The company was started in 2009 in Athens, Ohio as Alan Schaaf’s side project while he attended Ohio University for computer science. Imgur was created as a response to the usability problems encountered in similar services. Designed to be a gift to the online community of Reddit, it took off almost instantly, jumping from a thousand hits per day to a million total page views in the first five months. Imgur became widely recognized following its rise to popularity on social media websites such as Facebook, Reddit and Digg. In October 2012, Imgur expanded its functionality to allow users to directly share images to Imgur instead of requiring images to gain enough attraction through other social media sites like Reddit to show up on the popular image gallery.
In the beginning, Imgur relied on donations to help with the web hosting costs. As the site grew, it needed additional sources of revenue to keep up with demand. Display ads were introduced in May 2009; sponsored images and self-service ads were introduced in 2013.
In order to scale and manage its growth, Imgur used three different hosting providers in the first year before settling on Voxel, then switching to Amazon Web Services in late 2011.
In January 2011, the company moved from Ohio to San Francisco. As of June 2013 they had 10 employees, and won the Best Bootstrapped Startup award at TechCrunch’s 2012 Crunchies Awards.
In April 2014, five years after it was founded, Imgur raised $40 million from Andreessen Horowitz, and received a small contribution from Reddit. Andreessen Horowitz’s Lars Dalgaard joined Imgur’s board.
April Fools’ jokes
Imgur has a history of playing April Fools’ Day jokes on its users. The first joke in 2011 was the Catification feature, which allowed users to automatically add cats to any image with one click. The official Imgur mascot is the Imguraffe, which was created as an April Fools’ Day joke, but was “too cute to give up”, thereafter becoming the official mascot. On April 1, 2016, “Imgur for Pets” was added for the day. The category was pet pictures and gifs for pets. The voting system’s icons of “Upvotes”, “Downvotes”, and “Favorite” (arrows facing up and down, and a heart, respectively) were changed into paws facing up and down and a bone, respectively.