Popular image-sharing service Imgur is announcing some new features that should make it easier for users to sort through the 1.5 million images that are uploaded to the site every day.
Founder and CEO Alan Schaaf said that after testing the new features with several thousand users, Imgur is making them available to everyone today. The big addition is the ability of users to tag individual images, and to upvote and downvote those tags. Those tags, in turn, allow users to create custom galleries that combine different tags, to filter out the tags that they no longer want to see, and to search the site more effectively.
The tags, by the way, don’t have to be straightforward categories. Schaaf is hoping that they’ll be funny or clever, without going completely off-topic or losing sight of Imgur’s focus on “niceness.” When you look at an image, all user-submitted tags should be visible, but only the two most popular ones will be used for all the sorting functionality that I just described.
When Schaaf explained the update to me, I was a little surprised that Imgur didn’t offer these capabilities already. However, he said that this kind of image sorting hasn’t really been a focus in the past. Instead, the company has always treated the images as “one big bucket, one big pool” that users mostly accessed by visiting the home page (or by sharing pictures on Reddit).
One reason Imgur has been relatively slow on this front is the fact that it didn’t want, in Schaaf’s words, to “splinter” its user base.
“We’re not trying to introduce sub-communities,” he said. “Imgur is one big community.”
So the current approach is an attempt to balance the need to improve image discovery with that desire to maintain a unified community.
With the new tags, Schaaf said that when you find an image you like (say, a Game of Thrones-related meme), you can easily click on the tag and find similar content. Plus, you can start avoiding the content (say, images related to politics) that you don’t want to see. And from a business perspective, tags mean that Imgur can effectively target ads around different topics.
Imgur, by the way, has been repeatedly named the “best bootstrapped startup” at the Crunchies, but I guess it’ll have to go for a different award next year, since it recently raised a $40 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
You can read more about the changes in this Imgur blog post.