Reddit, if you didn’t know, is a community-based site has historically depended on image-hosting sites to store its media.

The preferred and most popular site by far has been Imgur since its inception more than seven years ago. But now Reddit is looking to change that by hosting their own images.

This announcement comes from a changelog post titled “Introducing image uploading beta“. An admin of the site and member of the product team explains the change:

We’re super excited to begin rolling out in-house image hosting on Reddit.com to select communities this week. For a long time, other image hosting services have been an integral part of how content is shared on Reddit — we’re grateful to those teams, but are looking forward to bringing you a more seamless experience with this new feature.

Sixteen default communities (sub sections of the site which form its core) are included in this beta, with 50 more to follow next week.

While this may seem like a superficial change to how a site works, the truth is more complex. Imgur was actually created by a Redditor user who was fed up with the quality of existing image hosting sites such as Photobucket.

It has since grown from a small project funded by community donations to a company in its own right with a fervent community. We recently spoke to a South African teacher who had become something of a celebrity on the site thanks to his humour and Photoshop skills.

But why make the change? While the announcement post doesn’t mention it, we suspect it has to do with two very important aspects: money and usability.

Whenever a user creates a thread on the site with an image, Reddit is forced to share its traffic with Imgur. By cutting Imgur out, Reddit doesn’t necessarily generate more traffic, but all that traffic does stay on its site, and that could mean more ad revenue.

In terms of  usability, you’ll see the grievances users have with the site in the comments of the announcement. In becoming its own entity and business, Imgur has become too bloated and complex and more akin to the lesser hosting sites it sought to replace.

Randy Olsona postdoctoral researcher who maintains a blog specialising in data visualisation and machine learning, looked into the split and its causes. He cites Imgur’s monetisation and lack of growth versus Reddit as two prime causes.

imgur-popular-link-pct-2009-2016

imgur-popular-link-count-2009-2016

While Reddit does occasionally use other hosting sites, Imgur is the largest by far and some parts of the site will only accept Imgur links. Now it remains to be seen if a competent image hosting service will grow out of the change, and if Imgur can survive without its sister site.

 

[Source – /r/Changelog , Graphs – Randy Olson]