Reddit launches image uploads, ditching alliance with Imgur


Reddit never let you upload images, until now. That could dismantle Reddit’s informal alliance with image-sharing community Imgur. That’s where Redditors would typically post their images or GIFs and then share the links on Reddit.

The image uploading feature begins rolling out today with 50 Reddit communities, including Art, Aww, Food, Funny, Gifs and EarthPorn (pretty nature pics). An eventual site-wide release is Reddit’s plan. The feature should make Reddit simpler and faster to use, and easier for newbies to figure out.

Reddit product team member Andy announced the feature, writing, “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.”

7bc6c7fe766c43468c8e6d5d361d0309Reddit will accept images up to 20MB and GIFs up to 100MB, compared to the 20MB image and 200MB GIF limits on Imgur. It will apply its standard content policy, disallowing images that are illegal, involuntary pornography (like revenge porn or hacks), encourage or incite violence, are threats or harassment, expose confidential personal information, impersonate people or are spam.

The launch could help Reddit boost traffic in a critical year, following a tumultuous 2015 marked by trouble with its content policies clashing with offensive subcultures it hosts, and a community staffer firing leading to a mutiny by Reddit moderators who blacked-out parts of the site.

Reddit is the 9th largest site by traffic in the U.S. according to Alexa, while Imgur is 16th. They’ve long been thought of as sister sites, with Reddit focusing on links and text debates, while Imgur centered around entertaining images and a supportive, positive community. Users frequently cross-link between the sites, using Imgur links to effectively share image posts and comments on Reddit, and Reddit links to point people to deeper discussions of content.

Reddit images could soak up page views that lead to more browsing of the site, which it monetizes with native ads. Meanwhile, Imgur could miss out on page views and ad revenue.

Reddit ImgurSome Redditors have griped about Imgur’s usefulness as a strict image host since it ramped up advertising after raising $40 million two years ago from Andreessen Horowitz and Reddit itself. In some cases on mobile, Imgur was redirecting users from direct links for an image file it hosts that shows up on a blank page to the Imgur community site version of the image, which can be accompanied by traditional sidebar banner ads.

When asked about the fracturing of their ad hoc partnership, Imgur provided this statement:

“This isn’t a surprise. Tools for uploading images are an expected part of any platform these days.

Reddit launches image uploads, ditching alliance with Imgur
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Reddit CTO Marty Weiner on building a home for the Internet’s wildest community

After years of crash-and-burn growth met with copious scandals and user complaints, Reddit is getting back to basics and trying to scale like your average Internet company, albeit one that boasts around 234 million unique visitors powering 8 billion page views per month.

Critical to this major effort is Marty Weiner. Weiner joined the Reddit team this past summer as the company’s first-ever CTO, and he’s spent the past 10 months building out areas for improvement on a site infrastructure that is increasingly less MacGyver’d together.

Reddit is the 9th most-visited website in the United States, but when Weiner was hired last August, the engineering team keeping it afloat was “way too small” and was having a tough time keeping up with the demands of the site’s famously demanding set of users.

In the past six months, Weiner has doubled the size of his engineering staff and is making significant inroads on improving user experiences through backend upgrades and a pair of smooth mobile apps that are keeping users enthralled on-the-go. He still has big plans for where he wants to take the company on the technical front, but also knows that with Reddit sometimes the community is the one making the calls.

Redditors

Instability everywhere

In February of last year, Weiner met over lunch with Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian just to chat about how things were going at each other’s companies. Weiner was working at Pinterest at the time, where he had been the founding engineer on the team, and Ohanian was still serving as the Executive Chair of Reddit.

“At one point I just ask him, ‘how’s the data science team at Reddit?’ And [Ohanian] said, ‘what data science team?’” Weiner recounts to me.

“That was the first moment that I was like, holy crap, this site is this big and you’ve never run it on data. Then I was backed into this other thought where if you don’t have data science you probably don’t have access to all the data pipelines that are crucial to the other things you want to build.”

Soon Reddit would have quite a bit more to worry about than just the quality of their code and the growingly insurmountable amount of tech debt that was causing long-promised features like search and the ever elusive official Reddit mobile app to fall by the wayside.

Reddit’s endless natural cycle of administrative constraint and user backlash grew a bit more hyperactive as the site introduced new anti-harassment policies in May of last year, which many users in the community felt went too far in stifling their free speech while other observers were dumbfounded how such a visible site, again the 9th largest in the U.S., could thrive while hosting user-created communities devoted to fostering hate speech against just about every race, religion and creed under the sun.

redditddos

Through a somewhat cataclysmic turn of events that followed the firing of Reddit Director of Talent Victoria Taylor, users went wild and moderators began shutting down communities on the site in protest. CEO Ellen Pao resigned shortly after and another Reddit co-founder, Steve Huffman, returned to lead the site he had helped build in 2005.

During a period when Reddit was continuing to test its status as the Internet’s darling and was, in many ways, moving toward a new title of the media’s punching bag, Weiner met with Huffman and chatted about bringing him aboard.

Engineering a solution

Weiner was on a bit more stable footing during this period than Reddit was, having been with Pinterest since its founding in 2011, but the rare chance to build something that could broadly impact so many vocal web users was not lost on him.

“It’s so rare that you have such a massive company that’s ready to start the engines again, Reddit has gone through so much interesting history and when I saw Steve coming back, there was all this excitement to make this thing go a lot faster, to build a bigger team, to codify [Reddit’s] mission, all of these types of things,” he says.

“So I got here and I was like, ‘okay, let’s just build the sucker.’”

What came from later conversations with Huffman was the formation of what Weiner frames as “a very clear focus on paying down a lot of tech debt, building a great platform, starting to build products for our mods and users, and then starting on some of our crazier ideas — the rocket science that we’re not to yet, but will be soon.”

Something he’s also had to tackle are the ever-present threats of harassment, spam and abuse. To tackle these, Weiner tells me he’s been forming a special “anti-evil team” since he came on that’s been helping rid the site of all that ails it.

reddit_android_01

Spam has been one of the major areas of “evil” that the team has been working on in the past several months. Last quarter, the site was dealing with a pretty consistent onslaught of spam across the subreddits that was causing spam reports from users and moderators to hit new peaks. In the past few months, Weiner’s team has hit spam hard and has reduced the amount of incoming reports by about 60 percent.

Getting rid of spam makes the site run quite a bit better for users, but it’s the moderators who will likely appreciate these efforts the most. Weiner tells me that the company actually has an entirely separate set of metrics around “moderator happiness” that it works with.

“Moderators shouldn’t have to worry about spam, they should be focused on making a great community.”

Weiner also tells me the engineering team is proactively heading up new efforts on a host of new tools for mods that should make their lives easier and improve communications and feedback. No specifics, but he said more info was coming.

Nailing the basics

Outward-facing improvements like new user blocking tools or sexy new interfaces for mobile apps may be what garner much of the external excitement, but a lot of Weiner’s job focuses on the nitty-gritty that happens behind the scenes. Stuff like building out the platform, catching up on tech debt and building out the data pipeline allow the company way more flexibility to get products out in a snap.

“You see the effects of this push, [the apps] are more beautiful, smoother, simpler,” Weiner says. “They just look awesome, but what you wouldn’t see is how we can develop products way, way faster.”

Soon, Weiner detailed, Reddit’s entire desktop site is going to be put on this new platform that should allow things to move along quite a bit more quickly on the engineering side when it comes to building new features.

The CTO really stressed how critical the improvements that they’ve been making to the data pipeline at Reddit were and how they will allow his team “the capability to build functions like search, relevancy, personalization and really good recommendations.”

All of these features are critical in eventually giving users a little bit more insight into how exactly they should be making sense of Reddit’s thousands and thousands of user-created communities.

“Users don’t know about communities that they’d probably be interested in, I’d like to help them find those [subreddits], find other users with similar interests and find more great content.”

Building up a data pipeline for a site that has as much content and points of contact with users as Reddit has is no small order.

With all of the growth Reddit’s engineering team has experienced in the past few months, Weiner still wants more. The company is looking to add to their iOS and Android developers as they continue to build out features for their new set of mobile apps, team members to continue strengthening Reddit’s backend as well as “uhhh… pretty much everything,” Weiner said laughingly.

Weiner spent a lot of time telling me about how important it has been to him to ensure that Reddit’s work culture really flourishes even as the team rapidly scales.

“One of the things we did really well at Pinterest was in communicating our vision, and I’ve tried to bring that back to Reddit so that we’re constantly making sure everyone inside Reddit knows exactly what we’re building and why we’re really building it.”

Reddit is a site composed of many things, plenty of users, sure, but also the communities that they’ve all built on their own. For the company, this can mean a ton of headaches in the form of racism, spam, harassment and cyberbullying, but it can also lead to things like random strangers helping each other and chatting about things they love in communities that they may not have access to in real life. Reddit houses so much of the Internet’s living digital history under one roof, and when it comes to building a space for so many of the web’s interesting, deeply weird characters, Weiner is the one left trying to make sure none of them break anything.

Reddit CTO Marty Weiner on building a home for the Internet’s wildest community
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Facebook will shut down FBX, its desktop ad exchange


Facebook plans to shut down FBX, the ad exchange that allows advertisers to buy retargeted desktop ads using third-party tools like Criteo and AppNexus.

The news was first reported in The Wall Street Journal and we’ve confirmed it with Facebook. In an emailed statement, Vice President of Monetization Product Marketing Matt Idema suggested that this is part of Facebook’s shift to mobile (in its most recent earnings report, mobile accounted for 82 percent of Facebook’s ad revenue). He said:

Mobile is now a necessary component of effective marketing campaigns, and Facebook is helping millions of businesses understand their customers’ purchase path across devices. Dynamic Ads and Custom Audiences have mobile at their core and are delivering excellent results for businesses, so Facebook Exchange spending has shifted towards those solutions. This is about giving people more relevant ads and marketers more effective formats, especially in an increasingly mobile world. Our ads API is open to all developers so they can innovate on our platform and build great ad experiences for brands and their customers.

Facebook launched FBX back in 2012, but its focus seemed to have shifted away from the exchange in recent years.

Antonio Garcia-Martinez, a former Facebook product manager who helped build FBX (and author of a forthcoming Silicon Valley memoir), likened the move to “Goldman Sachs saying it won’t do high-frequency trading.”

“Whatever happens with FBX, Facebook will have an exchange again at some point, when they’ve lost the leverage needed to maintain a walled garden of clunky ads technology,” Garcia-Martinez wrote. “They’ll just launch it as if FBX never existed, and make it seem like it was part of the plan all along.”

Featured Image: GongTo/Shutterstock

Facebook will shut down FBX, its desktop ad exchange
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Flipboard confirms it will get cut off from Instagram after the feed API ends this month


As Instagram continues to make moves to strengthen its platform with more features to keep users visiting it and staying longer, Instagram’s decision to kill off its feed API on June 1 has claimed another victim: Flipboard today confirmed that it will not be able to provide Instagram integration for the majority of its users after May 31.

While Instagram has claimed that feed API usage is relatively small, there are some notable companies being affected. In addition to Flipboard, IFTTT noted earlier that its users’ recipes will also be impacted.

Flipboard tells us that between two and three percent of its users have connected Instagram to Flipboard to view feeds or to run in Magazines, but did not say what that worked out to in terms of engagement from its audience.

The bigger picture is the message that this sends to users that apps like Flipboard, which have positioned themselves as a go-to place for content consumption; or services like IFTTT, which let you magically create little apps to execute regular commands, simply are not as universal and convenient as they used to be.

Flipboard says that this change will affect most of its users in a few different ways. For starters, Flipboard users will no longer be able to log in to Instagram via Flipboard (which allows users to integrate a number of apps to use them from there to share and repost content). Flipboard also says that Instagram feeds users follow on Flipboard will also no longer show content, “which includes Instagram searches, hashtags and individual accounts.” The Instagram tile will be removed from Flipboard completely on June 30.

It notes that Instagram posts can still get manually flipped into Magazines on Flipboard through the web — specifically via a bookmarklet on the desktop Web — or with “copy link” from within the Instagram app. But they will no longer be able to get “likes” or comments that will show up on Instagram — they will live only on Flipboard. You can, of course, still just add pictures from any other photo app to Flipboard.

There will be a small exception to all of the above: Select top publishers who create Magazines on Flipboard will continue to be able to use Instagram content on their Flipboard. One example, Flipboard tells me, is National Geographic, which owns the copyright on its Instagram posts and has a direct relationship with Facebook’s photo-sharing app.

The moves are part of a bigger shift at Instagram to create more services on its own app as it strengthens its platform as a business, and also looks to create an audience of its own that is not just passing through or using its photos elsewhere. This has included plans to add business profiles and contact buttons. And, it seems, possibly an option to pay to boost posts as you do on Facebook itself.

flow for iphone

While Flipboard and IFTTT are some of the more notable services affected by this change, Instagram’s decision to limit API usage also has an effect on its mobile app ecosystem, impacting smaller developers. This includes apps like Retro, Flow, Padgram and Pictacular for iPad, plus Webbygram, Webstagram, Instagreat and Itsdagram for desktop, for example.

Even the newcomer Being, which saw a promising 50,000 downloads in its first week, found it was soon cut off. Despite the fact that Being’s users added tens of thousands of “likes” to Instagram’s service, and followed tens of thousands of accounts, Instagram doesn’t want other apps to serve as the entry point to consuming its content.

Instagram’s decision is not without an element of risk. Twitter took a similar path several years ago by telling developers to stop building third-party clients. Today, Twitter has stagnant user growth. That’s not entirely due to its squashed app ecosystem, but the move certainly didn’t help.

Flipboard confirms it will get cut off from Instagram after the feed API ends this month
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