The GIF at https://i.stack.imgur.com/cdkOW.gif is linked here and here but now doesn't work. If I look at the same file name like this https://i.imgur.com/cdkOW.gif I see a different image.

Five upper/lower case alphanumerics give $(26+26+10)^5$ = 916,132,832 combinations. Are they being recycled? Are any or all imgur PNGs or GIFs in stackexchange going to expire? If so, how soon? I remember when I first learned that FedEx tracking numbers were being recycled constantly; I was shocked until I did the math, then shocked again when I realized a few more digits would have fixed that, then un-shocked when I realized that expiration was probably OK after weighing the tradeoffs. With only five character file names, these imgur files look like someone has already planned on eventual expiry.

update: The breakage of the link seems to have been temporary, i.e. it works now. But I'm still curious, are the imgur links we use in stackexchange supposed to be permanent?

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ It is highly likely the 5 characters can host significantly less than a billion images - there are likely to be check bits and other features. Should the limit be reached, nothing prevents the system switching to p.stack.imgur.com for new images; however simply adding extra characters to the hash would be a better, though slightly non-trivial change. Ultimately though this question belongs on the main meta. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jan 26 '19 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ I think that it's a bit impractical to move a 2.5 year old question with two answers to a different meta. These days I ask both there and here, depending on scope. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 26 '19 at 12:00

According to Jeff Atwood, Stack Exchange entered a 1 year agreement with imgur for dedicated image hosting:

We engaged in a 1 year agreement to formally support imgur, which also involved us getting

  • a dedicated server on premises with them
  • a custom domain name

While I cannot speak to the specifics of the Stack Exchange/Imgur agreement, the base Imgur site never deletes images unless deletion is requested.

They originally had deleted inactive images after 6 months, and offered pro accounts a "never-expire" feature. In February 2015, Imgur made that a baseline feature.

We’re phasing out Pro subscriptions…and making the Pro features completely free for every Imgur user!

It is likely that as because Stack Exchange has a dedicated on premises server their image expiration details are determined by Stack Exchange itself, and are likely set to never expire currently.

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    $\begingroup$ This is probably as good of an answer as is possible. I'm still worried about the individual five-character names for the images. Knowing the sever will be there for a while is great, but will the individual images stick around as well? (I'd guess probably; 916,132,832 is pretty big for SE-specific images). $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 7 '17 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ I've added a caveat answer $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 24 '19 at 23:56

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