Imgur was purchased by the owner of Kik, Genius and WorldStarHipHop
Popular image-sharing site Imgur was acquired by MediaLab, a Santa Monica-based company that describes itself as a “holding company for consumer Internet brands.” The company owns a number of B-list technology and internet services, including Kik and Whisper messaging apps, Genius speech annotator, and WorldStarHipHop viral video aggregator.
Imgur, which currently claims some 300 million users, says the move will help the company “keep the core Imgur team focused on what we do best: creating the best place for online entertainment powered by the community”. In a blog post, the company said that “Imgur’s journey is far from over” and that MediaLab is committed to “investing more resources in engineering and the community”.
It is unclear what exactly the acquisition means for the future of Imgur, but it’s hard to read this as positive news for the site. MediaLab isn’t explicit about its business model (you won’t find much information on their website), but it seems to focus primarily on acquiring struggling brands with sizable, but stagnant communities. Presumably, the goal is to aggregate traffic from these properties to sell ads or data, while reducing costs by sharing the work of keeping the sites up and running.
For example, the once-publicized Genius was bought by MediaLab earlier this month for $ 80 million, less than what it had raised in venture capital over the years. Kik and Whisper were also once popular properties that have since lost importance.
Imgur herself has had a strange business adventure. It was founded in 2009 as a “giveaway to Reddit” and its fortunes have grown and fallen with this partnership. In 2016, Reddit decided to host its own image uploads, and in response Imgur began to form a self-sustaining online community. He copied various popular social features on Reddit, including upvotes and negatives on images, comment threads, and targeted communities. The site has often been compared to other image hosting services that have grown alongside larger social media sites, such as Twitpic, but have so far lasted longer on their own strengths. In recent years, it has launched new features like an ad-free subscription service.
Imgur’s blog post announcing the acquisition sounds like something close to a farewell note – “It has been an absolute honor to create this corner of the internet alongside this amazing community” – although the company insists that his “journey is far from over”.