Why is Reddit replacing Imgur?

In a surprise move this week, Reddit has started rolling out their own in-house image hosting service. This appears to be a direct move to replace the many image hosting services that have sprung up around Reddit—Imgur, in particular.

Here’s a demo of the new service, provided by Reddit:

Although their official statement for this change is to “[bring us] a more seamless experience” on Reddit, I have a feeling there’s a more practical reason behind Reddit’s change. You see, Imgur started as a humble image hosting service to meet Reddit’s image sharing needs in early 2009. Nowadays, well over half of Reddit’s popular content links to Imgur, causing Imgur to become one of the top 50 most-visited web sites on the Internet (according to Alexa).

imgur-popular-link-pct-2009-2016

(Data from Google BigQuery’s Reddit post database; a post is considered “popular” if it achieves a score of >= 100.)

Imgur has now grown into a full-fledged online community focused on image sharing, and is arguably a direct competitor to Reddit. In a sense, Imgur has gotten too big for its britches, and it’s probably too risky for Reddit to continue relying on a direct competitor for image hosting.

Combine these observations with Imgur’s recent aggressive monetization campaign—link-jacking direct image links on mobile devices to display ads, for example—and it’s really no surprise that Reddit wants an in-house image hosting service to supplant Imgur. Until Reddit makes an official statement, all we can do is speculate… but this explanation makes sense to me.

imgur-popular-link-count-2009-2016

On the bright side, Reddit seems to be growing beyond Imgur. While the number of popular Imgur links seems to have stagnated in 2015, we’re seeing more and more popular Reddit posts including self-posts, links to other sites, and even other image hosts. We’ll have to check back in a few months to see how well Reddit’s new image hosting service takes off.

What do you think? Is the writing on the wall for Imgur?

Dr. Randy Olson is a Senior Data Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, where he develops state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms with a focus on biomedical applications.

Posted in data visualization, reddit Tagged with: , ,
  • Mansgame

    And that’s why I use my flickr page when I submit photos.

    • itsameagain

      A lot of redditors will tell you that Flickr is evil and not to use it to show your photos, or at least those were the main comments I got when I did. /shrug

    • walknseason

      You’re not so brave, dude.

  • Stock in imgur is about to plummet!

  • DarthDisney

    Dont care either way.

  • Naoki Kichiemon

    Whoa there, calm your tits

  • Jason Dilworth

    Great post Randy – I hadn’t even seen the announcement from Reddit, and I think it’s a great move. Imgur’s aggression lately has had me thinking “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

  • talln45

    Wonder what brought a person with your obvious massive intelligence to comment on such a lowly article as this? Trifling with the riffraff and proletariat day is it?

  • Frank Polyn

    Hi Randal, it’s also because of the large amount of removed images coming from the subreddit /r/the_donald. It’s a pretty large subreddit and they all use sli.mg or something.

    Another factor is the use of .gifs. Before HTML5 was so common an all browsers and even mobile, the users used Imgur as their host for good od gifs but as gifv’s turned out to be a better alternative to .gif in terms of speed, compression rate and quality, then Imgur was too late to the party when they added the functionality on their website and gfycat offered a much better solution.

    So here’s two more answers to your question that you only partially answered.

    • Michael Shorts

      Imgur links are bloated with excess crap so they load slowly. Slimgur started as a light-weight alternative. Excess censorship speeds the transition.

      • Kyle

        Slimgur started as a way for /r/The_Donald mods to have a way to monetize all their traffic.

        • Randy Eaves

          Slimgur has been around long before the donald existed, it was created in response to reddit/imgur censorship of the people on fatpeoplehate. Hence the “slim”. Nice try though.

          • Kyle

            Yea, it started with r/FatPeopleHate, you’re right. (with their mods being on /r/The_Donald…)

            And btw, there wasn’t any imgur “censorship” to r/fatpeoplehate

            • Bloodlet

              No they weren’t.

            • sleaux_meaux

              yes there was.Their attacks directed at the Imgur admins that ultimately led to their ban from reddit and the creation of slimgur was a retaliation when they noticed that their popular posts kept getting deleted.

              That is censorship. Censorship that Imgur was 100% in their right to enact.

    • WWW

      The Donald might definitely be a part of it. Imgur SJWs have been censoring anti-liberal images.

    • dRu

      gifv was all over reddit well before reddituploads showoed up

  • joe

    I think most of has to do with the fact that reddit is a more common name. It is generally seen or at least heard in general media which Imgur is not. That doesn’t necessarily mean that reddit is taking over imgur or is better its just that they are two different things which are treated diferently by the population and media

  • ᅚᅚ

    Money money money.

  • itsameagain

    I think there is nothing wrong with Imgur and it has been a good companion site for a long while, but eventually money comes into it. The sites with the most traffic get the most advertisers,

    I like Imgur but I tend to use a lot of words so commenting in Imgur with such limited characters is mostly why I just host pictures there and don’t join the community..

  • Imgur is a pain to use. Shit never uploads in the order I intend and the thumbnails are too small for me to arrange pictures effectively.

  • This only makes sense for Reddit. Why give so much free to traffic to a site that competes with you. I remember reading on Reddit (about a year ago) someone saying that a friend just goes directly to Imgur to see what’s popular (and skips Reddit entirely).

    • Emre

      I used to be that guy until i discovered reddit.

      • SquidMcFishfish

        I used to be that guy until I discovered what a childish and ignorant userbase Imgur has.

        • What’s the difference to reddit then?

          • MrMcBoatFace

            you’d actually be surprised how bad it gets at Imgur even in comparison with reddit

          • Mugiwaras

            Well the default subs are pretty shitty and immature, but there are so many more mature non-default subreddits such as /r/deepthroat, /r/distension, /r/anal, /r/doublepenetration and /r/Pokemon to name a few.

            • SquidMcFishfish

              Nice meme.

              • Mugiwaras

                Cheers mate, been taking courses at The University Of Melbourne, should have my Bachelors Degree in Meming by the end of the year. Looking forwards to making a career out of shit posting.

          • They don’t own Imgur

          • OF THOUGHT

            Found the imgurian.

    • JaneGael

      If you skip Reddit you miss all the incredibly witty comments on posts. 😉 I’ve found as much content in the replies as I did in the original post. People who skip Reddit are cheating themselves.

      • Jordan Bartholme

        Same thing happens on Imgur.

    • fuzzyjambi

      I have friends who do this. I tell them that there usually are awesome comments and insights to be found in the Reddit thread, instead of the constant race of being the funniest in Imgur comments.

    • Azimi

      Yo do know that imgur was created by a reddit user, right? It was created to host pictures for reddit without all those ads and junked other image hosting site had.

      • AustO

        It’s still giving free traffic to a competitor, though. It doesn’t matter if that competitor is a reddit user.

      • Anonymous

        Imgur is full of annoying ads and shitty mobile redirects what’s your point

    • Rainb0w Dashie

      Back before Imgur had commenting and voting it was an image host made to use on Reddit

    • loldirtsheets

      that same site was created for free to serve redditors

    • Drowbert101

      Reddit actually pushes a lot of dull content, these days. The default subs have become crowded with a lot of niche groups.

    • Seren Creech

      Actually, a guy on reddit created Imgur so that others wouldn’t have to use shitty file hosting sites.

  • Ian Curtis

    OK, here comes more censorship by plebbit.

  • twr

    Malicious shadow bans for little or now reason. They’ve been treating people badly for years now.

    • dRu

      Yeah Reddit is starting to suck.

  • Imgur used to be great, kind of went downhill over the past couple years. I used to pay for a pro account, while they had them. Don’t think I’d do that again if it were offered, it’s become a little too bloaty for my likes. Still use it though lol

  • Trevor

    >While the number of popular Imgur links seems to have stagnated in 2015, we’re seeing more and more popular Reddit posts including self-posts, links to other sites, and even other image hosts.

    Could this be attributed to the US presidential race being a consistently hot topic of discussion, prompting a higher portion of links being to news sites as opposed to image hosting?

    • not really a lot of users are using http://sli.mg/ instead of imgur thanks to imgur censorship lately..

  • StuffNThingsNStuff

    Imgur’s problem is that it is knowingly and purposefully censoring Pro-Trump and Pro-Right Wing images, at the very least deleting them if they’re earmarked to show up to the public browsing their site directly

    • twr

      Anything outside the ultra liberal hive mind will draw a ban. They treat their users very badly.

    • Fairsky

      That’s neat

  • I like Imgur better than Reddit, but use & enjoy both, and have never noticed much feuding between them.

  • Jake Patten

    Hey! This was great. How are you pulling your data from reddit?

  • Nope

    Funny, I was standing by the Imgur office a couple of weeks ago and said to my husband “I wonder why Reddit hasn’t just bought Imgur yet”. I guess this is why. RIP imgur.

  • joeyoungblood

    Beta user here, been expecting this for sometime with their image and video previews it looked like they were already trying to keep traffic from going to IMGUR. Those two sites are now at war and IMGUR will need to find a new source of social media traffic or get absorbed by a bigger site (i.e. facebook and instagram).

  • Oh good. the link jacking on mobile has been a pain. I’d like to see them burn for that.

  • Matthew Lorono

    Imgur is a pain to use. They may have been taking it easy in making their UI easy because so many links are coming to them for free with limited need for navigation. Maybe this will force Imgur to improve their user experience.

  • roboboogie

    one does not simply…”discover” reddit

  • twr

    Imgur treats users like sh!t. Shadow bans for no reason with no explanations.

  • This is infuriating since imgur was initially created to serve reddit users https://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/7zlyd/my_gift_to_reddit_i_created_an_image_hosting/

    • TritoneJapan

      Infuriating? Reddit never asked for Imgur to be created; they have no obligation not to compete. To rely on a 3rd party website for so much of the Reddit’s functionality is a pretty risky gamble.

  • monk ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ

    The best thing about reddit is that it’s a containment board for the Internets retards

  • Adam Roger Kearley

    This function will never see widespread acceptance until they add paste in uploading. I try to avoid having to save burner images like screen shots etc., with imgur I can just paste in the screen shot, then share. Even for things that I like to keep permanently saved, it’s a pain to navigate to it’s location as often as I share stuff.

  • Imgur has been pain recently for my forum other image hosting needs. That’s why I created my own website which stores images on Amazon S3. It is open to public, give it a try https://imgpile.com

  • In other news, why the fuck has Imgur removed RSS support?