A rush to save the memes of Imgur

Imgur’s impending content purge proves the impermanence of the internet.

If you’ve spent time on internet forums, you know Imgur.

Ohio University student Alan Schaaf founded it in 2009 as “an image hosting service that doesn’t suck,” and it quickly became a mainstay among Reddit users, until Reddit added its own image hosting capabilities in 2016.

But it’s a different Imgur now. It was acquired by MediaLab — owner of Kik and Genius, among other sites — in 2021 and last month announced that, on May 15, it would purge:

  • Nudity and sexually explicit content
  • Old, unused, or inactive content not tied to a user account

Many worry…

… it’ll be the internet equivalent of the burning of the Library of Alexandria — if that library had been full of memes and cat pics.

​​Because any link to a purged image will be useless, comedy site Something Awful has started to save images through the “Imgur Download Caper.”

The site’s owner, who goes by Jeffrey of YOSPOS and bought SA in 2020, told The Verge that the community has downloaded three terabytes worth of images and videos after scraping SA forum threads to identify Imgur links.

SA’s own servers will host the images — at an estimated cost of $80-$100/mo. — and old posts will be overwritten to include new links. It’s a massive undertaking but…

… such is the way of the intangible internet

We only have access to content — movies, games, articles, etc. — so long as someone hosts it.

  • When Google shuttered its cloud gaming service Stadia, it at least refunded users for the games they’d bought.
  • HBO Max purged numerous shows from its streaming library — much to the chagrin of the people who made them.

In part, the impermanence of the internet has produced a resurgence of physical media, from vinyl to VHS.

Companies can purge their archives, but they can never take my Blu-ray of the 1989 haunted gym movie Death Spa!

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