The content discovery site where million monthly users upvote the best memes, GIFs, science tricks, and sob stories today launched chat and following features. The question is whether Imgur can keep these private channels from turning into sewers.
The Good, The Bad, And The Sleazy Imgur has always had a remarkably strong and supportive community, driven by the fact that everyone is united by the same homepage of top content, rather than seeing personalized feeds like on most social networks. Inside jokes and emergent behaviors reign.
Though the site prohibits outright pornography, sexed-up cosplay and lists of adult film stars still get massive attention. It was really more like a bare-bones internal email system. Imgur Delivers Rolling out today, chat brings true instant messaging to Imgur. It works on mobile where users get notifications and can share text, links, Imgur posts, and GIFs — which have been the most popular in beta testing. Notifications are a clumsy way to browse content at higher volumes, though. That could put it more directly in competition with social networks like Facebook.
Unfortunately, the chat feature feels a bit half-baked in ways that could be problematic when unleashed on such a massive community. That leanness shows here. Users are free to send links that could lead to scams and shopping sites. There are no granular noise-reduction tools beyond blocking people individually that send unwanted messages, or turning off notifications entirely.
Women who post selfies could be inundated with come-ons from the majority-male user base. And since low-quality content sinks out of view quickly on Imgur, the community has helped keep spam at bay.
Private messaging is a different ball game. Abuse there is targeted and therefore more personally threatening. Imgur was the preferred image hosting site for Redditors, until Reddit finally added its own native hosting system.
Becoming a true social network is a massive opportunity for Imgur. Not just because it will drive engagement that could stoke revenue generation, but by offering interpersonal connection to a demographic often isolated behind their computer screens.
These social features will also force Imgur to grow up fast, and learn hard lessons about the nature of humanity that can sometimes stray from the light. Unlocking the doors of its users via chat will require more police on the streets if Imgur wants to remain a beacon of positivity amongst the darkness of the web.