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Sometimes images are required to ask questions. Currently images need to be stored on external servers. If the image gets deleted, or the server goes down the question could become far less useful to other people encountering it. I would expect that uploading images would cost reputation, or have a required minimum level to keep spam away. Being able to inline display said uploaded image would be a plus as well.

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+1 For the idea of reputation cost, solves a lot of issues. –  Eric Koslow Jul 10 '09 at 21:04
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I think it should be like links etc. - only allowed after a certain rep level is reached. –  ChrisF Jul 10 '09 at 21:41
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Why do you think it should cost rep to post images? They can be compressed and limited to less than 700K or even less... Not every question will get an image, but certainly more would than what are there today... –  RSolberg Jul 10 '09 at 21:45
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@RSolberg: Probably as a spam deterrant, and/or to keep abuse to a minimum. I think I like the second option better - you need to reach n rep before you can post an image. –  AnonJr Jul 11 '09 at 2:43
    
I would like to be able to include small pictures directly without having to resort to external hosting. But I don't think this should cost your reputation. Might only be available after a certain level of reputation is reached, ok - but should be "free" for those users. –  marc_s Jul 12 '09 at 13:54
    
Hard question. How many times do you feel you need to put an image into the answer/question? What kind of things do you want to show with an image? –  kd304 Jul 13 '09 at 20:56
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@Chester: Neg on compression, at least, not arbitrary compression. Lots of people just go "upload, recompress, serve" and that logic tends to rape images that are PNG and need text/line drawings ( more predominant for our uses methinks ), downscaling also rapes diagrams the same way. –  Kent Fredric Dec 5 '09 at 20:12
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@kd304: rather often! E.g. when asking/answering about GUI stuff, or even just to better show how to do something in the IDE someone is asking about. SO is still relatively young, but as it ages I fear we'll lose a lot of images to dead links. –  romkyns Dec 15 '09 at 14:09
    
People can use flagging and moderation to deal with image spam. Often an image is worth 1000 words for a question or answer. Penalising rep for that is silly, but put a maximum size on the images. You could possibly do something similar for other items like code snippets. –  ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells Feb 25 '10 at 14:16
    
if it cost rep, wouldn't people just use the external hosting service still anyway? –  Carson Myers May 29 '10 at 23:24
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This question now becomes especially important with the inceptions of thousands of other SE sites propoposed at area51.stackexchange.com as not all of those sites will have a tech-savvy audience. Forcing an external hosting service upon them will be unnacceptable. –  herzmeister der welten Jun 19 '10 at 12:24
    
I'm rather meh about this feature. What's wrong with imgur or imageshack? They're not going anywhere, and the images will be good for long enough. –  Randolpho Jul 8 '10 at 15:07
    
Now you can accept this answer as the answer ... It is implemented! Hurray! –  awe Dec 13 '10 at 10:45
    
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12 Answers

Uploading an image to support an answer or question should NOT cost the poster any reputation. That is crazy!

But, and this is a big BUT... The concept of the SO family allowing uploaded images to support posts would be amazing. Definitely one of my top 3 of 4 request items.

OMG IT'S HERE! IT'S REALLY HERE!!!! THANKS GUYS!

alt text

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Costing-rep would indeed be silly.. but I think Ravedave meant you would need over x reputation to upload image (just like you need 2000 rep to edit and so on) –  dbr Jul 10 '09 at 23:01
    
@dbr: if that is the case, I'll tone back a little on my statement... I'm not sure what I think about requiring rep to post an image, but either way the feature would be nice! –  RSolberg Jul 10 '09 at 23:27
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it should rather cost rep when an external image that is linked becomes broken :-> –  herzmeister der welten Jun 19 '10 at 12:02
    
Not a bad idea, but external image links are really out of the control of all parties, hence becoming more vertical and hosting it directly on SO provides more control, value, etc. –  RSolberg Jun 21 '10 at 17:46
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I'd also be against anything that treats reputation as 'currency' beyond the existing bounty system. –  Tim Post Jul 29 '10 at 13:08
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Thanks to our awesome friends at http://imgur.com we now have built in image uploads, via the standard image upload button.

hosted image UI

This will be deployed to all our sites in the next few days, for the time being you can test on meta.

More details on the blog: New Image Upload Support.

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+ lots. I didn't mind hosting my own images, but direct uploads is much, much easier to work with. –  ChrisF Aug 13 '10 at 15:06
    
+10000000000000000000000000000 This is so easy to use. Well done. –  Jon Seigel Aug 13 '10 at 22:11
    
Yes, now all we need is inline images in comments ;) –  bobobobo Aug 24 '10 at 12:50
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Are imgur associating all the SO images together somehow, so that in the event they go under ( hopefully not ) we can get a copy of the existing images and serve them up somewhere for posterities sake? –  Kent Fredric Nov 22 '10 at 7:34
    
@Kent nope, but you could query odata.stackexchange.com for your images –  waffles Nov 22 '10 at 14:14
    
Are these images uploaded to imgur servers? –  Tshepang Nov 24 '10 at 11:13
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In addition; in my office some of the more popular image hosting sites are blocked by policy; so often I simply can't see posts with an image as a key part of the question.

The downside is the additional hosting/bandwidth costs... not sure how big that would be.

There may also be some legals to deal with... so I'm not 100% convinced it will happen, but interesting idea. It would be a good thing, I expect.

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I've seen this problem in the field as well. Many potential SO users have issues with images for precisely this reason. –  ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells Feb 25 '10 at 14:17
    
The money is no problem, now that we have 6M :) –  Eduardo Molteni May 4 '10 at 18:14
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The problem with "External Hosting" is as follows.

Other services are often an extra slowdown to usability. Its hard to find a good service that allows all the following:

  • Reasonably large images ( many have stupid filters that downscale uploaded images )
  • Reasonably quality images ( many do arbitrary conversion to ~85% compression JPEG, which ruins vector graphics based PNGS )
  • Permitting External linking with respectable bandwidth.
  • Don't require the hurdle of having to log in to yet another web service.
  • Have permanent session persistence ( For those that require you to log in, many compulsively log you out all the time )
  • Have simple upload services that work and are user-friendly.
  • NonWTF terms of use.
  • Exist for more than 3 months and not die out and result in all your images being lost.

The above factors have lead me towards avoiding any of those "have an account" based system, due to complexity of extra action bloat, and towards those "PasteBin" mentality "JustUploadIt" web services. However, I've had problems with the latter of late, as they tend to burn out and die, leaving all the images gone.

Many of my most favoured questions and answers, the ones that incurred me spending the most amount of effort producing a good answer, involve explanatory images, because textual representations of the same data are massively useless.

Image hosting has on many of them, gone down, as services age and die, and I find myself not having backups of the images anywhere, because I have a bit of a hectic time managing so much junk. ( I don't have backups of these images for the same reasons I have not downloaded all the text of all my answers on stackoverflow and have them stored somewhere on my disk, you know, "just in case" )

For me, this posts a very real problem.

Essentially, when you don't host stackoverflow images on stackoverflow, you relinquish any control you might have had on a large part of your content. Its a gaping doorway to having content that is part of your site, that might be lost at any time, and unlike the text, which when a user deletes it could still really exist forever in the database, the images are gone forever.

At least, if stackoverflow does image hosting for stackoverflow, then the images can be preserved with the content, and you only have to worry about permanent disappearance from the internet if stackoverflow itself departs this world. Unlike all the hosting providers, which may decide one day in the not to distant future to incur a policy change, and making external linking without a hosted, advertisement impregnated iframe, a payer-only feature.

Also, on legal terms*, people can publish their images on their own servers, and put whatever license they want on the content. Because its not on stackoverflow, its not actually under the cc-wiki/attribution required license, and is thus compromising the whole openness of stackoverflow.

*IANAL

List of broken posts of mine due to image absense. ( Note: some of them will appear to be very pointless )

Others Images that have gone missing:

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Pretty long post, just for saying that you relinquish control when using an external host and that you have to face the risk of losing the images some day. –  Ladybug Killer Dec 5 '09 at 20:22
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Sounds like partnering with a image host service. StackOverflow main business is not image hosting. So I guess a nice facade may be in order.

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It'd be like attachments on a forum. They're not a filehost, but they ARE a way to keep their stuff online. –  Phoshi Dec 5 '09 at 20:00
    
Winner!!!! (15) –  jjnguy Aug 18 '10 at 13:28
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There is also the problem that a lot of corporate proxy servers block different image storage sites, so some users can not see the images in some questions/answers.

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Posting images can be extremely useful in certain circumstances, e.g.:

  • Screenshots of user interfaces
  • UML diagrams

but SO makes this very painful to do, so it's no wonder so few people post them.

For example, last week I wanted to show some screenshots of how another community site automatically adds notification when you first post to a thread, (another thing that SO doesn't do very well). I soon gave up in disgust - it was just too clumsy to be worth the trouble.

(To see the site I'm talking about, which has a fairly good image upload feature, and - as a result - benefits tremendously in the quality of the info that is posted, go to RC Groups. There're a lot of things SO could learn from here!)

I don't agree that there should be a rep cost or a minimum rep before you could post images. Why should an SO newbie be penalized if his/her first question happens to benefit from an image? A simple upper limit on image size (50-100K?) should prevent severe bandwidth consumption.

I DO agree that there should be a disincentive to post screen shots of code - as Sinan says, it's not searchable. But the existing downvote mechanism will probably take care of that.

Let's err on the side of making it easy, and fix any problems if they come up!

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This is an awesome feature, getting imgur support from within Stack Overflow. However there is one problem with this approach:

IMGUR is blocked by many corporate firewalls because of NSFW pics hosted on their servers.

Is there some way you could figure out an aliased DNS name or something to accommodate those of us that use SO from a corporate workplace?

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You should ask this as a separate question here. –  jjnguy Aug 18 '10 at 15:12
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Image hosting is a job in itself, and I don't think a few broken images is reason enough to undertake such a task - very few SO posts rely on images..

It would quite dramatically increase the sites bandwidth usage also - the site is currently just gzip'd text (more or less):

Spolsky: What does our site call anyway?

Atwood: It's Stack Overflow. But what I'm trying to get to is that most of our site is text, so in a way it is a text overflow. If you look at our site, what images are we serving up? The logo, the vote buttons... I mean these are tiny, tiny images, really. We hardly... we don't do any image hosting locally. So any images you see on the site is from a third party site almost by definition. So the fact that we're going through almost 750KB/s peak of pure text, and compressed text at that, because for a long time we had the gzip religion, which is that everything that you serve should be compressed because it's just an utter no-brainer to compress 'cos you just have ridulous amount of CPU time and, like, tiny trickle of bandwidth. Plus it's just a better experience, right? You get the page faster, it's just better anyway you slice it. The only time not to do it is for some reason every CPU you have is pegged at 100%, then you don't want to be doing compression, but that's such a rare case. So we revisited it: there were a few edge cases we weren't compressing. I found out that in IIS, I think 6 and 7, it will not compress anything that's sent to a proxy, like if it sees "PROXY"...

(From StackOverflow podcast 44)

Really, I think imageshack.us does a good job of this task already - there's images I've put on it years ago that are still around.. even StackOverflow itself uses imageshack for the images shown during maintenance (or it did until recently?)

One situation where this would absolutely make sense - Stack Exchange, specifically the "On Site" plan - you do not want to rely on external servers to host content for your internal sites!

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Err, I defend imageshack and within an hour, this happens: imgur.com/XBZPI.png –  dbr Jul 11 '09 at 2:03
    
@dbr: hah, I just noticed that too. How in the world is stackoverflow a supporter of full disclosure? Why do I get the feeling that any tech site is going to get this treatment? –  Sean Jul 11 '09 at 2:13
    
+1 for the quote. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 11 '09 at 2:14
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Darth Eru: Any site using imageshack at the time would have had their images replaced with that –  dbr Jul 11 '09 at 15:29
    
As most of the users of SO are professional developers and of SF are professional sys admins then putting an image or two onto web space that they control doesn't sound too hard and some barrier to making the sites graphic rich is welcome. If graphics are easier to add then mandatory limits on height, width and size would be very welcome. –  mas Jul 16 '09 at 6:44
    
Many third party sites are blocked by corporate firewalls. Whether you agree with that practice or not is a different story, but there is a huge benefit here to users. –  RSolberg Nov 4 '09 at 16:46
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-1. The problem is when images are used, they are critical to the question/answer. I have had multiple times multiple different hosting services cease to function, and completely lost the very thing that made the post worth being on stack-overflow. Maybe not everyone are highly visual thinkers, but I sure am. –  Kent Fredric Dec 5 '09 at 19:19
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@dbr: I love how you had to use imgur.com for your imageshack.us image. :p –  Randolpho Jul 8 '10 at 15:06
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I think this is an excellent feature request. Today I posted a question that was answered immediately because I had an image that clearly showed what I was doing wrong (http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2614242/show-blank-uitableviewcells-in-custom-uitableview). If image uploads were fully integrated, it'd be much easier to post them. Some auto-formatting and resizing (perhaps thumbs with a lightbox view?) would be key as well.

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...but if you need an image in a question, then that question is not very SEO friendly? –  Arjan May 29 '10 at 17:28
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That's what text and alternate descriptions are for. and why we have to go to the doctor instead of just telling them what our symptoms are. we're visual creatures. –  typeoneerror Jun 2 '10 at 21:36
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Requiring a rep threshold is a good idea. In addition, I think posting an image should cost 10 points of reputation so as to limit images to cases where there really is some benefit.

It is not just the bandwidth and the storage space and site responsiveness I worry about: Images provide far less value for search and retrieval of information later on. If people just post a screen capture of their editor rather than posting the code in text, the whole value of the site as a means of people with similar questions being able to locate answers via search engines goes down the tubes.

So, rep threshold + rep cost are both necessary if this idea is going to be adopted.

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There are posts on CSS issues that actually show what is being rendered... Overall, I have not seen a single post with an image that wasn't useful in some form... –  RSolberg Jul 13 '09 at 20:52
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@RSolberg Your comment made me realize that currently, there is a cost to posting an image for each image. That is why they tend to be used mostly or exclusively when they are useful and informative to supplement the information posted in text format. If there is no marginal cost, either in terms of having to link to a hosting service or giving up a little rep, images will be more likely to be used even when they are not appropriate. BTW: Please consider the last line of my post (since edited) a botched joke. –  Sinan Ünür Jul 13 '09 at 21:05
    
The cost could be as in terms of rep but only if the figure is considered unnecessary: Add little voting buttons to the figure (like for a comment, but up and down) and thus putting an image puts your rep on the line, but putting a good image can be beneficial for your rep –  Yossi Farjoun Jul 29 '10 at 11:49
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I put this up on MSE but Perhaps is is more fitting here since it pertains to an Area51 site. Sorry for the duplication, I'll remove from MSE if people think it is what I should do.


Over at Tex.SE (a beta from Area51) I recently posted a meta question regarding this issue. As Tex and Latex pertain to typesetting, visual is important, and often an image is instrumental for the answer.

One idea that came up during the private beta is to have TeX.SE cache images and change the link to an internal (or standardly hosted) image after a while if the surrounding answer/question doesn't get voted down/flagged as abusive (or if the question/answer gets "enough" up votes). This can function without SE having to provide a complicated way of uploading files and can also process the old posts retroactively (to avoid having externally hosted images disappear). So people who can place files online can do so and not worry about the permanence of that domain, and people who only want to include some figure from Wikipedia or similar can do so as well without having to worry about that article changing/getting deleted etc.

I must say that I don't like any limitation of posting images (in terms of user rep), if the image is inappropriate, the surrounding question/answer should be voted down, as with inappropriate text. This should solve the most abusive use-cases. Another option would be to have voting buttons and/or report abuse buttons on the figure itself (and not only on the question/answer) so that people can pinpoint what they see as abusive.

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