Casual hobby transforms into online image hotspot

Alan Schaaf, Ohio University Alumnus

A website created by Ohio University graduate Alan Schaaf has two purposes: to allow people to upload and view funny and popular online content hassle-free.

The image-sharing website, Imgur (pronounced Image-er), has had 10 million unique hits during the past two years and started as an extracurricular project.

“Imgur was never meant to be a business, just something to do in between classes,” said Schaaf, who graduated from OU in 2010 with a degree in computer science.

Schaaf said he came up with the idea after seeing images become popular on Reddit, a site where users share links and other web content. Many of the links take users to websites’ homepages, forcing them to look up the photos themselves and wasting time, he said.

“An obvious problem I saw and thought I could do a better job,” Schaaf said. “You don’t want to spend a whole lot of time uploading a picture …”

Imgur, which launched in February 2009, soon began accumulating 1,000 hits per day, as it allows users to quickly upload images. The site has continued to grow through word of mouth. Today, Imgur averages two uploads every second and more than 4 billion image views a month.

“Simple design, simple function, people can do what they want,” said Matt Strader, a 1999 OU alumnus who began working for Schaaf about a year ago.

Imgur relies on “pro-accounts” for revenue, which offer more online capacity for users to share and store photos. However, the majority of its revenue comes from advertising.

“User experience is the most important thing; we want content to be front and center but with enough advertising to support the growth of the site,” Schaaf said.

Currently, Imgur is headquartered in the OU Innovation Center, which helps “companies succeed in our region,” said Jennifer Simon, director of the center.

Imgur first moved into the Innovation Center in July 2010 but plans to move to California this summer.

“We’re excited for them because it’s a new chapter for them,” Simon said.


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