Imgur: Brain Candy For the Social Web

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Imgur “the simple image sharer” has become somewhat of a surprise social network. What started as a streamlined image hosting and a “gift to Reddit” has become a titan with more than one-million images uploaded per day and 100 million unique users per month.

Perhaps most surprising is that the image hosting website has became a social network. Users upvote and downvote images, they can leave comments and, as of last month, they can use an internet relay chat — or IRC — system to communicate with one another instantly.

The Imgur community even has its own language and habits, but with its fast paced image based content, it doesn’t seem to have the same pressures as other social networks. This is not the social network where you connect with family, like Facebook. It’s not 4chan’s ‘internet hate machine.’ The users do however, have real-life meetups where they get to know each other in meatspace.

About 30 percent of Imgur’s users are people who view it as a destination in and of itself, not just a hosting site. With the community that has developed, the pictures no longer tell the whole story because the comments are part of the story too. Much like the images that make it to the top of the viral category, the funniest, or most meme friendly comments are voted to the top.

Imgur Founder and CEO Alan Schaaf sees his creation fitting into a niche that a lot of people are moving away from: Television. He likens user behavior to channel flipping. “They aren’t looking for something specific to watch; they just want to unwind from their day and be entertained.” Imgur satisfies that wandering-mind instinct to flip around the channels, sampling everything, for a momentary distraction.

With successes viral, social and lasting, Imgur may be perfectly poised to be this generation’s brain candy.

Image credit: Guillaume Paumier

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