If you’re an avid Photobucket user, you woke up to a nasty surprise this past week: the photo storage and hosting service changed their terms, breaking billions of images online in one fell swoop, without so much as a courtesy notice.
Some explanation is probably in order.
Photobucket has been allowing free users to host and link to images on its servers since 2003. If you wanted to host your photos on Photobucket and display them on some 3rd party site (also known as hotlinking) you could do that without being a paying member. This is an extremely useful—not to mention bandwidth-intensive—service to offer, and it’s one of the reasons Photobucket has managed to amass over 10 billion photos uploaded to its servers by over 100 million users.
But starting last week, the company changed its terms and membership structure, and what once was free will now cost users a whopping $400 per year. Suddenly, billions of images Photobucket users had hotlinked online no longer showed up. Entire forum threads, like this one found the photo blog by PetaPixel, are now devoid of images.
Instead, you have this graphic on display… over and over:
As you can imagine, Photobucket users are not happy about the change. Any time a free service turns into a paid one there’s bound to be some griping, but going from free to $400/year is an extreme jump by any standard.
On the one hand, it’s easy to justify Photobucket’s decision from a business standpoint: advertising revenues are dropping, and hosting that many images has to be incredibly expensive. But doing it so suddenly, without so much as a courtesy warning, has users turning to social media to vent their frustration.
Some are calling it ‘blackmail’ and ‘extortion,’ others are saying it’s business suicide, and droves of users are bidding an angry farewell:
— Harold Garbage Smith (@hws5mp) July 2, 2017
How to piss people off, you will find #photobucket first in the dictionary alongside stupid. Rip all embedded photos.
— Camy (@xCamyz) July 2, 2017
#Photobucket execs: "Profits down. Ideas?" "Let’s hold hostages!" "Good work, Wilson. Take someone’s wedding pics home as a souvenir."
— _ (@Xsanguin8) July 2, 2017
So. I have years of blog content on #Photobucket which I now have to reorganise and rehouse. Fab. Super great.
— Cadence Woodland (@csmalldog) July 1, 2017
— David Jenkins (@m16a172) June 30, 2017
you are a DISGUSTING company @photobucket this is 100% blackmail. I have years of blog content on your platform, now forcing to pay 400/year
— Julia (@Contour_Affair) June 27, 2017
Whatever you want to call it, one thing is certain: making such a sweeping change without warning was the wrong call. You hear that noise? It’s the stampede of users running pell mell towards Imgur.