Imgur evolves into a more socially-friendly service – without alienating its loyal Redditors

imgur

Imgur has undergone a redesign, which is a rarity for a site that pushes updates less frequently than even Reddit. But if the new features are any indication of a shift in the site’s focus, it looks like Imgur is intent on becoming a fully functioning social media platform for user generated content.

In an August 2012 AMA with Imgur creator and CEO Alan Schaaf, who developed and launched the site back in Feburuary 2009 from his dorm room as a Junior at Ohio University, we got a glimpse at some of the impressive data supporting Imgur. The number of page views, duration, and bounce rate were so encouraging, it was clear the site had a shot at being more than just an uploading and hosting service. And that high rate of engagement means Imgur is an attractive asset for advertisers that can overlook the NSFW and oftentimes copyright-violating content that the site is home to. 

Here’s a quick look at some of Imgur’s analytics:

  • Visits: 205,670,059
  • Unique Visitors: 45,046,495
  • Pageviews: 2,313,286,251
  • Pages / Visit: 11.25
  • Avg. Visit Duration: 00:11:14
  • Bounce Rate: 35.31%
  • % New Visits: 17.05%

The update is subtle, and while it doesn’t overwhelmingly impact Imgur’s function, it definitely hints at the platform’s direction. Before today, Imgur was little more than an image hosting service. Auxiliary features (like the Imgur gallery) are the bells and whistles that were gradually added over time, but have never been the focus. Even the algorithm powering what images did or didn’t make it to the gallery depended on the traffic the images generated on third-party sites like Reddit.

Today that changes: When users upload images directly to Imgur, they can submit the images directly to Imgur’s coveted gallery. The updated sorting algorithm will surface the best images to the gallery’s front page based on certain variables including the number of votes the image receives from within Imgur, the number of views the image receives, and the period of time that users have interacted with the image. Imgur users can also now sort and discover new content based on the hottest, newest, and top scoring images.

Long-time Redditors know that upvotes for submitted content is as valuable as being upvoted for comments, so the comment update to Imgur will now be an extension of the way Reddit functions. In fact you’ll see the top comments that surface on the right-hand column of the home page.

imguraffeWhile it’s certainly a social turn, those closest to the matter — Redditors — seem to think Imgur won’t be staying too far from its roots. Reddit general manager Erik Martin assured me that Imgur’s motivation is different from Facebook’s and Instagram’s. Martin even pointed me to a recent image uploaded to Imgur that garnered half a million views in just a couple of days of Frank Tanabe, a Japanese American World War 1 vet. “It was just a story and image he wanted to share with the world, and Imgur and Reddit let him do that very efficiently,” says Martin. That image was taken from the Tanabe’s son’s Facebook profile and uploaded to Imgur.

Other updates today include a reputation system that award digital Imgur “medallions,” community-based commendations, and the long-awaited introduction of Imgur’s official mascot and logo, the Imguraffe. Imguraffe was born of an April Fool’s joke the team tried to play on its users, replacing the site with the image. Turns out, we all love him, and now he’s been officially added to Imgur’s branding. While the announcements reveal nothing about future iterations, according to the AMA, the next feature updates that we may be seeing from the Imgur team are mobile apps and even an e-commerce store, but no official word on their introduction yet.

The bottom line for Redditors and loyal users is that nothing about the Reddit-Imgur relationship or the site’s basic utility will change — except that now you have what’s essentially an image-only Reddit, should you choose to discover content this way. 

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