It’s been awhile since I’ve done an AMA, and figured I’m well overdue for another one. Imgur has grown and changed so much over the last couple years that it’s now a huge entertainment destination on it’s own, but it all started here on Reddit first.

Back in 2009 I was frustrated with the state of image hosting on the Internet and thought that I could do something about it, and that’s how Imgur was born. It started as a simple hosting service, but I quickly learned that running a website wasn’t so simple of a thing. To find out what to work on next, I lived off the user suggestions I was getting. Every morning I’d wake up to a new full inbox of user suggestions to go through. Those suggestions eventually led to the "popular image gallery," accounts, comments, replies, messaging, notifications, apps -- all the features that make Imgur what it is today were at one point user suggestions. I was also lucky enough to have the reddit community support Imgur with donations (thank you!).

It wasn’t long before I moved out to San Francisco to start growing Imgur as a business, and within the first month, it won TechCrunch’s Best Boostrapped Startup award (and got a second one two years later). From then on I started hiring engineers, improving the product, and focusing on the user experience. After another couple of years and growing the team to 12 people, we decided to take investment from the awesome people at Andreessen Horowitz. Since then, the small family that was the Imgur team has grown to a big family of over 60 people. We’re now in a much bigger office, and whole teams are focused on different aspects of Imgur and we're all trying to make it the best place on the Internet to discover awesome images.

The vision for Imgur has expanded a lot since the beginning. What we’re striving to do now is lift the world’s spirits for a few moments everyday. This might mean experiencing things that makes you laugh, that makes you smarter, that makes you feel supported, or that makes you feel inspired. No matter what it is, you walk away feeling better and glad you were able to escape your day to day and reconnect with humanity. Everyday I see us fulfilling this mission with the amazing stories that people share every day, and we even threw what we called Camp Imgur to celebrate that.

Some things that we’re working on now that have been challenging:

  • Scaling the infrastructure has always been a challenge. We’ve gotten really good at it over the years, but things are always evolving and changing, and unfortunately that also means we see more downtime than we’d like to. This is pretty much a function of hiring though. We need more great engineers to help us take our infrastructure to the next level. You can read more about our stack from this blog post I wrote a few years ago. Most of it is still true, except that we have new services that aren’t listed.

  • The world is moving mobile and apps are hard to build. A lot of consumer companies were caught by surprise by the shift to mobile, but it’s the real deal. It would now be insane to be a consumer company to not have an app or a mobile optimized site, and we now see more mobile traffic than desktop traffic. To account for this, we’ve had to build 3 new teams this year to focus on mobile: iOS, Android, and Mobile Web. I’m excited to say that we’ve released our apps earlier this year and they’re getting better and better, and we’re still working to improve them everyday. We now see half of all engagement on Imgur coming from mobile. But man, getting there was a big challenge and now we’re going to have to redo our whole API for the apps to scale.

I’ve learned an incredible amount of stuff over years thanks to Imgur. From running a startup, to organizing teams, to scaling MySQL to go way beyond what it was meant to do. I’ve spoken at more conferences than I can remember, and have even done a TEDx talk. Also, today is my birthday! So, please feel free to ask me anything, or give suggestions on how to make Imgur even better.

edit: proof http://imgur.com/pT3StKM

edit again: Thanks so much for all the questions! I've been answering them for almost 4 hours and it's time to get going. If anyone has anything else then feel free to PM me and I'll get back to you later.

Comments: 3966 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

imnotlegolas2893 karma

How do you feel that Imgur has spawned its own community, Imgurians, and some even detest Reddit?

/r/IgnorantImgur for examples.

MrGrim1373 karma

Imgur spawning it's own community was one of the magical moments that made me realize that Imgur is going to be big, and that I wanted to focus on it and go all in. Our mission is to lift the world’s spirits for a few moments every day, and the way we do that is through the community. In the short term, that means delivering great mobile apps, tools for creating great content, and making it easier for people to join.

Some of the most amazing things have spawned out of the Imgur community, and here's just a few: Cards for Jared, Socks Story, Random acts of kindness, Upvotes for charity, Maddie's Miracle, Sharing cool moments, Beer hero, Imgur Gets Drawn, Ridiculously Happy Marine Love Story, Finding a job, Brain surgery support, Cleaned up a river bank, sparked more cleanup, and of course Camp Imgur

I do know that lots of Imgurians are Redditors and vice versa, but not everyone is apart of both, and that's cool too.

Edit: For clarification, I have no opinion on that subreddit, but some things in it look funny, other things look dumb. I don't know really, people all have their own opinions and I don't really care if people on Imgur detest reddit, if that's the case. There are people on Reddit that detest Imgur too.

Guacamole_Water2636 karma

[9/10]I'll ask what is everyone's minds.

How do you say imgur? I need to hear it from you. Alan.

Edit: I know this question was totally googleable, I just wanted to join in.

MrGrim3378 karma

image-er

fadetoblack10041609 karma

Are you guys profitable yet? Any long-term plans to develop revenue streams that allow profitability?

Asking because I LOVE imgur. You tolerate my giant hi-res coin images without degrading the colors much, if at all, and don't cap how much bandwidth I can use. Keep it up, you guys are awesome!

Happy Birthday!

EDIT: Quick example of a toned coin with some color that I'm referring to.

MrGrim992 karma

We were bootstrapped and profitable for 5 years, so that mentality is baked into our DNA. Now that we took funding, we're focused on monetization through promoted posts.

I'm really excited about the promoted posts product too. People actually like our ads and that's incredible, because almost no one really likes ads. We pulled it off though, and the brands we're working with are seeing off the charts engagement.

edit: more info

butterNcois109 karma

We were bootstrapped and profitable for 5 years

Care to give us some insight on what models you were using prior to funding to turn in profit?

Also, optional questions with more context: I'd consider the fact that you're profitable for 5 years a pretty big deal when I read that other big sites still struggle with profit. Where would you attribute your profitability? Is it because you're focusing on submitted image content, did you do something right that others aren't? Perhaps a combination of the two?

After the time pro accounts became free until now, are you still profitable?

MrGrim206 karma

I believe back then it was because there was so little overhead aside from bandwidth. We were a really small team in a cheap office with a ton of traffic. We eventually got really good at optimizing the ads around that traffic, and the more we did that, the more people we were able to hire.

TheA41836 karma

How does it feel knowing reddit uses you to share pictures of cats and Chris Pratt?

ariebvo457 karma

How do you feel about people using Imgur to share photoshopped pictures of Nicolas Cage?

r/onetruegod

mvartan769 karma

How much of your original code from the first few months of launch still exists in production?

MrGrim1051 karma

Very very little from the first few months. About a year in I rewrote almost everything to be more scalable and used proper frameworks.

mvartan279 karma

Thanks for the reply! I'm also a developer and figured as much :p

How was the transition from working on your own to hiring engineers? Was there sufficient documentation or a scramble to get them up to speed?

How are you able to monetize reddit links when apps like the reddit app and RES just embed the image?

EDIT: also thank you for making gifv a thing. I know gfycat was starting to get popular, but by allowing it in imgur im sure you saved tons of cost as well as bringing it in the mainstream

MrGrim385 karma

That transition is hard. There's no way around it. You built up a code base that you love dearly and now other people are inside of it messing things up. You just have to get over it and realize that it's your job to create an environment where they can be successful. The shift goes from focusing on your code to focusing on your developers who are writing the code.

In regards to your monitization question, unfortunately there's no way for us to monitize the links from reddit apps and RES. I'm happy that people are using Imgur though.

teaearlgraycold59 karma

What frameworks do you guys use?

MrGrim107 karma

I shouldn't say too specifically because it would be easier to poke holes in it, but we do use PHP, MySQL, Memcached, HBase, and HAProxy on the backend. And ReactJS on the frontend.

Ppitm1763 karma

Hi Allan, What do you have to say about the recent connection between imgur and 4chan? http://www.ibtimes.com/malicious-imgur-links-launched-ddos-hack-4chan-slowing-traffic-crawl-2109941

MrGrim810 karma

That was a really strange thing that happened to us. A bug was exploited to add JavaScript to an image page, and that was used to attack 4chan. I don't have much else to say about it though really, just a bizarre situation. We fixed the bug within an hour of identifying it. If anyone ever finds a flaw in Imgur than we're very responsive to [email protected] and offer bounties.

Edit: it was 8chan instead.

erijahh499 karma

How did you come up with the name Imgur?

MrGrim1160 karma

img is the acronym for image. And ur is the acronym for your. So in some really weird way I thought it could stand for your image.

Edit: abbreviation, not acronym. TIL

imthatguy25482 karma

Did you expect imgur to be so popular?.

MrGrim779 karma

Never. Imgur started as a personal project I was doing while in college, and I just stuck with it. Eventually I knew I was onto something and that's why I got a team together and moved out to San Francisco.

Now after all this time the app is getting really popular and it's a super exciting time for us all over again.

matskuman5398 karma

What did you use for image sharing before you created Imgur?

MrGrim631 karma

ImageShack

ehmath02341 karma

Does the giraffe get medical benefits? He seems to be under a lot of stress every now and then

MrGrim543 karma

reedyboy2012277 karma

Have you ever seen something on imgur that has made you truly proud of your creation?

MrGrim403 karma

Nothing made me more proud than being among the people at camp Imgur.

There's really stuff that I see every day though. Here's just a few:

RageOverflows268 karma

Why can't we sign into Imgur using Reddit??

MrGrim373 karma

Reddit didn't let you do that when we created the signin page, and we just never went back to add it in. Surprisingly, there's very little demand for it.

Brohanwashere344 karma

Can I demand it?

MrGrim861 karma

How many pitchforks do you have?

Bear_Taco234 karma

Why was the choice to paste URLs dropped from the android official app? I have to go on the site on my phone to paste them now or take up space on my phone saving images just to reupload them.

And a more interesting question. How do you feel the internet has grown, in terms of image hosting, since imgur was created? Do you feel like, now, other hoster have to be less cluttered and more appropriated towards the core of their purpose in order to compete with imgur?

MrGrim323 karma

That's a great suggestion. I'll tell the devs now. We completely rewrote the apps, so these things weren't necessarily dropped on purpose. There's lots of little things like this that we have left to do.

In terms of the Internet, it's getting closed off. Places have their own hosting, and they have their own everything else. Companies are creating walled gardens around their properties to keep you inside.

For everyone else, you can try out the apps here: http://imgur.com/apps

MrZarq78 karma

Going to piggyback on Bear_Taco's first question. During the big app update a couple of months ago, the focus of the app seems to have turned from image hosting to image browsing, with many features that I, and I presume most redditors, frequently used, dropped. I'm talking mainly about creating and editing albums. Are there plans to reimplement them?

MrGrim73 karma

We redid the app from scratch to build it natively -- before it was just a webview. Some things haven't been built back into it. You can create albums however by uploading multiple images at one time. I'd love for you to be able to edit them too eventually.

nikol4s112 karma

Hey Alan. In the early days of imgur, what was your vision? What inspired you and made you want to set imgur apart from other image hosts at the time?

MrGrim244 karma

The vision simple, and was to just create the fastest, easiest, and most streamlined way to share images on the Internet.

I realized that no one actually wanted to put images on the Internet. That's just not something that people did. Instead, they wanted to share them with someone or a group of people -- that was the true intent. That meant that I needed to make the necessary but unwanted step of actually uploading as easy as possible, so that people could get on with their sharing.

tripacer99100 karma

Do you have a favorite subreddit?

MrGrim222 karma

iBigBoyBrian84 karma

Can I be your intern?

MrGrim129 karma

We don't have an internship program yet, but we have full time jobs available at http://imgur.com/jobs

SSJuice66 karma

How much money do you make yearly? ~

MrGrim243 karma

Unfortunately as a private company we don't give out those details publicly. Sorry about that.

Huubidi64 karma

Happy birthday! Does your success ever feel surreal to you?

MrGrim87 karma

Literally every day. I'm just a regular dude though and have a role to play in this company just like everyone else.

Mightymushroom161 karma

I was not here in the world before imgur, how has it changed the face of reddit? Did it do everything you wanted it to?

MrGrim119 karma

You're lucky you didn't have to experience the world before Imgur. That's not a world I want to live in.

It made image sharing so much easier on reddit. It was a huge pain before, so I guess now that it's easier, it did accomplish that mission.

beerchangeworld259 karma

Hi Alan,

How does imgur make money? I use RES on reddit and have always wondered (felt a little bad actually) how could imgur make any money if i was able to view only the image and not ads or anything else from imgur?

Thank you for an awesome service though!

MrGrim69 karma

Hey! Imgur makes money through advertisements, like the 300x250 ads in the sidebar, and through promoted posts.

Unfortunately though there's no way to make money on the use case you described, with RES. I'm still happy people are using Imgur though.

Vesuvius_10155 karma

Cheers for the AMA and the quick loading kittens!

What do you feel was the biggest mistake that you made throughout creating imbue then managing a growing company? I ask only to learn!

MrGrim51 karma

I should have built my team faster. It's amazing how much more you can get done with just a few more people.

Also, we're hiring! http://imgur.com/jobs Better late than never.

chintzy53 karma

Are you rich now? Do you have a dream home and if so what is something cool you have in it?

MrGrim134 karma

I'm not rich at all -- I have a salary just like everyone else at the company.

I live in San Francisco currently and the housing market is nuts out here. I have no ambitions to buy a house anytime soon.

dotisinjail52 karma

What's your favourite band?

MrGrim106 karma

The Flaming Lips

bkp2440 karma

On average how much traffic does your site see each day?

MrGrim109 karma

We have 5 billion pageviews per month.

YourNotMyDad24 karma

What is your biggest regret in the start up process?

MrGrim54 karma

Not building up my team faster. It's amazing how much more you can get done with just a few more people.

On that note, we're hiring!. And it's better late than never.

asneakydolphin17 karma

Hey Alan! Thanks for the AMA, and happy birthday!

Do you think that imgur itself is reliant on Reddit, or if imgur would survive as a popular website without the "help" of Reddit based posts?

Sera pls

MrGrim29 karma

I definitely see Imgur surviving on its own - the Imgur community is growing fast and is definitely stand alone from reddit's. At the the same time, I'm also a long time redditor and I love that I get to continue to support this community as well.

Z3R0M0N5T3R9 karma

Hello! Aspiring code junkie here. Just wanted to ask some questions about your experience with pioneering the site:

1) How did you manage your time between working on Imgur and the rest of your responsibilities?

2) when the going got tough, when that one function refused to be fixed, and when you felt like giving up and busting out your favorite time waster... How did you resist?

3) What resources would you recommend us developers, and how did they help you?

MrGrim9 karma

1) It's really hard -- no way around it. You have to pick which thing is most important to you, because inevitably you'll fall behind on something. I prioritized Imgur except during midterms and finals time.

2) I look at one step at a time and try not to get discouraged by the huge staircase that's left to clime. I've never had one single step defeat me, and just muscle through it somehow. It turns out that doing a crappy job on something is way better than not doing it at all.

3) It turns out that everything you're ever trying to do has been done before by someone else and is likely on the Internet. Get good at Google and crowd sourcing your questions. There are always people willing to help you.

Nerd_Herd426 karma

How much more independent do you think imgur will become? The majority of Reddit just uses it as a platform to share their pictures but many people use it as an independent site. Was this the initial goal or has it just grown to that?

MrGrim8 karma

The original goal was to let people share images anywhere and everywhere they wanted, and that’s still true. But it turns out a lot of people loving being able to come to one place to view all those images and talk about them, and that’s what’s happening on Imgur. We spend most of time making the Imgur experience awesome for every platform, but love that we’re able to help people share images other places too.

pregnantbaby6 karma

So speaking of mobile sites and apps, I got an iPad and I got an iPhone. I don't want any more apps. I hate apps. If I use Imgur on my IPad, it's beautiful. I hit the upload button, close out the ad for an app, choose which picture from my camera roll I want to update, and boom! I have an Imgur link for the image I want. I can't do this on an iPhone, why not? The only choice is the desktop site or an app. So if I have photos on my phone I send them to myself on Facebook so I can copy them to my iPad and repeat the whole process. What I'm saying is, technology does not make my life simpler. Can you?

MrGrim5 karma

I'm curious as to why you can't do this on your iPhone. It sounds like your iPad is loading the mobile site properly, but maybe your iPhone isn't?

Wapow5 karma

How's your day going so far?

MrGrim8 karma

Good! Thanks for asking! How's yours?

Defeat3d4 karma

Your proof shows the year 2014, why should we believe you? /s

Happy birthday!

Q: Do you get stuck browsing imgur in bed when you wake up like I do?

MrGrim9 karma

I realized that the second I posted this and had to go back and take a new picture!

I get stuck browsing it everyday. It's also hard to get work down around the office because the images are so easily distracting.

toafer3 karma

any ragrets?

MrGrim5 karma

NO RAGRETS

Everything is a learning experience.

Staburface3 karma

Have you ever had storage issues on Imgur?

MrGrim4 karma

Only in the very beginning before Imgur was on AWS and S3. Now that S3 is our storage backend we've never had any issues with storage.

superproduceraj3 karma

Why the F was Imgur down a few days ago???

MrGrim2 karma

Sorry about that. We work really hard to make sure it's as reliable as possible, but we have a ways to go. Need to hire more engineers.

knobtviker1 karma

Why don't you provide a free API?