From older Meta posts it seem to me that the file size limit was higher in the past, and linked to the limits allowed by imgur.

However, now the limit is 2 MB (or MiB), and imgur allows much more than that ("The maximum file size for non-animated images (think JPG, PNG, etc) is 20MB. PNG files over 5MB will be converted to JPEGs.")

Why is the limit set to 2 MB?

Personally, my workflow to quickly answer question often involve capturing all or parts of my screen content and paste it to the post. However, often 2 MB is not enough to hold a complex (i.e. low compresibility) image of the size of a normal screen, which is very unfortunate, and forces me to save the capture to a file, then open it and save it again with higher compression settings, which is fine but time consuming.

2 MB is a rather small value. Why not to increase it to, let's say 4 MB or 6 MB? That later value correspond more or less to the uncompressed size of a 1920x1080 color image, that is a fairly standard screen size. Of course, compression can be done on the server side, but allowing larger file sizes would make it much easier for the user. I think that we all agree that "copy & paste" are great tools to increase efficiency.

I want to make clear that I'm not asking for bigger images to be allowed in storage, just to allow the upload of larger images, and then do the compression and resizing if needed on the server side as imgur do for all free users. So, I guess it is possible to offload that task to imgur, that already automatically resizes and/or compress large images.

For example, this image, that I captured from my screen and pasted it on the image dialogue was rejected in Stack Exchange:

enter image description here

But then I went to imgur and pasted it in the upload dialogue there as a free anonymous user, it got uploaded without any problems and was also automatically compressed. In fact, if you go to the imgur page of the image, and download it you will find that is uses only 345 kB.

As another example, I uploaded to imgur as a free anonymous user an image of 8.6 MB and 4608x3456 pixels in size with no problem, but the version stored on imgur after the standard processing is only 919.8 kB and 3226x2419 pixels in size. So there was automatic resizing and compression.

Wouldn't that same behavior be desirable on Stack Exchange?

The automatic resizing and compressing does already happen in Stack Exchange uploads, the only difference is the arbitrary limit of 2 MB on the original file size. Why is that? Is there a bandwidth limit in the agreement between Stack Exchange and imgur? A CPU time limit?

  • Why not to increase it to, let's say 4 MB or 6 MB? Because. Now, if you still want this, you should edit and add a definitive use case where the 2mb size limit would be detrimental. – Won't Mar 29 '18 at 20:18
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    @Won't The case on which 2MB is detrimental is exactely what I tried to describe: That using OS inbuilt screen capture features, one capture on a standard screen won't fit in a 2MB file unless additional compression is applied, making the workflow more cumbersome. – Camilo Rada Mar 29 '18 at 20:22
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    @Won't I always crop only the part of the screen that is needed for the answer (with "shift+impr. pant" in Ubuntu, a great tool), but even so, many times the resulting image is more than 2 MB. You can call it laziness, but I don't like wasting my time if a small usability improvement can streamline the workflow and make the use of our time more efficient. – Camilo Rada Mar 29 '18 at 20:30
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    Huh, I guess their limit is larger: "PNG files over 5MB will be converted to JPEGs." – Jeremy Mar 29 '18 at 20:45
  • The larger the image, the more processing power to resize it. No matter how you slice it, the answer is money. – Goose Mar 29 '18 at 21:39
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    @Goose But as long as I understand Stack Exchange is not paying for imgur services (stackoverflow.blog/2010/08/18/new-image-upload-support), and imgur itself allow larger images to free users, so I guess they have already done the numbers and they can handle larger files. Is it the 2 MB limit specified in the agreement between imgur and Stack Exchange? – Camilo Rada Mar 29 '18 at 22:07
  • @Goose I've added some examples to the question that are important to make the point. Have a look. – Camilo Rada Mar 29 '18 at 22:45
  • @Won't I've added some examples to the question that are important to make the point. Have a look. – Camilo Rada Mar 29 '18 at 22:45
  • Uploading directly to imgur isn't relevant, since SE use their API to do that. Naturally, any API is heavily rate limited. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Mar 29 '18 at 23:03

I am pretty sure the reason is historical limit, that isn't relevant anymore.

Stack Exchange sends the images to imgur via their API, using a special premium account that was made many years ago, back in Jeff days. Back then imgur was still young, and most likely 2mb per image via the API was their soft limit.

As far as I could see, these days the API limit is 10mb per image, so either SE simply never spent time changing it on their side, or the contract they have with imgur (with special pricing) won't allow it, can't know for sure.

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