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Imgur Acquired by Medialab (imgur.com)
474 points by mburst 18 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 288 comments

Imgur, great service, lasted this long, amazing. But I always wondered how any of these random image hosts afforded bandwidth (reminds of the other various ones like TwitPic who was saved from being taken offline by Twitter). I mean, I have a gallery of images in there, privately stored, directly linked to here and there around the net, without paying for anything for years. I think at one point I can't even remember now I did pay them a small fee and then they removed that option to go it alone with ads and refused to 'take my money'. Which seemed crazy and still does. Does the small imgur community (Which exists as a bizarre also-ran of Reddit) sustain them enough on ad views?

My guess is PR.

Regularly, on imgur, you see a pic in interest for a celebrity, a rich person, a movie. It looks organic, but if you look closely, there are plenty of weird things about it. Then it disappears as suddenly as it arrived.

I believe that they sell the front page to PR firms that need to promote something in a way the people think themself came up with the hype.

It's probably the same for a lot of communities with a strong influence on trends, like popular sub reddits or hacker news.

There is no better ads than the one you don't see. There is no better slogan than the one you repeat to your friends as a catchphrase. And there is no better propaganda than the one based on ideas you thought you had by yourself.

Yeah but who goes to the front page of imgur?

I one time posted an album on Imgur of my hobby project. I was hoping it would do well on the niche subreddit it involved.

It did ok on reddit (100 upvotes) but a few thousands upvotes on Imgur and made the front page with hundreds of thousands of views. I was shocked since I didn't even know that was a thing. But my guess is popular with people who are on their phone a lot, are not as tech saavy, or international.

The exact opposite personality type to people that browse HN I'd wager

I, and apparently Swizec (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28676558), do both, and I doubt we're the only ones.

Yes, there might be dozens of you.

For the uninitiated, this is a meme reference to a clip from the TV show Arrested Development, popular on Imgur as a reaction to show support for someone else who expresses a sense of loneliness in their appreciation or affection.

A version of this: https://i.imgur.com/pgXjbNy.gifv

How much could a banana cost? 10 dollars?

No there's plenty, HN just has the kind of people who need to loudly proclaim they don't engage with <insert popular thing>

That wrongly creates the impression that there are only a few HN users engaging with it.

HN and Imgur are among my favorite sites on the web!

Both sites are quite "nerdy". Each in their own way.

I used to in college. Extremely bad habit, was easy to spend 4+ hours there just hitting the right arrow.

Same. I stopped when I realised it was passively teaching me celebrity gossip, which I never wanted to know.

It's so easy to absorb 'celebrity' gossip, I always wondered if it'd be possible to do the same with say science or maths, if it was presented in the same kind of format.

I think the hardest part is the rigour. Math and science build on concepts over time, and mastery is easier with more hands-on experience. Just presenting it to someone in a feed might be waaay too passive for absorption.

Easy way to find out. Remove the pictures from celebrity gossip posts, and see how much you remember.

Somehow I’d always end up doing this most right in the middle of finals.

You can actually spend days doing that…

I recall being in high school (around 2013, 2014) and some of my classmates would browse imgur while slacking off from work. Not sure how big it is these days, but I think some people use it the same way you'd browse r/funny on reddit, or iFunny. Except there isn't really a topic, it's just images of whatever people think is interesting.

Who doesn't? It's the best source of almost everything. Perfect mix of culturally important twitter and news screenshots and entertaining gifs.

I scrolled through it for five minutes just now. Advice animals, rage-bait about politicians, political cartoons, cute animals—this is complete garbage.

Absolutely this. imgur.com is the only reason I can pretend to be "down with the kids".

Oh yes also all the good/important tiktoks end up on there. I don’t even have tiktok and am conversant in all the memes.

7/7 would recommend

If you were really an imgurian, you'd know that the correct perfect score is 5/7.

Huh wow, you weren't kidding!

I remember going on the front page of Imgur once a couple of years back and it seemed less entertaining and more rage-baity than now -- think I'll revisit that decision...

Some of the comments are sometimes quite interesting. Sometimes they're even brilliantly witty.

The way some of the replies talk about the front page of imgur (huge time sink, insightful, entertaining, keeps you in the loop) is the same way I'd talk about the FYP on tiktok.

Plenty of people, overwhelmingly men[1].

Make no mistake, Imgur is a social network. It has its own memes, regular posting themes, and users recognised by the community[2].

[1]: They are (were?) proud of that and bragged about it in a page describing themselves.

[2]: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/anewbadlyphotoshoppedphotoofm...

People that subscribe to default subreddits and click the Youtube "Featured" section.

I only now learned that it has such a thing and decided to see it, and I am very confused by the lack of advertisement on it indeed.

People who want to find memes to repost on their social media.

My retired father?

you're forced there if you want to upload something

But who are these companies that successfully provide this service?

It's just an educated guess, so I don't know.

Besides, such company would do its best to stay discrete, by design.

I'm aware of one such company that uses Imgur like that and that deals with celebs. Imgur isn't their primary target, it's just a handy layer of abstraction away from the real target so the content can't TRULY be taken down on the target site. Plus, it shows you how many impressions you get for free. That way they can gather up their campaign image urls and views at the end of the contract and show hard results without the need for a fancy, paid analytics dashboard or campaign tracking system.

It seemed crazy to me, and I didn't want to be the product, so I made https://imgz.org/. Maybe you'll like it.

Your pricing page is a delight


> Paying us money doesn't entitle you to anything except owning less money


Even the terms are great.

"Where was I"


Maybe charge $1/month for MVP sarcasm.

It looked interesting at first but now I'm confused, is this a joke project?

Yes and no.

Agreed. It's delightfully funny without going overboard, or being too cheesy like most bigger companies who try to be cheeky.

I'm signing up.

The trick is to actually not care about whether people buy your stuff! Hard to pull off when you're trying to make money, but easy for me.

While that may be true, you actually seem to have genuine talent for comedy. I'm inclined to pay for IMGZ for that reason alone, even though I may never really use it.

My favorite kind of user <3

I pay for SourceHut, not because i get a lot of value from the service, but as a way of funding Drew DeVault's crazy ranting.

It is quite great, I agree.

But in all seriousness, so you have an actual privacy policy and such? I like the pricing and do have images I need to host!

No, unfortunately not. I can give you an informal one, that I will not sell/give away/etc your data, won't track you, etc. I also only use CloudFlare, so your data only goes through them.

If your site ever get hacked, we will never know if its your sarcasm OR it is truly hacked :)

Browsing imgz felt like watching a fun movie, I love the architecture too ( ... we dont have this...LOL )

BTW, I am (Maybe I should say WE are) also building a image hosting service. https://host.pics (Pre-Alpha)

Haha, thank you!

Now pay.

You sir, gave me a good laugh. Kudos.

I would have giggled slightly more if you had "MOST POPULAR" instead of "OUR CHOICE" on the "BUY THE SITE" option.

The fact that "Our Choice" is also definitely true though made me laugh a second time.

> The server doesn't have that much space don't get this

Oh Em Eff Gee xD xD xD

This website is great, I have no use for an image sharing site but in tempted to sign up just to help see it become successful. And behind all the humor there is actually a very sensible concept: pay a reasonable amount of money to get an actual service and not some ad infested crap. Also I love

> If you're expecting professionalism, call Oracle and ask for a quote of Oracle Advanced Image Sharing for Hadoop or whatever crap they sell

I'm dying. It is a gift that keeps on giving. The blog has me in tears.

That architecture.


Cloudflare Free Caching, T2, the only thing we have and it is not even on AWS.

This is one of the greatest pieces of website comedy I have ever seen.

> Let's talk money. As you may have noticed from the subtle but effective messaging, this service isn't free. That's because we want to avoid having to sell photos of your vagina to shady Russian oligarchs to pay for our servers and cocaine.

You weren't kidding. Amazing.

Thanks! Check out the blog, we're innovating.

Your architecture page is an inspiration to me.

Would you like a job maintaining our Hadoop cluster? We pay per node.

I would make you guys sooo distributed.

The meme marketing is funny, but the meme license is less so. Would you consider using a more well-known and established license? The Parity license looks like Open Source/Free Software, but it also looks very vague and difficult to interpret, and has not been evaluated by the OSI or FSF, which makes it needlessly difficult to comply with, or to do things like make packages or contributions or derivative works. If you want copyleft, consider the GPL family, or MPL?

I didn't mean it as a meme license, but I might change it to something like the GPL 3 or AGPL, thanks!


We feel personally attacked at our startup by some of the stuff you wrote on your blog especially the thing about writing in plural

I love your marketing patter! Cracking up reading some of this.

If I end up stealing your style for something, I owe you a beer.

If you steal my style, I'm coming for you.

Great! Now I don't have to worry about how I'm getting that beer to you.

> We have CDNs and Rust and all that fast crap.

Lol! Haven't used the service, but the website is fun.

The marketing style reminds me of the people offering to pirate their VST Plugins right form their web-site if you don't want to pay.

The plugins and the web-site are also crazy as shit! Take a look:


I love this. The "steal" button is inspired, wow.

In case you didn't see it: They explain the reasoning behind the "steal button" in the FAQ and on the About page.

I saw that, I love their reasoning.

True art. Like your project! :-)

Love stuff like that. Thanks again for making me smile. I appreciate that.

This is fucking cool!

I emailed one of them 12 years and 4 months ago to ask how they paid for everything. This was back in 2009 when the internet was still small enough that companies would respond to random emails. They responded to say they had funding covered. They shut down a few years later.

The domain is there, but it just says "ImageHost.org is closed" with a Google Analytics tag.

> But I always wondered how any of these random image hosts afforded bandwidth ... reminds of the other various ones like TwitPic who was saved from being taken offline by Twitter

Image hosting is relatively cheap, so you can have good margins if you can get a lot of use and fill the ad inventory. The way you do it, is by running as thin of an operation as possible.

When the first wave of one-click image hosts were popping up back in 2004-2005 roughly, I noticed one called ImageVenue. The founder, Vlad, was out of Eastern Europe somewhere. I emailed him and bought advertising, the price was right and he had a lot of impressions to fill. Back then he was just buying tons of $40/month dedicated servers from one specific host, using a img7.imagevenue.com scheme for each machine, and filling up the boxes. You can still use ImageVenue.com 17 years later, even though the traffic for the service has never been what it was during the early peak years (tons of image hosting competition swamped the market). I had a running dialogue with Vlad across about a year, he also mentioned in discussing Ajax (early popularity days for Ajax) use at the time, that he wasn't familiar with it and was "only really good with C++ and PHP". So I assume some of it was built in PHP. He was managing ads in-house, where he handled each sale by email, negotiating impressions and duration each month.

And regarding TwitPic, circa 2010: "TwitPic is generating $1.5 to $2 million in ad sales on an annual basis, with 70% profit margins, says its founder Noah Everett"


Now that's a name I haven't heard in a while. Yes, funny story, Twitter at that time was threatening to cut off our API access due to us trying to trademark "Twitpic". We had been in the process of trying to trademark our name for many years prior. Our initial application hit tons of hurdles with other Twit* marks (my fault for filing late). Fast forward about 4 years after we'd finally worked through all the issues which required us to file a whole new trademark application and this one ran afoul (pun intended) of Twitter's legal. I assume that in 2009'ish when we originally filed, Twitter either didn't care then or we weren't big enough to be a threat, but I guess that changed in 2014.

Long story long, I basically ended up giving Twitpic to Twitter (I wanted the photos to live on). We were already feeling the squeeze from their own native image feature plus some other compounding events like Google Adsense banning us out-of-the-blue with no recourse that really affected our margins [Hey Google, you still owe us $100k+ ;)].

It was one of the best, most educating times of my life. Just thankful I had that opportunity to run Twitpic for those years, God blessed me.

The End.

P.S. I'm still tinkering https://ark.fm

Thanks for popping on. A legendary time back then. And ultimately I'm glad that Twitter kept the photos living on as preservation is so important. But man, any insights into the bandwidth imgur must incur to maintain things? They are similar in that for a time they were the defacto image host capability for reddit before reddit rolled its own.

I imagine Imgur now is many times bigger than we were. If I remember correctly around 2009/2010 our Amazon rep said Twitpic accounted for about 1% of data stored in S3 at that time and I think our cost was around $100k/month. We eventually got that down to $60k'ish when they gave us "special" pricing and later on we put bare-metal caching servers in front of it to store/serve hot images which further decreased it.

Disclaimer: Hopefully I'm remembering correctly, it's been a while!

I don't think it's a big mystery. Bandwidth and ad revenue scale together. Sometimes the image will be embedded, hot linked or the request is otherwise not monetizable, but you can assume that those are a fixed fraction. Every image clicked on otherwise will generate some ad revenue which is multiples of the bandwidth cost of serving it.

Anecdotal and I can't substantiate any of this. About 5 years ago my old boss's wife worked for imgur and it did not sound great. They had constant churn. She was an upper manager of some sort and even she left after a short time. From what I understood, the company was not profitable and like many other tech companies relied heavily on investor.

I seriously doubt their community can sustain the costs of the service. In fact, the quality of imgur's service has declined in an effort to make profit. For instance, all images are compressed now. That used to not be true.

Most platforms you are using today cannot survive without ad's, because their business model is not one that can make a profit without a monopoly first.

You can shop around for bandwidth even if you're a small shop. I run https://filepost.io. It lets you share large files and images. It is profitable with ads alone.

took a look at it, nicely implemented resumable uploads/downloads... very smooth.

i notice youre using cloudflare to deliver the files on the download side, and im guessing you are taking advantage of bandwidth alliance so ingress/egress are basically free - i always thought the biggest cost for something like this would be the storage, eg if you are letting people send unlimited <5GB files for free, and each of those last for 10 days on what im assuming is some kind of object storage/s3-like thing, surely you are paying a fortune in $/GB/month, even if its pro-rated to 1/3 the amount since the files only live 1/3 a month?

I think there's a cost to taking money from thousands of people vs taking the money from an investor or advertiser.

First off there is tax compliance, if you want to be global it will cost a lot for accountants and lawyers that understand how this should work "anywhere" in the world.

Second, I know some people that will just cancel credit cards because they don't want to make the next recurring payment for a service. Coming after these people is not worth the effort but hurts the bottom line.

Third, you need to hire employees to look after customer accounts and billing if there are any questions.

I think there's other reasons and I know payment processors like Stripe and Square are attempting to make this seamless, but I'm guessing a single source of funding is still desirable.

Bandwidth is pretty cheap if you look beyond cloud. There are providers that offer magnitudes cheaper bandwidth than e.g. AWS but you have to set servers yourself.

If I request one of the images in the post, I end up on a Fastly IP, and their public pricing[1] is pretty much the same price per GB as AWS[2]. They probably get a discount there, but that's probably about the same deal if you're a big AWS customer.

[1]: https://www.fastly.com/pricing/ [2]: https://aws.amazon.com/s3/pricing/?nc1=h_ls

absolutely not. I don't use fastly, but i pay 1/10th the rate of AWS and co.

Scaleway, OVH will get you that, but at a larger scale just rent bare metal.

At their scale, nothing is cheap. Some things are cheaper than others, but even the cheapest option must be costing a fortune each month.

Right, it's the scale and seemingly limitless ceiling.... seems crazy. Obviously there's a lot of low res tiny images on there etc but there's also not -- and for years and years?

I remember back around 2009(?) ish I had a chance to talk to some folks at Justin.tv (now twitch) and they said one ad on the stream every few hours more than covers all the costs. What changed?

I guess the videos are much more high resolution now than the webcam size 320x240 videos back then but has cost gone up that much?

Ads are worth a magnitude less today than they were in 2009.

What? They're crazy competitive these days. Every popular ad space online has been bought by the highest bidder. AdWords, Facebook, Imgur, Reddit, companies are dumping cash like mad. The market grew by billions over the past decade.

The ad market basically bifurcated. It's a land of the haves and have nots

The big ad platforms like Facebook and Google have thrived, of course. And as platforms like Snapchat have aged they've gradually improved the rates they're getting for their ad space (a typical process).

The scale of online advertising today isn't because the industry's median or average CPMs went up 100 fold. The volume went up dramatically over the last 10-15 years with the traffic for the big services. The big advertisers brought billion dollar ad budgets online and handed them to Facebook, not to one-click image hosts.

Your typical one-click image host is not going to command better ad rates today vs 15 years ago. It's a worse context than it was back then, actually. Back then advertisers were relatively stupid when it came to online advertising, today they're a lot more sophisticated, and a lot more strict about where they place ads (eg porn on one-click image hosts is a big problem for advertisers). The big, rich platforms like Facebook eat a large share of the high paying advertising. What's left for something like a one-click image host, is very, very low paying ads that you have to run a trillion of to make money.

I used to work for a company in a niche industry that used to clear 7 figures a year using the online platform I put together back in its heyday. And while traffic isn't quite as good as it used to be, it's still at about 70%. Their ad revenue is today about 1/8th of what they were making back in 2011-2015ish, and they basically have zero dedicated staff to the platform. I just do some maintenance and bug fixes for them every month.

Sorry, was confusing.

Ads cost a lot more. People who rent space get a lot less.

But you need to consider that so have hosting costs-- proportionately too. Hosting data was incredibly expensive 10 years ago. If the math was working then, it should at least be pretty close to working now.

For some segments that's true. Image hosting wasn't incredibly expensive 10 years ago. It was very much on the lighter side in cost compared to MegaUpload or YouTube type services.

Image file sizes increasing dramatically as smartphones started producing photo sizes that would have been considered massive 15 years ago, saturated much of the gains in cost to hardware.

It's easier to run a one-click image host (like the early Imgur) as a solo operator today versus back then. It's not much cheaper when you account for the larger image files (unless you severely limit the file size, which won't be a popular choice with users, most of which just blast four billion smartphone photos, don't think much about image sizes, and want to upload them as is without thinking about any of that).

Bandwidth is a heck of a lot cheaper these days (I remember a previous employer paying $10k/mo for a 100MB circuit in San Francisco 10ish years ago). That said while the prices are much lower, people are realizing that not all bandwidth is created equal, e.g to get good connectivity to some regions can still be ludicrously expensive, for example if you want to deliver to Singapore, Australia, etc, or say you wait to get content from the USA to South America with reasonable reliability and low latency.

I think a lot of tech companies meet the fate where they get diminishing returns on growth and have to keep hiring and spending a lot of cash to chase smaller and smaller gains. Bandwidth is expensive but having thousands of highly compensated employees is also very expensive, probably more so.

Where have you had success with hosting outside the usual aws/gap/etc? It seems like digital ocean has a bit cheaper bandwidth, but curious if you have a better recommendation!

Anywhere you rent bare metal. Cloud hosting providers always had the worst bandwidth prices, I'm not joking.

Buy a server or 10, host in equinix, buy bulk bandwidth. Amortize cost.

My preferred server provider would set you up with a linux machine with SSD with 20TB of transfer on a gigabit port for $130/month and another 100TB on a gigabit port for $79/month

DataPacket has a lot of locations globally (compared to Hetzner), though you're going to need to spend more than a few dollars to get started.

Not only to get started. What costs me €20 on hetzner costs me $800 on DataPacket.

That’s quite a difference.

Right, it's not a 'side project' type of vendor, more of an Imgur scale vendor. I love Hetzner, I just wish they had more locations than Germany and Finland, which are practically the same in terms of latency if you/your users are from Asia or the Americas.

Hetzner or OVH.


A couple of friends of mine are the co-founders of one of the big gif sharing sites. I've heard some pretty interesting, and very funny, stories about the sticker shock on S3 as they grew. But it sounds like Amazon has been fairly flexible and provided some decent leeway with respect to giving grace periods as investment rounds closed.

Imgur for a while had a hugely active Imgur base AFAIK. Folks who just went on Imgur, did things on Imgur, and added to Imgur. That was a meta layer on top of Reddit. The issue was most of those people wouldn’t pay for Imgur storage, and didn’t view Imgur ads

Their community now though not the size of reddit would be comparable to something like 9gag or ifunny, arguably larger. It's become it's own thing separate from reddit now.

Storage is dirt cheap these days.

Interesting company. It was created in 2018 [1], and the CEO is Michael Heyward, who was a co-founder of Whisper. Some interesting shuffling happened with Whisper [2] and it's now owned by MediaLab. Since then they have acquired a number of other properties, the general idea seems to buy declining brands for cheap and extract as much value as possible on mobile. [3] There is no public information on their funding.

1. https://businesssearch.sos.ca.gov/CBS/SearchResults?SearchTy...

2. https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-whisper...

3. https://www.assemblyexchange.com/about-us - their job ads feature this ad network prominently.

The whisper founders threatened to default on the debt they raised from SVB, then used inside money to buy it at cents on the dollar. because debt is senior to equity, they then wiped out the equity raised and kicked sequoia, shasta, and lightspeed off the board. then raised PE to fund a series of purchases of apps such as kik, and a lot of android apps with churned users with always-on location permissions turned on. They then used that data to build a small ad network.

Buying Kik alone is a really shady move. By now it's famous for being a porn exchange with no enforcement. Darknet Diaries has a long episode about it. I now remember where I heard from Medialab before.

Source? Because if true this is pretty baller move but also a big f.u to VCs

I think they are the source. Whatever happened, it was interesting, and seems to have been effectively buried. There are only a few interesting breadcrumbs, like this patent's assignment history: https://patents.google.com/patent/US9075812B1/en

Note the re-assignments in mid-2018.

Holy shit. That's a mafia move against VC.

Pretty much guarantees that these folks will never raise another round from anyone ever again, though.

Way to burn bridges...

Darknet Diaries episode on Kik messenger has some background on Medianet https://darknetdiaries.com/episode/93/

Hm. My bet would be that you can now count the number of years until imgur links go dead on one hand.

This prompted me to check whether there were any backup efforts already, and how much data that would involve. Indeed, archiveteam has some good info: https://wiki.archiveteam.org/index.php/Imgur

> Imgur serves a massive amount of traffic. In 2012 alone, 42 petabytes of data were transferred. Fortunately, the amount of images uploaded is much less, albeit still a lot. In 2012, around 300,000,000 images were uploaded; assuming an average size of 120KB, that's 36TB in one year. As of 2014, there were 650 million images with 1.5 million being added each day according to one source. An analysis in 2015 based on extrapolation from a sample of random image IDs estimated about 2 billion images with a total raw full-resolution image size of 376 TiB.

Also makes me think about whether/how much I currently link to imgur in various places on the internet, and whether there's anything that I should prepare to replace. Do people have suggestions how to best approach this?

Huh, all of Imgur costs only +/- $2000/month to store on Backblaze.

That’s not that bad.

Storage is cheap. Bandwidth is usually the killer.

Chuck it behind Cloudflare and take advantage of the Bandwidth Alliance


If you become popular replace the orange cloud with a Worker. Different TOS and the CEO said it's cool to use workers in this way https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20791660

Based on IPs and whois, imgur uses fastly.

If you're a Tier 1, then bandwidth is free by definition.

I would change any links you have pointing to Imgur. But as for storing the contents, wasn’t it just a site for memes? I can’t recall a single time over many years seeing anything worth preserving that wasn’t essentially throwaway content.

Well, one (semi-)frequent use case for me would be creating some graphic (e.g. a chart or a UI suggestion) that I would share in some community (e.g. forum). Unlikely anyone looks at them again a decade later, but those embeds will still rot away...

That is an incredibly narrow view of what imgur is used for. Over on the Something Awful forums there is a _ton_ of amazing content with all of the images hosted on Imgur. Stuff like woodworking and other craft blogs, video game playthroughs, collection photographs, musical instruments... I'm sure many other online communities use it for the same purpose. When imgur dies (this announcement is a very loud death knell) it's going to be a huge, huge loss.

Tons of amazing one-off blog posts told with images as the focus has been posted through Imgur.

Things like “how I renovated my house” or “how the circuitry of this gadget works” told through pictures with supporting texts lives solely on Imgur.

Wow if you’re running your own servers that’s less than $5000

If you don’t mind how did you arrive at this figure? It’s $5000 per month right

80 TB racks run for around $1500 each. So just a one time payment of $5000. Not every month.

It's possible to create a 400 TiB storage server for $5000?

Hi like imgbb.com. A lot less flashy too.

Medialab's other things include like, Genius (ok, fair enough, sustains itself / useful/ well-used I'm assuming)....and Kik? The teen messaging app from like 2010 that no one uses anymore? hm

Had to look a bit harder to even find their website (https://www.medialab.la/) - 'a holding company of consumer internet brands' heh, sheesh, yeah that's not sketchy.

>Had to look a bit harder to even find their website (https://www.medialab.la/) - 'a holding company of consumer internet brands' heh, sheesh, yeah that's not sketchy.

I find it curious that there's no page about who owns/runs MediaLab. Not even a single blurb about their executives/management!

To save others looking it up: `.la` is the ccTLD of Laos. They're using it here to mean "Los Angeles", of course, but I hadn't seen that one before :)

So are they Chinese or Japanese?

Edit: To anyone who doesn't get the joke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_CaZ4EAexQ

According to their public Statement of Information (https://businesssearch.sos.ca.gov/Document/RetrievePDF?Id=04...), the CEO of MediaLab.AI Inc is Michael Heyward, the co-founder of Whisper.

MediaLab probably got Kik at a pretty big discount. There were child grooming issues, and at one point they did an ICO and subsequently got fined by the SEC.

They were also indirectly responsible for the whole leftpad disaster lol.

Are you talking about NPM leftpad that broke Node? Is there any place where I can read more about this claim?

> Kik? The teen messaging app from like 2010 that no one uses anymore?

I use to think the same thing, until I listened to this episode of Darknet Diaries:


After reading this, it's clear everybody knows (multiple legal challenges, involvement by MS...) and nobody with actual power wants to crack down on it. Safe haven or not, when authorities want to destroy a sketchy business, they have a number of weapons at their disposal. To me, it all suggests Kik (and by extension, possibly, Medialab) might well be some sort of law-enforcement front at this point.

1/3 American Teenagers use the app according to Kik... I have a feeling they're not counting right because that doesn't sound right to me.

>Kik? The teen messaging app from like 2010 that no one uses anymore?

It's not "none uses anymore" anymore, it's widely used for nefarious and degenerate sexual solicitation and shit like that.

Hey, before you judge them, note that their stated goal is: "to enrich and empower consumers in their everyday lives...through expansion and acquisitions."

All I can think of is that silicon valley tech disrupt bit. "We're making the world a better place...through paxos algorithms for consensus protocols."

oh the Genius acquisition was also (announced) today?! wow someone just went shopping eh?

Edit: Sorry missed that was news from the 16th:


Just a note, we're getting close to fiscal year end (9/30) for a lot of companies. Maybe totally anecdotal but I've noticed in the past that I see a lot of these kinds of announcements this time of year presumably to get these done before the next fiscal year.

Kik's the website that had a serious child porn and child sexual solicitation problem. I think they've tried to do something about that in the last couple of years but from a quick Google search it's not clear it's really worked.

It's probably worth a lot more as a honeypot than it was before.

The fact that Imgur doesn't care to link to Medialab in their statement makes it even more sketchy.

Normal procedure seems to be that each company links to the other companys statement on the deal.

Also, are we sure they're not "joining Medialab", most Silicon Vally type companies always state that their joining some other company. Not Imgur, nope straight up acquired, which is at least honest.

Wasn't this the company that ostensibly began on reddit? Their founder used to post many promises about "not selling out" and the rest.

It literally began on reddit. I remember reading the thread. The founder (of imgur) was sick of all the bullshit that other hosting sites did. Like not just serving the image. But instead forcing logins, and landing pages etc.

I remember the writing was on the wall when someone said, making fun of "imgurians" as people who thought of imgur as "a site to go to" and not just an image host for reddit. It keeps getting more and more user hostile with dark patterns etc. The other day I tried to just go to my page of image uploads on mobile and flat out could not. The site would not let me even though I know the exact url.

It was sad, if inevitable to watch imgur become the exact same garbage site it was trying to replace.

Time to download my stuff I guess.

Yes, and they have since cut out all references to Reddit, even in their company history section.



I'm sure there's good reasons for this. but I'd be curious for details.

I wonder if Reddit would be what it is today without imgur. I started using Reddit shortly before imgur launched, and I can still remember the day that it went live. It was by far the best image uploading experience I'd ever had, and I'd used most (maybe every) major uploader that came before them, between 1995 and 2009.

> I wonder if Reddit would be what it is today without imgur.

It would probably be different, but not worse or better. I was there when Imgur launched, and at the time we thanked Imgur for dealing with the crap of hosting images (checking for child porn, dealing with DMCA notices and other copyright and privacy issues, etc). Had they not existed, reddit would have just done that ourselves.

Eventually reddit did do that themselves, but by then Imgur had their own community. I suspect some of those people would still be on reddit.

Imgur was to Reddit as PayPal was to eBay.

My favorite part is that they added 'social' stuff to imgur uploads, so your images (probably) have a separate set of terrible comments you're not even aware of.

To be fair, the Imgur comments are actually pretty funny

Imgur comments have the old twitter length limit, 140 characters.

watch they weren't even hosting the files, it just backpages to twitter posts

even worse!

They began on Reddit because Reddit was incapable of handling image uploads.

IIRC at the time imgur launched, all of the other free image sharing websites were pretty bad. Reddit itself didn't start allowing uploads until long after imgur.

Correct. ImageShack was the most widely used host on reddit and had recently disabled hotlinking (after nearly a year of ad bloat on their main site) so user MrGrim on reddit created Imgur and announced it on Reddit 12 years ago:


He did an AMA 3 years later: https://old.reddit.com//r/IAmA/comments/y81ju/i_created_imgu...

Holy crap, I have not thought about imageshack for a decade. It was hot garbage: slow, ad ridden and if I recall correctly they would disable your hotlinked images if they used too much bandwidth. Imgur was something of a godsend at the time. Now it's commodity unfortunately.

I remember when ImageShack was the best of all the bad options. TinyPic and PhotoBucket were super slow, and I remember popular forums back then either didn’t support image uploads, or they were even slower to load than external hosts. So much internet history has been lost to “this image has exceeded its bandwidth limit” placeholders from PhotoBucket and TinyPic.

Imgur really did change everything.

The disabled hotlink images are the only reason I know imageshack exists. How’s that for marketing?

And now Imgur has disabled hotlinking. Depending on device and/or image.

And has an interstitial ad to wait through before upload. I don't think even ImageShack thought of that one

It was one specific date which imageshack decided to essentially ban all images being linked on Reddit. Imgur filled the void and grew via their own social.

Here's a data analysis I made years ago on how Reddit native image uploads overtook Imgur uploads: https://minimaxir.com/2017/06/imgur-decline/

IMO all the other free image sharing websites are still bad, i've yet to see anything that lets you -e.g.- make direct links to the images for use in Discord, Reddit, forums (phpbb), etc and not surround them with garbage and images tend to stay around for a long time unlike other places where they disappear after a while.

The only thing i found annoying with Imgur is the mobile site not allowing zooming for some reason (can be bypassed by loading the desktop version but it is still an annoyance).

Not sure if this will still be the case going forward though. I used to like Minus since they allowed all that stuff plus had unlimited GIF sizes and didn't reencode PNGs to JPGs (not sure if Imgur does that anymore) but after Minus was sold it went to hell and then disappeared completely.

Who’s paying if there are no ads?

> They began on Reddit because Reddit was incapable of handling image uploads.

I'd argue they largely still are incapable of handling image uploads. Their gallery system sucks and the redesign just makes it harder to even see what was posted.

It's not just a poor design. old.reddit.com currently has what ought to be considered a show-stopping functional bug: every gallery post (that is, every post with multiple images) has its URL replaced with the empty string, causing it to render as a purple link that goes nowhere. If you instead click the little "comments" link, the post loads as normal.

This has been reported to the admins dozens of times since it first started happening about 3 months ago, and so far the only response is "we're looking into it". I'm not sure which possibility is more damning: the idea that they're incapable of fixing such an obvious regression, or that they literally don't care because they're trying to irritate everybody enough to switch to the newer, uglier version of the site.


That 'empty string/purple link' issue still happens to me even on NewReddit. I can find old Galleries that work just fine on both, it's so weird.

Interesting, I hadn't seen it reported on the new version before. I spend more time than I ought to browsing Reddit, and I literally haven't seen a single correctly-working gallery post on any subreddit in months.

And their video player is even worse!

The image uploading fails most of the time for me.

Reddit forwards /r/imgur to /r/drugs

No it doesn't. If you mean reddit.com/imgur, that's the ID from a random post in /r/Drugs. Reddit automatically expands the post ID to the original thread.

Fake news.

"Selling" and "selling out" are not (always) the same thing.

My dad worked in M&A for a long time and handled the sale of a plastic molding company where the owner was getting quite old and couldn't really run the business anymore. The company was extremely well established and had a very strong and loyal customer base and ran off a single manufacturing facility in a small town out in the boonies. The owner certainly wanted a fair value for the company but he also strongly desired that the plant be kept open and employees retain their positions. Adding this sort of a restriction on a company you're selling is possible - but it is hellishly expensive, generally you're considering adding some sort of third party oversight and auditing for all HR actions and business decisions. If you buy a company under these terms you can end up utterly destroying the company if supply chains shift - the local labour pool is unsustainable or a plethora of other reasons... And almost certainly this burden is mandatorily bundled with the company - so once you've rode the company value down a bit and are looking to get out all of the buyers will know how much of an impossible situation that company is in.

At the end of the day when you sell a company you are divorcing yourself from the future direction - you might be invited to stay on as an executive - and the new owners might listen to you... or they might not - that's entirely up to them. Any promises or commitments you've made as an executive are only as good as your word - and when you sell your company your word stops having any power (because you sold that power).

I would never shame someone who wanted to keep an ideal going from making an exit they personally need to make - always prioritize your health and happiness over any venture - but when you sell you're accepting the fact that at any moment the buyer may completely reverse the direction of the company.

  > Any promises or commitments you've made as an executive are only as good as your word - and when you sell your company your word stops having any power (because you sold that power).
one option i don't see discussed a lot is selling to your employees (converting to a coop, full esop etc)

I think this mostly goes against the idea that the owner wanted to exit with significant value in most cases. Companies (even small ones) can easily accrue a lot of value just reinvesting earnings over a moderate amount of time which is likely going to be out of reach of an employee collective or other local funding source.

For the company I was talking about above it definitely didn't have a local or particularly regular customer base - they were well known as a market leader but the sort of thing you might buy every few years at most.

As an employee, I don't think I'd ever want this.

Can you think of a notable example when they weren’t?

Anything bought by Microsoft in the past 10 years. Minecraft, Github, LinkedIn, all are better products today than they were at the time of sale.

You only just got under the wire with that 10-year cutoff; MS purchased Skype in May 2011.

> Minecraft

Take it back!

Seriously though, I remember MC before it was a kids game. It was already becoming one by the time Microsoft bought it, but since then almost every update has been gimmicks for kids. The world generation is still ridiculous (jungles next to arctics), the weather patterns are binary (hard rain, or nothing), and proximity chat is practically impossible.

They've made a lot of money off making it into a kids game, but I personally haven't been delighted by any updates since they took it over.

If it's any consolation, there are really good mods for proximity voice chat and jungles next to arctics is being fixed in the next major update.

I don’t quite agree that every update has been gimmicks for kids - I can’t really point to a “childish” new mechanic added. Maybe your perception of the game has changed?

Not sure if this goes for LinkedIn, but I agree with the others.

Sounds like the attention of those properties' users is worth more in some other metric than the maintenance/improvements cost in engineer time. I wonder what.

Minecraft drives actual profits on consoles - you have to subscribe to play with your friends. Some of these consoles (XBox) are even directly owned by MS.

Github is a massive piece in the developer ecosystem. It drives adoption of other MS products that can integrate with it, and generates a lot of goodwill towards MS.

LinkedIn, eh, that's probably the weakest property. On the other hand, it's massive in the enterprise space - again lots of goodwill, this time from "suits", and maybe some cool metrics about hiring.

Linkedin has premium account tiers for recruiters. Now I haven't seen any of the numbers, but the business model does pass the sniff test.

facebook, zuck took all the investor money but maintained all the control.

stackoverflow? I mean, there still are many people.

I think it’s still too early to judge the SO purchase, but I agree that it hasn’t been a problem so far.

I'll spend two seconds looking it up, but IIRC the founder said he wouldn't sell out "unless they offer like a million dollars".

Edit: Looks like it was in the original FAQ.

> Can I advertise on imgur?

> Hell no! This is a free site (as in beer) and there will never be any ads on it unless I end up selling out for a million dollars.


everyone sells out eventually. nothing wrong with it. either that or they run it into the ground or die.

people move on that's just life. congrats to the imgur team and good luck for their next adventures.

Not everyone, but it’s definitely rare. Feels good to believe that everyone sells out though when you’re in the process of selling out.

You don't need to sell out if you can create a service or product that people are willing to pay money for - even indirectly. Granted, this is certainly a difficult feat to pull on a free image hosting site.

Hmm, as far as I can see you either sell out, or get sold out to. The last one seems like a viable option?

That was before Reddit added image functionality which basically was a fuck you to imgur. I’m surprised the site has lasted this long without selling.

Ah, yeah, after the previous host was taken over. We all saw that for the lie it was after they took outside investment of course.

Imgur should have sold to Reddit a long time ago. Not being able to work out a deal was lose-lose for both companies.

Yes. Though it did seem genuinely well meaning at the time. Reddit was pretty shit pre imgur pictures wise.

Interesting, I hadn't heard of MediaLab until just a few days ago when I listened to a Darknet Diaries episode[1] about Kik and some "content problems" that MediaLab are leaving unresolved.

[1] https://darknetdiaries.com/episode/93/

I thought exactly the same.

It doesn't bode well for Imgur future. They don't care about their acquisition. It's to wonder why are they doing it in the first place.

The company doesn't have any public information either. All I can find is a LONG list of job openings: https://jobs.lever.co/medialab

Weird list if they are just "investors".

That exactly the first thought that came to my mind as well. RIP Imgur? It doesn't seem like medialab is anything more than the 'internet brand' version of a patent troll.

Medialab has now acquired Kik (2019), Imgur (2021), Genius (2021)...

Big spree of acquisitions! Anyone have any idea the goal?

To buy old, dilapidated tech/media brands that no longer have any ability to get pay out investors (who are happy to sell on the cheap for a write-off), but still get some level of traffic. Bundle all the traffic together to sell ads across a network of sites with the hopes of profiting.

It’s a strategy as old as time. Sometimes it works (IAC, is arguably a good example of a company who has bought or funded companies at various stages of distress/hype (and incubated some that are very successful in their own right, like Match Group) and managed to get goodish CPMs across the sites they bundle together), most of the time it doesn’t. But the goal is to acquire the brand/traffic, cut costs to the bone, and attempt to profit off the traffic by selling ads or user data or whatever. It’s a rollup play and the goal is definitely not to invest back into the companies themselves any more than they need to run.

Most of this is dead on but I've been in the middle of this type of deal and "happy to sell" wouldn't be an accurate description of the investors. Having some % of failures is built into the VC model but they'd still much rather have gotten their capital back.

Also, this reminds me of Computer Associates' (later CA Technologies) business model: buy enterprise software companies with locked-in customers, fire staff and cut costs as far as possible, and increase maintenance fees, all with the understanding the the business will deteriorate over time. I think here the equivalent of "increase maintenance fees" may be "load up the product with even more ads".

To be the biggest media company of 2014.

Yeah to be an ad network like everything else

Based on this episode of Darknet Diaries: https://darknetdiaries.com/episode/93/ It sounds like they buy up dead/dying online properties, fire basically everyone, put the service on life support to keep it barely functioning, milk all the money they can from the remaining users as the service goes to shit, buy something else.

To become the next Yahoo.

As a side note I find it amusing how the HN community simultaneously obsesses over startups, equity, funding rounds, etc but gets grumpy when a company actually does sell. The cognitive dissonance is sublime.

HN contains enough people of different vintage and background that it would be rather more surprising if there was any subject that we all agreed on. This has nothing to do with cognitive dissonance, which is something unique to an individual, at best you could conclude that HN is able to cater to people on opposing sides of some spectra without turning into a hate fest.

I find it amusing that people think of "the HN community" as a singular mind or something

Different people respond to different things

It depends on when they sell and who too. If you create a neat startup and sell for a lot to a respectable company then it’s praised but if you sell to a sketchy company (like this) long after your prime it’s looked down on


CD would be us being uncomfortable with the conflict and possibly resolving it.


https://blog.imgur.com/2021/09/27/celebrating-imgurs-next-ch... may be a better url. At least on mobile, the gallery link fails to load. Any scrolling then redirects and rewrites history to a random post.

Well, why change a formula that leads to an exit.

Isn't this the company that aquired Kik and completely abandoned it? Pretty sure this is it. There goes Imagur...


Edit: fixed spelling mistake


Congrats to Imgur on its exit, I suppose.

Honestly, this is probably the best outcome they could hope for. I suspect their growth has stagnated and are losing mindshare in the meme economy to Reddit and Discord. Imgur was started in a very different world from today and they didn't evolve enough.

Regardless, I'm grateful to them. Imgur will always have a soft spot in my heart.

This is a tough one to make sense of - are they just getting killed by reddit on one side and tiktok on the other and cashing out? Anyone have any insight? (also anyone know the purchase price? just for fun)

They stopped being just an image host and attempted to branch out. Except the content creators just post the garbage to reddit and tiktok directly because the reach is much greater than linking to imgur from the various platforms.

it use to be my fav time waster app rather than the selfies on IG or silly politics on FB. but yea rarely use it now so I guess engagement is dropping

There is definitely a dedicated subculture there with their own rules (e.g. selfies being mercilessly down voted in usersub). Also the demographic was relatable for me as it skewed more towards older millennials.

Imgur only exists because Reddit at the time didn't have native image host but since they introduced it Imgur is in decline[0].

[0] https://minimaxir.com/2017/06/imgur-decline/

I can't share the love for Imgur: for some reason, all imgur posts, including this one, are never displayed on my mobile Firefox. Just blank screen, and that's it.

(the only addon I have is uBlock origin, and I'm too lazy to try turning it off for some random images)

Imgur was a wonderful idea, but I think they forgot to have a business plan. Imgur is absolutely terrible these days.

The Imgur community is almost completely toxic. Imgur apparently care about my privacy, but still want to share information with 1200 different "partners". It's also the most effective way of draining the battery of any device you use. Even the new M1 MacBooks will burn through battery like there's no tomorrow if you load the Imgur website in Safari, or worse any other browser.

It's not a great site and haven't been for years.

Imgur does this weird thing on mobile where it will always redirect you to some page where it can then nag you to download their app with grayouts, big buttons, and then a content feed they hope you scroll down on.

It also downloads like 6 megabytes worth of local content. Doesn't matter if you are going to the imgur page of the image, or literally the URI to the image file itself.

Holy fuck that's anoying..

http://example.com/foobar.png <- if an url looks like that, I expect a direct link to the image... not some freaky redirect to a shitty webpage with floating popups, cookie prompts and "download the app"... why do I need an app to view a fucking image?! I already have one, it's called a browser!

Ah yes, the ol' app interstitial where they hound you to download the app by interrupting whatever you were trying to do on their site. I hate websites that use these.

There is a great DarknetDiaries episode about the dark side of Medialab's Kik-Messenger.


Yes, MediaLab needs more sunshine. Kik has major issues..

Does anybody know what the acquisition price was? Or what the terms were (like how long must the founders remain on the team, etc)?

Imgur could have pivoted to becoming like Reddit faster than Reddit was able to pivot to incorporate its own image repo.

It's all user-submitted content. One was either a link or a blurb of text, the other was imagery.

There is a shitload of porn on Imgur. Is Medialab going to do the Silicon Valley Puritan investor purge on it?

An image hosting site seems like one of those applications that are easier than ever to build but impossible to monetize.

Most people who use imgur just hotlink - what's the incentive for a company to buy or start a new imgur?

Same as Imgur. The current image hosting sites suck and you know you can do better

Then it works and you need to pay the bills

10 years later you sell it and some new guy makes one

add ads to pictures... that's what everyone else is doing

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