MediaLab, a Santa Monica-based corporation that defines itself as a “holding company of consumer internet brands,” has purchased popular image-sharing site Imgur. The firm owns a variety of B-list software and internet services, including Kik and Whisper messaging applications, Genius lyrics annotator, and WorldStarHipHop viral video aggregator.
The move would allow Imgur to “keep the core Imgur team focused on what we do best: providing the finest place for community-powered entertainment online,” according to the business, which has 300 million members. “Imgur’s journey is far from over,” the firm wrote in a blog post, adding that MediaLab is committed to “investing additional resources in engineering and community.”
It’s unclear what the acquisition means for Imgur’s future, but it’s difficult to see this as good news for the site. MediaLab’s business strategy isn’t obvious (and their website isn’t very informative), but it appears to be primarily focused on purchasing ailing companies with large, but stagnant, communities. The objective, presumably, is to pool visitors from various sites in order to sell advertisements or data, while also lowering expenses by sharing the effort of keeping the sites up and operating.
For example, just this month, MediaLab purchased the once-hyped Genius for $80 million, allegedly less than what it had earned in venture funding over the years. Similarly, Kik and Whisper were once-popular properties that have since vanished from view.
As a corporation, Imgur has had a peculiar journey. It began as a “gift to Reddit” in 2009, and its fortunes have grown and fallen with the collaboration. In 2016, Reddit chose to host its own picture submissions, and Imgur grew into a separate online community as a result. It mimicked a number of Reddit-style social features, such as picture upvotes and downvotes, comment threads, and specialized communities.
The site has been likened to other image-hosting services that emerged alongside larger social networking sites, such as Twitpic, although it has fared better on its own merits thus far. It has introduced additional services in recent years, such as an ad-free membership service.
Imgur’s announcement blog post reads like a farewell note — “It’s been an absolute joy to establish this piece of the internet with this wonderful community” — but the firm says its “adventure is far from done.”