Talking tech since 2003

Before I start out this article, I must say that I myself am not a huge Reddit user at all.  I opened an account more than two years ago when Digg was still a hot hangout for bored Internet users, but over the years I honestly haven’t visited the site all that often.  That said, I read most of my news directly from publishers websites and have personally found that when I want to keep up with the world around me there is no better place to go than Google News.  All that said, Reddit isn’t simply a news site, but rather a free-formed community in which users can create and engage in topics that interest them.  Even I, on the rare occasions where I have extra time to kill, do venture onto Reddit to browse comical images for a good laugh.

Yesterday was one of those days, and as evening rolled around and I had all of my paperwork caught up on I figured I’d visit Reddit for a bit.  As is typical for my infrequent Reddit extravaganzas, the first “subreddit” that I visited was /r/funny.  I was in it for the laughs, after all.  After a few minutes of poking around, I was amazed at the sheer number of posts that linked to the free Imgur image hosting service; a site known for its clean interface and minimal advertisements.  Going back to the main page of the “subreddit” and looking in detail I saw that all ten of the first ten posts on the front page were indeed links to photos hosted on Imgur.

Naturally this got the wheels turning in my head.  Why would a site like Reddit or any other site for that matter be so nonchalant about letting such great volumes of traffic walk out the door to other websites?

I mean, when I really sit down and think about it it seems as if all of the Imgur links that I’ve seen people post in the last year or so, be it on IRC, Twitter, Facebook, or any one of the dozen or so other sites and networks I use, has been from Reddit.  It’s really gotten to the point where, at least for me, Reddit and Imgur almost seem like the same thing because of how deeply intertwined they are.

So why hasn’t Reddit made a move to acquire Imgur?  Wouldn’t it seem natural that the site that is responsible for a large chunk of posts to Imgur would want to take hold of that site so that they could better develop it into their own infrastructures and backends and possibly implement their own style of management?  Just think at the sheer amount of traffic that Reddit would be able to keep within their own network if they owned Imgur.

But perhaps that’s just it.  Traffic is bandwidth, and bandwidth can be rather pricey; especially for image-hosting sites that serve handle thousands of requests of retrospectively large files (in compared to text, anyway) each and every hour.  Seriously, just in my poking around today I’ve seen images that Imgur reports as having consumed more than sixty gigabytes of bandwidth in the few hours since they were posted.  That’s an insane amount of bandwidth, if you ask me.  Considering that a service such as Amazon S3 (a storage backend commonly utilized by storage-heavy websites) charges five cents per gigabyte of outgoing bandwidth (when the customer pays for 350 terabytes or more of data storage each month), it would be my guess that one image with sixty gigabytes of bandwidth costs Imgur at least three dollars to host.

Taking into mind the fact that Imgur has a constantly growing number of images, admittedly not all with the same popularity as the one I’m using in this example, I can’t even begin to imagine how much Imgur’s operational expenses are and can quickly understand why a site like Reddit would be more than happy to let a service like Imgur flip the bill for its image hosting.

Even so, Imgur seems to be doing well.  Quite obviously the site is paying all of its bills to stay afloat, so I can’t imagine why a developed site like Reddit wouldn’t be able to offer their own image hosting service.  After all, I would imagine that it would benefit the flow of their site quite a bit.


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