Business Insider reports that Yahoo is interested in acquiring Imgur (pronounced "image-er"), the massive photo-sharing community spawned by Reddit, for "between $100 million and $500 million." That's not quite Facebook's $3 billion Snapchat offer, but it's certainly a lot.
If true, Imgur, which was created in 2009 by then-Ohio University student Alan Schaaf, would join a small parade of trendy acquisitions on Yahoo's part, like Tumblr and newly disabled algorithim-driven news aggregator Summly.
What is Imgur, exactly? Originally it was conceived by Schaaf as a frictionless way to share images and silly memes on Reddit without the bandwidth limits of Photobucket. When I interviewed him in June 2011, Shaaf told me that he envisioned Imgur eventually becoming "a YouTube for images" — a place for people to click through lots of photos consecutively.
"You go to YouTube to waste 15 minutes and look at videos," he said. "With Imgur, it's like instant gratification."
Since then it has transmogrified into a robust community all its own, and sees upwards of one hundred million unique visitors every month. That's more traffic than either The New York Times or Reddit itself.
Like Tumblr, however, Imgur isn't a terribly efficient profit machine. Although it isn't in the red like the Reddit mothership it services, the site relies on a combination of advertising, "pro" accounts, and user donations to keep humming along.
So why is Yahoo interested? It probably isn't a talent hire, as Business Insider points out — Imgur is an extremely lean operation with just a few employees. Meanwhile, Yahoo needs new photo-sharing technology like it needs more Os in its name (see: Flickr, Tumblr). (And there's the not-so-small issue that many of the images used on Imgur are — ahem — not totally original or legal.)
That leaves two reasons for a potential purchase: (1) Yahoo hopes to finagle some revenue out of a religiously devout community of Imgurians that click, in sum, billions of times a month; or (2) Imgur possesses that coveted "cool" factor with the internet's young 'uns, and Yahoo has shown it isn't afraid to splurge if it means capturing their attention, however briefly.
Such boldness from Yahoo would certainly be worth an upvote or two.
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