

I don't think the parent was implying it is an invalid business strategy; just that it has a set of risks.

Yeah. Nothing says a company like this can't work at all, just that it's risky and can easily fail when times change.

But it can succeed, if either:

1. The company buys you out and takes you inhouse instead of making a competitor from scratch (this seems to be a common business strategy for startups operating like this)

2. You can spin off the userbase into separate service (like mentioned by the commenter above).

3. Somehow you can exploit the situation to build a brand for a completely different business or industry. Kind of like how a lot of fan game developers use their temporary fame to market themselves to the industry or retrofit their work to be more original after the inevitable cease and desist notice.

the decline is completely imgur's doing - they went from a site that promised to be simple, clean and easy to a site that mirrored the problems it started out to solve.

frustrating overlays, slow, intrusive self promotion ... even worse on mobile. anyone remember the annoying cat paw?

Imgur copied Reddit's functionality first, to be fair.

Maybe because they identified how easy it would be for them to get nuked by Reddit?

Quite frankly it's impressive that Imgur turned into a serious thing. Crossing the proverbial chasm from "Hosting pictures to post on Reddit sucks, so I'm gonna make something!" to where they are today is amazing to me. But I guess the same could be said for comparing any notable company's current state to their starting point (survivorship bias?)

What Reddit specific functionality did they copy?

Comments on images, voting on images and comment, stuff like that. Imager went from a simple image host to being it's own image sharing community.

example: http://imgur.com/gallery/SkAns

...Imgur was MADE by reddit!

I remember a long time ago people pointing out that it was actually posted to Digg first. Imgur's creator says it was posted to multiple services on the same day [1], but that he deleted the original Reddit post. The post saying it was a "gift to Reddit" came a day after the post to Digg failed to gain traction.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/9tlwi/im_the_imgur_gu...

It was always kind of a weird thing. For reasons mysterious at the time, reddit suspended lots of the self-promotion rules around imgur which in turn allowed it to grow quite rapidly. I had a friend who actually tried to start another symbiotic for reddit startup at a similar time and reddit admins decided to enforce the no self-promotion rules on him even while letting imgur run free. It was very frustrating for him, fortunately he didn't go in for lots of money on it and was able to shut it down pretty quickly when it was clear reddit wasn't playing fair.

A lingering question at that time was how imgur was paying their obviously enormous bandwidth bills, but /u/mrgrimm was always very vague about the source of his funding.

Long story short, it turns out that reddit had made an investment in imgur at one point while earlier funding was never made public. So reddit was banking on imgur being successful but never made that relationship explicitly public.

There were other weird relationship oddities too, e.g. imgur used to not allow pornography to be uploaded and linked to, except when the referrer came from reddit.com. (if you look up info on imgur and referrer tag weirdness, it's a common pattern)

After imgur started jumping the shark and reddit's entire executive team turned over, they decided to do their own image hosting service. But now they had a well funded plan-b to fall back on if their own hosting service didn't work out.

Imgur has always been very vague and shady about funding, revenue, growth plans. It's assumed that they just wanted to be a non-suck


It was made for Reddit, not by Reddit.

That last graph shows the total number of image submissions has almost doubled? imgur submissions dropped by 250,000 but native uploads increased by almost a million.

What is everyone experience of the Reddit hosting vs. Imgur? For me the Reddit hosting seems less responsive then the old Imgur hosting. Reddit has always seemed to have an issue with scaling out for load (my opinion from my experience) and taking on the hosting themselves just seems to have made this worse.

Reddit hosting is noticeably slower, and sometimes WAY slower.

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