For perspective, that puts Imgur into the top 30 most trafficked websites in the U.S. alongside IMDb, Apple.com, Yelp, Netflix, and AOL, according Alexa’s traffic rankings. Imgur also gets about 27 million more unique visitors per month than community news sharing site Reddit. This is particularly impressive because in many ways, Imgur owes its origins to Reddit — which is where Imgur first rose to popularity and continues to be the preferred image hosting service of Reddit members today. Additionally, Imgur generates 2 billion daily image views, too.
“In the beginning, only Redditors were using [Imgur] because it was fixing a problem I was trying to solve for Reddit,” Imgur founder and CEO Alan Schaaf said in an interview with VentureBeat. He added that this particular problem was in finding a simple tool to upload and share links to images on Reddit, thus enabling people to skip the other image hosting websites that made it much more difficult for one reason or another. “But what I ended up realizing is that this isn’t just a problem for Reddit — this is a problem for the entire Internet.”
At least a portion of the recent traffic milestone achievement is courtesy of Imgur’s recently launched mobile applications for both Android and Apple’s iOS. The company told VentureBeat that Imgur is now seeing upward of 30 percent of all traffic to the site coming from mobile devices, too.
Imgur began as a image hosting service that was tailor-made for Reddit members to quickly and easily upload image files and share them across the web. It holds images for 90 days or longer, assuming people continue navigating to the page that displays it. And while Reddit drives a monstrous amount of traffic to Imgur, the site also sees plenty of referrals from other major social networks like Facebook and Twitter, too.
Yet over the past year, Imgur has devoted a lot of effort to building up its own community, who affectionately call themselves “Imgurians.” For instance, Imgur added threaded commenting, comment voting, and the submission of images directly to Imgur’s main gallery page that’s made up of the most popularly shared images from Reddit, Twitter, and other sites. Most recently, Imgur busted its ass to launch a meme-generator tool directly on the site, which has proven very successful since launching in June.
“Imgurians are creating more than 100,000 memes on Imgur per month, or about 4,000 per day,” Schaaf said. But the meme tool is far from the only thing Imgur is working on, either.
“We are developing an [animated] gif generator tool, but I don’t really want to give anything away,” Schaaf told me, declining to offer any further details on the tool or when we could expect to see it launch. One thing Imgur won’t be doing is evolving into Instagram or Twitter-owned Vine. That means there won’t be new features such as adding a lens filter effect to uploaded photos or the uploading short video clips.
“We’re definitely not adding photo filters to the site. Filters are ridiculous,” Schaaf said. (I agree with him.) “Imgur is all about images, some of which may be photos but don’t have to be.”
With Imgur’s continuing traffic growth, you’d think this would be a very good place for the company to begin seriously developing a strategy to maximize the amount of money the site generates. Yet that isn’t the case at all, Schaaf told me.
“Honestly, I could care less about business development,” he said. “As long as we continue to bring in more traffic, I’m much more concerned with building a good user experience and developing tools that will help grow the Imgur community of users.” The one caveat to that statement, Schaaf said, is that he will stop everything he’s doing and focus on ways to build out a business strategy when Imgur becomes a household name that everyone knows.
And you might be thinking, wow this company’s investors are not going to be happy when they read this quote, but again this isn’t the case. Aside from the traffic milestone, another crop of impressive Imgur numbers involves the amount of funding the company has taken, which is exactly zero since launching in 2006. The company is also profitable, and it has been since about a year after the site launched. Schaaf declined to share the specifics on what those profits are, but they are at least high enough to have moved the Imgur team from their roots in Ohio to a snazzy new San Francisco office with 10 full-time employees and three contractors/part-time workers.
But just because Imgur isn’t running out to hire a veteran advertising executive as its new SVP of business development, that doesn’t mean the company isn’t thinking about new ways to monetize. Right now, the site’s main source of revenue comes from programmatic advertising that runs on every image page, (just one ad per page). Eventually, Schaaf said he would like to shift Imgur’s major source of revenue from the traditional ad network ads to a model where Imgur sells its own sponsored ad products — in which big brands spend money to place relevant content on Imgur pages, and Imgur has much greater control over what kinds of ads get put on its site.
In addition to advertising and Imgur’s unique ad products, Imgur also generates some revenue from its pro accounts, which offer users the ability to upload higher quality images and store more content for a monthly fee. Yet this is more of a way for Imgur fans to donate to the company, Schaaf said, and not something Imgur plans to build into its business model.
Mega Man Imgur artwork via Hype_Man/Reddit