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Photobucket Just Broke Billions of Photos Across the Web

2 July 2017

From PetaPixel:

Since 2003, the popular photo hosting service Photobucket has been letting users upload and host images for free on their servers. They have over 10 billion images stored by 100 million registered users. But now they’re going to start charging, and that means billions of images around the Web are now broken.

Hotlinking (AKA inline linking) is when someone takes an image file hosted on a server and embeds it on a different webpage elsewhere. Since the new webpage continuously requests the file from the original source server, it saps the server owner’s bandwidth (and storage space).

Photobucket allowed hotlinking photos uploaded to and stored on its servers for a long time. This was their business model, and they made money from ads on their own site, which users would be exposed to when they went to upload content.

Unfortunately for Photobucket users, things are about to change in a big way as of June 26th. Now the service is rolling out a $399 per year subscription fee for those who want to hotlink images from Photobucket’s servers to display elsewhere. That means that billions of images across the Web now display an error message instead of the image in question.

Link to the rest at PetaPixel 

Not exactly to do with books, but a cautionary tale about images you might want to use in social media campaigns. Some blogs that used Photobucket hotlinks to images now have hundreds of posts that are broken. Ditto for comments to blog posts. Ditto for images embedded in various online forums. Ditto for eBay auctions that include product photos posted on Photobucket.

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23 Comments to “Photobucket Just Broke Billions of Photos Across the Web”

  1. Some blogs that used Photobucket hotlinks to images now have hundreds of posts that are broken.

    And now I have another anecdote to add to “Career Indie Author” on the importance of controlling your work. Thanks Photobucket!

  2. The worst part is that they did this with no warning. I guess you could argue that “If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product and not the customer,” but I think I’d personally be furious if I had much of anything on PB.

  3. I stopped using them long ago, and now I’m glad. Whatever pics I had linked up to them, let them stay errors. Don’t care. Old blogs, anyway.

  4. This seems like something they should have done years ago. With current storage and bandwidth allowances and pricing on hosting packages, Photobucket is much more replaceable now than it was. I imagine an upgrade of less than $399 a year for most hosting packages would more than replace the lost functions of Photobucket.

    • This isn’t a plug for WordPress, but I pay under $20 per year for 11? 13? GB of storage. I don’t use most of it because I reduce my images before I upload them to the blog, but even if I didn’t, $399 is a ridiculously high price to demand for just storage and the right to link.

  5. Photobucket itself seems to be broken at the moment: nothing of the skin loads, and even if I were willing to pay for the service, I couldn’t find a place to do so.

  6. If it’s not on a system you control it’s not yours.

    Now that it’s ‘pay to play’, I wonder how many people will want to remove their pictures – only to discover that by using that free service they’d given it the rights to offer their photos forever?
    (Too lazy to look, but I’m betting it’s in the ToS. 😉 )

    • I only looked at the TOS of Imgur, and yes, uploading a picture to them means giving away all rights.

      I’ll be very careful about where to put which pictures… hosting them on my own rented server space sounds like a good option.

  7. Martin L. Shoemaker

    This pattern has repeated since the Web began. Someone offers a free service, often unlimited, and is then surprised when demand starts to push them into insolvency. Then they start to charge. Or they sell to another company, who starts to charge. Or they just go out of business as their model proves unsustainable.

    And then the users scream how unfair this all is. I do sympathize, but I’ve seen it too many times to be surprised by it.

    Servers ain’t free. Maintenance ain’t free. And ads stop producing money when too many people use ad blockers. Anyone who thinks they can provide a better service than Photobomb and not charge for it, good luck!

    • My system ain’t free, either. But (barring the failure of six levels of backup) – I will never lose access to one single file.

      Paid vendors can go out of business – fall victim to cyber attack – have an intern punch in the wrong command line. The most I will ever store on them is a copy of a file that resides on my system and that I have rights to move elsewhere if they go down. (So, I can be stymied by a cyber Armageddon, true – but I think I’ll have other things to worry about in that case.)

  8. You get what you pay for.

  9. Desmond X. Torres

    That’s odd. I use PB to host my covers etc for my Kboards profile and I just checked and they’re still on Kboards. Hmm… I’m scratching my head.

  10. So is the $399 a year what they projected they’d need to charge to cover the loss of all the people jumping ship? Because better hosting companies with better servers figured this stuff out ages ago and are charging less.

    I didn’t even know people still used Photobucket. I guess they’ve been circling the drain a while and someone in charge decided to finally pull the level to flush.

  11. Photobucket is going to start monitoring users’s movements in real space (reality reality) and correlate it with app interaction.



    “The incredible power of location data lies in its ability to help brands bridge the online and offline worlds, in order to understand consumers’ behaviors, visitation trends, offline interests, and brand loyalty,” Tomarchio says. “Think of publishers like Photobucket, for example. When analyzing the location patterns of users over time, app publishers are given real-world insights into geo-behavior, which pairs users’ consumer behaviors and trends with location.”

    Publishers can use this kind of data to analyze anonymous users’ visitation patterns over time, identifying trends and gathering actionable insights into users’ offline behaviors like frequency of store visits, purchase patterns, how long they spend at a location, and brand loyalty.

    Cuebiq has now partnered with more than 180 publishers, expanding its data-driven insights to more than 61 million monthly active users. Photobucket has more than 100 million registered members who upload more than four million images and videos per day from the web, smartphones, and connected digital cameras.

    “Utilizing new data points that will be available for us by Cuebiq will help us better understand how our users interact with our apps,” said John Corpus, CEO of Photobucket, in a statement. “More importantly, it will help us hone in on what matters to our customers on a daily basis.”

    Photobucket aims to deliver a more relevant experience to users, and the partnership with Cuebiq will also have the effect of quantifying Photobucket advertising campaigns for its brand partners. Publishers are constantly looking for ways to differentiate from the competition in order to draw more customers and advertisers. Location data allows them to better understand and respond to consumers’ needs, interests and behaviors – and in turn, having hard numbers about what customers are going to what stores will affect where brands will spend marketing dollars. “

  12. I haven’t been hit yet. Free account with minimal usage, and everything I have up there is also on my computer.

    I only use Photobucket to share pics on a message board. I host my own for my blogs, because of control. But those message boards have been hit hard.

    PB have become more and more annoying lately. I once tried to order a print through them, of one of the pics I uploaded, and it was impossible. So they couldn’t be making a lot of money through prints, even if people wanted to.

    They are going the way of the Nook. And aside from all my friends who now have their work cut out for them to save their boards, I don’t even feel sad.

  13. I used Photobucket a handful of times, years ago, mostly for stuff I didn’t care about and was usually temporary in nature anyway. It always seemed too much of a bother to me to go to a separate site, upload the photo there, and then figure out how to link it back. When I had a blog, I uploaded pictures directly to the blog. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

    Yeah, definitely a cautionary tale on relying on third party websites more than absolutely necessary.

    What’s odd to me is how they jumped from free to $400 a year. That cuts out the vast majority of individual users, and I’d imagine heavy users would look into just hosting the files themselves. Kind of seems like in an effort to make money, they kind of just made themselves irrelevant.

  14. I’m always nervous about a business model of ‘free.’


  15. Well, well, well. Cough up that $399 or suck air, foolish Internet denizens.

    This hasn’t, doesn’t, and won’t affect me in the slightest.

    Shedding copious crocodile tears now for all those unfortunates…

    (BTW, “Photobucket” rhymes with…) 🙂

  16. People still use photobucket?

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