I'm Alan, and I created Imgur. AMA!
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.