Release the Memes

Boasting of 100M Monthly Unique Visitors, Imgur Sidles Out of Reddit’s Shadow

"We're really just a service that the Internet needs."
BRB, freebasing some memes.

BRB, freebasing some memes.

Never let it be said you can’t build a business on viral images that’d make a Sunday school teacher’s eyes bleed. Today Imgur, the image-sharing site long considered the Gary Walsh to Reddit’s Selina Meyer, announced that it’s hit 100 million monthly unique users, landing the site at number 28 on Alexa.com’s ranking of top sites.

In a chat with Betabeat, the company’s leaders, CEO Alan Schaaf and COO Matt Strader, were careful to underline diplomatically all the ways Imgur has expanded beyond its role as the cobbled-together infrastructure of Reddit.

Something like a quarter of traffic is direct, for instance, and organic search accounts for another 5 percent. So while Reddit likely still accounts for a huge portion of inbound traffic, it’s not the whole kit and caboodle, either.

“I attribute that growth mainly to our community, actually,” said CEO Alan Schaaf. “Outside of Reddit, we’ve been growing our own community for the past few years, a lot of the features we’ve been building on the site are to help them communicate and just better grow.”

Mr. Schaaf launched the site as a quick image-sharing solution for Redditors like himself. “But over time it ended up not being a need that just Reddit had, but really a need that the whole Internet had,” he said. “We’ve been called a staple of the Internet before, and we’re really just a service that the Internet needs.”

The site now hosts 650,000,000 images, with up to a million uploads a day. At the same time, it’s evolved from quick-and-dirty image-hosting solution to a kind of viral entertainment destination, with the Imgur Gallery serving as a real-time window into what’s getting clicks–whether that’s PornHub poetry or cheesy Disney riffs. Mr. Strader told Betabeat that the Gallery accounts for “a little under 50 percent, but it’s in the mid-40s” in terms of percentage of traffic.

While the company is experimenting with a native advertising offering, they say they’re profitable already, on the strength of fairly traditional ad offerings. What a novelty! Nor have they taken VC money: “We’re sort of able to do everything that we want to do based off the revenue that we’re making,” said Mr. Schaaf.

“The ultimate goal for me would be that everyone on the street would know what Imgur is and everyone browses it daily,” said Mr. Schaaf. Sorry if that means one day you’ll probably have to explain tulpas to your mom.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com