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Athens image-sharing startup boosted by world events

From an office at a business incubator in southeastern Ohio, Alan Schaaf's barely two-year-old tech company is involved in the people-vs.-president drama unfolding in Egypt -- albeit passively.

Schaaf is founder and the only fulltime employee of Imgur (pronounced like "imager"), a site to share pictures across social networks, blogs, and online communities for free. The recent OU graduate and a part-timer work from the Ohio University Innovation Center in Athens.

Every day over 100,000 people use Imgur to upload innocuous things like snapshots of dogs, clever cartoons and graphics of all sorts. They make their visuals accessible via Imgur's gallery as well as Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo and Google.

But sometimes, as has happened lately, there's a reminder why there's a "world" in www.

Schaaf says Imgur usually has about 3,000 visits per week from people in Egypt. Recently, despite riots and interruption of Internet and related network services, that number dipped to 500.

Uploads related to the unrest have included things like screen captures of Al Jazeera's coverage of damage at the Egyptian National Museum, pictures of Egyptians holding tear gas canisters, posters that say "Mubarak Must Go" and related sentiments, and a typewritten letter, purportedly from inside Egypt, protesting the communications blackouts and urging freedom of speech.

Even before this, Time magazine's "Newsfeed" service spotlighted Imgur's top 10 images of 2010 in a story, and called Imgur "repository of all things meme-y and click-y."

Schaaf declined to discuss his company's revenue, but said "it's profitable enough to hire a full time employee or two in the coming months. The plan is to grow the company and expand its online reach as a social entertainment site."

Source: Alan Schaaf, Imgur
Writer: Gabriella Jacobs
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