The popular image-sharing site Imgur has been acquired by MediaLab, a Santa Monica-based company that describes itself as a “consumer internet brand holding company.” The company owns a number of B-List technology and internet services, including the Kik and Whisper messaging apps, the Genius lyrics annotator, and the WorldStarHipHop viral video aggregator.
Imgur, which currently has around 300 million users, says the move will help the company “focus the main Imgur team on what we do best: create the best place for online community-based entertainment.” In a blog post, the company said, “Imgur’s journey is far from over” and that MediaLab is committed to “investing more resources in technology and community”.
MediaLab has bought a number of co-owned brands with sizable communities
What exactly the acquisition means for Imgur’s future is unclear, but it’s hard to read this as positive news for the site. MediaLab doesn’t make its business model explicit (you won’t find a lot of information on their website), but it seems to focus primarily on acquiring troubled brands with large but stagnant communities. Presumably the goal is to bundle traffic from these properties to sell ads or data while reducing costs by sharing the work of running the websites.
For example, the once-hyped Genius was bought by MediaLab earlier this month for $ 80 million, reportedly less than what venture capital it had raised over the years. Kik and Whisper were similarly once hot traits that have since lost their relevance.
Imgur itself has had a strange journey as a company. It was founded in 2009 as a “Gift to Reddit” and its fortune has risen and fallen with that partnership. In 2016, Reddit decided to host its own image uploads, and in response, Imgur began to form its own online community. It copied various social features popular on Reddit, including upvotes and downvotes for images, comment threads, and focused communities. The site has often been compared to other image hosting services that have grown alongside larger social media sites like Twitpic but so far have lasted longer on their own. In recent years it has introduced new features like an ad-free subscription service.
Imgur’s blog post announcing the acquisition reads almost like a suicide note – “It was an absolute honor to create this corner of the internet with this incredible community” – although the company insists its “journey is still.” is not over for a long time ”.