If you were asked to consider the best thing you’d ever spent seven dollars on, you would probably land on something trivial. An artisan sandwich or a carefully crafted cup of coffee. Maybe a cheap ticket to see a band you’d never heard. Whatever it may be, chances are you wouldn’t lead with something like, “Oh, that’s easy: the domain for one of the greatest websites in the history of the internet.”
That phrase, however, is likely exactly what Imgur creator Alan Schaaf casually drops when you ask him about his most memorable seven-dollar purchase. At the time, Schaaf was browsing reddit and studying computer science at Ohio University – though not necessarily in that order – when he developed the website that would become the most popular image sharing network. An avid reddit user, Schaaf had become annoyed by the existing image hosts’ lack of functionality and bandwidth. Services like Photobucket and TinyPIC were notorious for removing images that linked from reddit because of bandwidth issues or for directing them to slow-loading pages riddled with ads.
In an interview with Domain Shane, Schaaf stated, “The idea came to me while I was bored out of my mind during a two and a half lecture class, so it was originally something I was doing just to pass the time, but it quickly became much more than that. I guess I picked an image host because, in my opinion, the existing ones were really lacking in some key features and functionality and I knew that I could do a better job.”
Why is it called Imgur?
After compiling a list of potential names, Schaaf compared them against available domains. He confessed, “I really liked imgur because it sort of puts two abbreviations together; img for image, and ur for your. So it doubles as Your Imager.” (This is where we’re required to note that the site is pronounced with a soft G, according to the platform itself. We, too, hope you won your bets.) Once he’d settled on Imgur, he splurged his seven dollars on the domain name using a hosting service already responsible for his personal website.
It was short-lived, because the on the release day, Schaaf announced his gift to his fellow reddit users. “I got fed up with all the other image hosts out there so I made my own,” he wrote. “It doesn’t force you to compress your images, and it has neat things like crop, resize, rotate, and compression from 10-100. It’s my gift to you.” It was well-received, and three days after launch, Schaaf’s hosting account was terminated as a result of the overwhelming traffic. Acting quickly, Schaaf moved the hosting several times in a matter of months just to a number of dedicated servers in an effort to prevent crashing.
SEE ALSO: Why is Reddit Called Reddit?
Beyond its improved functionality, Imgur began to roll out a variety of features that quickly made old news of its competitors. For starters, it strips EXIF from the photos in order to keep everything on the site anonymous. In the year following its founding, Imgur added a gallery feature to sort and showcase the most popular stories on the site. The same way reddit inspired Imgur, it also inspired its format, wherein users can upvote or downvote content to give it more or less visibility in the community.
The sharing site has since added pro accounts, a meme generator, GIFv, topics and trophies. All of which earned them two TechCrunch Crunchie Awards and was supported solely by advertisements, pro user accounts, enterprise hosting and donations until 2014. Having been self-sustaining for five years, Imgur’s first external investment came in the form of $40 million from Andreessen Horowitz and reddit. What followed was reaching more than 150 million monthly users and a pair of Webby awards for Best Social Media and Best Community Website.
Just seven years after its 2009 launch, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’d argue Imgur is anything less than the best place to share the most awesome images on the internet. You’d also be hard-pressed to find a better-spent seven dollars.
Thanks for reading Why is Imgur called Imgur! What’s your favorite feature on the image sharing site? #whyisitcalledImgur.
Annelise Schoups is a contributor at Rewind & Capture. With a degree in journalism, experience in public relations, and an education in travel, she is passionate about cultivating knowledge and storytelling.