Please Update Your Account to Enable 3rd Party Hosting
July 1, 2017 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Photobucket rolled out a new update to its TOS on June 26th with just a small, innocuous blog post as an announcement. Users have been finding out about it as their embedded images on other sites have turned into placeholders telling them to update their accounts, and as Photobucket has rolled out email notifications telling them that if they want to keep embedding images, they have to pay $399/year.

Users who don't want to embed but want to be able to link to their images have to pay $99.99/year. Free and lower-priced plans provide storage only.

PC Mag: Photobucket Breaks Image Links Across the Internet

ghacks.net: PhotoBucket now charges $399 for third-party hosted images

The Register: Photobucket says photo-f**k-it, starts off-site image shakedown

Users respond on Twitter and Facebook, where people are having their say in the comments to cheery images Photobucket is posting.
posted by current resident (69 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
So what you're telling me is that Photobucket wants people to move their accounts to Imgur?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:58 AM on July 1 [37 favorites]


Imgur got serious about being a real business a year or two ago and are much less friendly too.
posted by Nelson at 12:00 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


I don't know. Imgur can be pretty expensive. I mean seriously, I will stop by there to upload an image to put somewhere and...several hours and tabs later...
posted by Samizdata at 12:00 PM on July 1 [7 favorites]


There is zero upside to being a free image hosting service. This move is not surprising.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:05 PM on July 1 [25 favorites]


Wow. I guess they need to get paid, but dang.
posted by notyou at 12:05 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I go to an audiophile forum that depends on Photobucket and sites like it for people to post photos of their systems. This is going to hit these folks HARD! Damn.
posted by Ber at 12:09 PM on July 1


I don't object to a company making money.

I do object to the rug being pulled under from thousands of people.

give people some f**ng notice ffs.
posted by lalochezia at 12:10 PM on July 1 [11 favorites]


I just checked and my Photobucket links appear to still be working (one of my highest-favorited comments here links to a Photobucket image). I am not on any plan.
posted by muddgirl at 12:11 PM on July 1


Imgur really wants to think it's a social network, not a hosting service, so it has a pretty specific paragraph in its TOS:
Also, don't use Imgur to host image libraries you link to from elsewhere, content for your website, advertising, avatars, or anything else that turns us into your content delivery network. If you do – and we will be the judge – or if you do anything illegal, in addition to any other legal rights we may have, we will ban you along with the site you're hotlinking from, delete all your images, report you to the authorities if necessary, and prevent you from viewing any images hosted on Imgur.com. We mean it.
I've only heard of this happening once, but I still wouldn't count on imgur, at least not if you're big enough for them to notice.
posted by one for the books at 12:13 PM on July 1 [6 favorites]


Please don't shutter Flickr ... Please don't shutter Flickr ... Please don't shutter Flickr ... Please don't shutter Flickr ... Please don't shutter Flickr ......
posted by Wordshore at 12:14 PM on July 1 [19 favorites]




Back in the Web 1.0 days I was doing web design and I was freelancing for a company who wanted to charge for every link they put on their page for someone else. They had started out as a tourist magazine who got money for advertisements and they wanted to charge something like $40/month for every link to anyone they displayed on their website.

I guess the worm has come back full circle now.
posted by hippybear at 12:30 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I had seen the placeholder images but since I don't use photobucket I didn't really look into it much, but that pricing is insane.

I don't see any way that this won't backfire for them, considering how it's mainly affecting the users of webforums, all of which now have at least one post in them discussing the various alternatives to photobucket.
posted by ckape at 12:39 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


I think the pricing would be fine if the interface was slick and unintrusive like old school Flickr, but Photobucket UI is a garbage bucket of ads and has been for a long time as they tried to monetize image hosting.
posted by muddgirl at 12:42 PM on July 1 [7 favorites]


Charging for image embeds, I can understand. Even assuming that relatively few accounts are responsible for more than background-noise levels of traffic, Photobucket easily hosts millions of photos that are each generating traffic through hotlinks every day. Being a CDN is difficult and expensive.

Charging for image links, on the other hand... that sounds insane.
posted by ardgedee at 1:02 PM on July 1


Time for websites to switch to Discourse. They allow you to drag and drop images directly from your computer.
posted by Splunge at 1:07 PM on July 1


I'm surprised the notion of free, unlimited image CDN lasted this long. Why don't forums just host their own images? Even if they're a hobby thing being paid for out of pocket by someone, is bandwidth still that expensive in 2017?
posted by indubitable at 1:23 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


If you do – and we will be the judge

I know they think it's cute to use informal language, but sometimes you actually need to say things like "and we will judge this in accordance with the policy and guidance that you can read here" in order to convey an impression that you're capable of being trusted not to delete people's stuff just because you feel like it. Being seen as a grown-up probably isn't cool, but it is sort of important to being trusted.
posted by howfar at 1:37 PM on July 1 [16 favorites]


  Time for websites to switch to Discourse.

Discourse charges $100/month for hosting. So, no.
posted by scruss at 1:45 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Just SMDH if you use photobucket in TYOL 2017.
posted by kzin602 at 1:49 PM on July 1 [6 favorites]


Isn't this something you could use Dropbox for easily enough? They give away 2 GB of storage. That's a lot of memes.
posted by adamrice at 2:39 PM on July 1


Free, unlimited CDN is a totally unreasonable expectation. But for most people, $400/year is also a totally unreasonable expectation. It's weird to me that somewhere this established wasn't capable of somehow doing this in a traffic-dependent way--like offering people cheap monthly plan with a cap after which maybe your avatar or whatever would stop showing up. $400/year is just screaming that they don't really want the money.
posted by Sequence at 2:45 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Dropbox stopped letting me embed images fairly recently with my free account. Unless I'm missing how to do it.
posted by ODiV at 3:02 PM on July 1


Isn't this something you could use Dropbox for easily enough? They give away 2 GB of storage.

Didn't Dropbox recently block 3rd party hosting, too?

Jinx.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:02 PM on July 1


Dropbox recently locked down the /public folder, and I think since 2015 or so new users were not getting one.

Assuming someone isn't hotlinking pictures to the frontpage of reddit, wouldn't $33 be better employed renting a server and installing some gallery thing like Coppermine? At €15/month I could rent a linux/windows server with 250GB space, unlimited (with as asterisk because we know how these things work) traffic and with FTP, domain and emails included.

I'll be taking this opportunity to get whatever images I had saved there (I think it's the headers for some articles I wrote) and delete my account there. If I can find where, that is. Can't even get the page to render right.
posted by lmfsilva at 3:16 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


> Why don't forums just host their own images? Even if they're a hobby thing being paid for out of pocket by someone, is bandwidth still that expensive in 2017?

Because even if bandwidth was free, there would still be added labor for owning your own CDN. You have to watch your storage space get gobbled up by images, so you have to pay your colo to upgrade your storage regularly; or else you invest the effort in having the site digest image uploads to dedupe and reduce storage, which requires devops skills most forum admins don't possess, so the admins are now providing their own free labor or hiring a contractor, and it only delays the inevitable need for more disk space. Or else you contract with S3 or one of their competitors, so now bandwidth is not free and you still need the skills to reduce storage consumption to keep your monthly bills under control.

And you also get to play extra rounds of DMCA takedown whack-a-mole now that you're physically hosting the swiped images the membership are posting.

By contrast $399 a year for a CDN is cheap.
posted by ardgedee at 3:21 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I do wonder if this will be another push towards the model of one-time-cost packaged appliances that you run on a cloud instance rented either directly from AWS et al, or via an instance broker such as Digital Ocean. The actual value that people like Photobucket provide would seem to be very vulnerable to appification.
posted by Devonian at 3:24 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


From one of the two other Metafilter posts with a photobucket tag:

> Photobucket.com A free place to dump pictures you want to hotlink from sites like eBay, Craigslist, or even your personal site. There is a 100MB limit, but even that isn't absolute. This seems like a too good to be true service, how long can something like this last?

Answer: 13.5 years.
posted by ardgedee at 3:24 PM on July 1 [47 favorites]


But, of course, the other issue is they have your pictures and you will have to change EVERY SINGLE reference you have ever made to them, depending on your use case.

So, yeah, does $400 still sound too spendy?
posted by Samizdata at 3:28 PM on July 1


Well, I've managed to check what I had there, and it's the header image for those articles (the site does not exists anymore and wanted to upload them to medium), a bunch of images I used to post on a SBNation board (can't go back and edit them) and a couple of GIFs from a hardware-glitched Comix Zone I uplodaded there when Tumblr had iffy colour management, since replaced with a proper post after they fixed things on their end.

I guess I'm not the right person to shake down.
posted by lmfsilva at 3:38 PM on July 1


I bet the $400 fee was arrived at using deep data analysis to determine exactly what percentage of Photobucket users would pay that fee and thus come up with enough to keep the service funded and allowing all the others who won't pay to melt away or use the abbreviated service.

It's probably exactly the right amount of money.
posted by hippybear at 3:44 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer, you're the product.

There is a simple, effective, and likely permanent solution to this: Pay for your hosting. Long ago someone suggested to me to check out nearlyfreespeech.net, which to this day is my provider and domain registrar. Their model is simple and, for most of us, cheap since it's pay as you go both for storage and for bandwidth. You pay up front and if funds run out it just stops working until you refill the jar, never any overage charges or similar crap. You would have to be very insanely popular to rack up more than a few bucks a month in charges. But at the same time, should your cat pic go viral and get ten bazillion hits, as long as you have the funds in your jar for the bandwidth, they can handle it and the "slashdot effect" won't take your content down. Back when I first put my novel online it was very hard to find a provider who was slashdot-proof who didn't charge $400 a month whether you needed the high bandwidth or not.

I have a fairly popular collection of stories and I also use it for image hosting and some work activity which involves larger than text files, and I seem to end up sending them twenty bucks every six months or so. I also have logging on for web statistics and the log files end up being much larger than my real content unless I occasionally purge them. You have to go out of your way to enable that though, and they warn you about the possible expense consequences.

And I have never had a broken link, never received a spam email, nor any of the other nuisances associated with services that fund themselves via advertising. I'm sure there are other similar services, it's just that NFSN is the one I landed on by recommendation back when kuro5hin was still a thing.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:01 PM on July 1 [27 favorites]


Their model is simple and, for most of us, cheap since it's pay as you go both for storage and for bandwidth. You pay up front and if funds run out it just stops working until you refill the jar, never any overage charges or similar crap.

I use Tracfone for my cell phone and it works exactly this way and I love it. I admit, I'm not a huge user of cell data or texts or call minutes, but I pay about $30 every three months or so, and it works great for my usage.

If you're not a heavy user of online storage, this is exactly the solution you want.
posted by hippybear at 4:13 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


In short -- monthly fees aren't right for everyone.
posted by hippybear at 4:13 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I thought the general narrative was "hosting is getting cheaper because of AWS", so four hundred dollars for showing pictures seems like a lot.
posted by The River Ivel at 4:18 PM on July 1


Four hundred dollars is a fortune. I've been using NSFN for years and I don't think I have paid them even $200 total for all that.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:23 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


But, of course, the other issue is they have your pictures and you will have to change EVERY SINGLE reference you have ever made to them, depending on your use case.

So, yeah, does $400 still sound too spendy?


Nice web presence ya got dere, be a shame if sometin bad shuld happin to it, y'know.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:29 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


Also: Long-time free dropbox user, and yeah they have decided not to be web hosts any more. There is no more public folder, and while now I can make any file in my dropbox publicly available, it's through a link that goes to a Dropbox download page, so it can't be something like an embedded image. I'm not surprised at this because they too have been getting a bit more aggro about trying to monetize their service. And I can't really blame them; my boss used them for two years very aggressively for a company-wide distro service and only started paying them when we ran out the 2 Gb free service limit.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:34 PM on July 1


So, yeah, does $400 still sound too spendy?

Yes.
posted by ckape at 5:20 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


$400/year pays for a shitton for Amazon S3 + Route53 (DNS) + CloudFront (CDN) if you're only hosting a couple of random pictures for personal use.
posted by fragmede at 5:30 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


This is exactly the sort of thing that IPFS would be an excellent alternative for, if more people used/installed it and the browsers did a better job of integrating.
posted by Inkoate at 5:57 PM on July 1


Sure, the cloud hosting is super cheap but the product to make it easy and usable is not. "Just register for some IAM roles and pick a domain name and here's how to use s3cmd to upload files on the command line" is not really useful to 99.9% of users.

OTOH, there's no smart way to monetize some really cheap service. You could charge people $5/year and make a profit on service charges, but I'm not sure you'd even cover one person's salary. And at the scale you'd need you also need support, and copyright handling, and porn filtering of some sort, and ... That's why ad supported products are so common. But there's no sensible way to embed an ad in a raw hotlinked image. I can think of some bad ways though :-(
posted by Nelson at 6:00 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Seems like a good time to repost Maciej Cegłowski's Don't Be A Free User
posted by ctmf at 6:07 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


$5/mo will get you a pretty robust personal image host on a VPS backed by Cloudflare free tier. The biggest hurdle is you have to be a competent sysadmin.
posted by ryanrs at 6:10 PM on July 1


This has already caused an issue for me. I was looking for a schematic for someone's original guitar pedal design and someone pointed me to a forum discussion about it from 6 years ago. All the text was still there, but the photobucket images (which included the schematic) were switched over to the "pay up" image.
posted by drezdn at 6:14 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


"hosting is getting cheaper because of AWS"

AWS really expensive as far as hosting goes. They have an amazing platform and API, but be aware that there is a whole world of hosting providers that charge 1/10th Amazon rates (or less).

(It's not even that Amazon is overcharging, but if you can live with cheaper, lower service, there are lots of companies that can sell it to you.)
posted by ryanrs at 6:18 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Just register for some IAM roles and pick a domain name and here's how to use s3cmd to upload files on the command line

I have done everything via NFSN via GUI. You do have to understand what folders are, how to move files about, and so on. You don't need your own domain since you can use username.nfsn.com if you're cheap. Once you put the FTP path NFSN gives you into the browser and enter the password, WIndows treats it like any other place to dump files. If you can't handle that, you shouldn't be doing computers.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:20 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


But, of course, the other issue is they have your pictures and you will have to change EVERY SINGLE reference you have ever made to them, depending on your use case.

So, yeah, does $400 still sound too spendy?

Nice web presence ya got dere, be a shame if sometin bad shuld happin to it, y'know.


Exactly my point.


So, yeah, does $400 still sound too spendy?

Yes.


See the whole point of my comment was that unless you wanted a WHOLE LOT OF WORK ahead of you, you were stuck paying the price. At no point was I saying this was a good thing.
posted by Samizdata at 6:24 PM on July 1


At no point was I saying this was a good thing.

OK, point taken. But I hope we agree that nobody should ever again do business with anyone that pulls a shit trick like this. $400 is spendy, but not as spendy as your soul and entire mortal future.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:26 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


To be quite honest, this move pleases me deeply, as an occasional user of web forums. I've noticed an interesting thing that happens, particularly on automotive repair forums; and that is:
1) user posts a DIY/How-To with a bunch of photos hosted on photobucket, because approximately zero web forums offer local photo hosting for image embeds in their posts (insanity!) ... back in 2012.

2) user deletes their photobucket account for any number of perfectly valid reasons.

3) in 2017, that web forum post is now mostly useless.

Perhaps this will be the thing that kicks forums over into having their own storage backend.
(yeah. as if.)
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 6:51 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


I guess this is what you get for storing your files in my butt.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:25 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Perhaps this will be the thing that kicks forums over into having their own storage backend.
(yeah. as if.)


A while ago I was arguing that this should be something AskMe provides/requires, but the lack of permanence was seen as a feature, which seems out of character for mefi, honestly.
posted by ODiV at 8:06 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


To be quite honest, this move pleases me deeply, as an occasional user of web forums. I've noticed an interesting thing that happens, particularly on automotive repair forums
YES! I had an older car and even back several years ago, this was a problem when trying to look up solutions to issues that I was having.
posted by indubitable at 8:40 PM on July 1


It pleases me too because photobucket embeds silently fail a right click save image as. You get a script file with a .jpg extension and you don't find out until you try to open the image. Extremely annoying.

ryanrs: "$5/mo will get you a pretty robust personal image host on a VPS backed by Cloudflare free tier. The biggest hurdle is you have to be a competent sysadmin."

So $5/mo and a few years of either education or systems experience. I have the ability and I still end up using flickr or imgur to host images for casual linking because it is simple and available at any machine I sit at.
posted by Mitheral at 9:26 PM on July 1


It's strange that they don't just line-item your S3 costs with a 1% handling fee and require you to login and authorize spend amounts now and then.
posted by crysflame at 10:00 PM on July 1


A moving image is made up of a series of still images so make a "video" which is just all of the photos you want to share, stick it on YouTube and then link to the time-indexed still...
posted by fallingbadgers at 10:03 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Photobucket also will no longer let you browse their site directly if you have ad blocking enabled. Which you'd have to be insane to visit photobucket without an ad-blocker because they use the lowest-of-the-low ad services. Like almost guaranteed malware type of stuff.

Edited to ad: Seemingly from a third-party referer do you get the ad block message. Still, their JS load is scary if you disable ad-blocking, or at least it was the last time I took a peek.
posted by maxwelton at 11:10 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


I guess this is what you get for storing your files in my butt.

But I was originally told your butt had free unlimited storage capacity!
posted by Samizdata at 11:35 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


I have the ability and I still end up using flickr or imgur to host images

I already have the server, domain, and cloudflare up and running for unrelated reasons. I still use imgur, too.
posted by ryanrs at 1:30 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I just logged in to my ancient photo bucket account and found a bunch of images from 2006. I guess that's no great loss.

I wouldn't recommend anyone else do it though, because their advertising is seriously shady. After 5 images viewed my phone got redirected to some sort of prize website which aggressively vibrated (I didn't even know websites could do that!) and layered on the popups and dialog boxes to make it hard to leave.

The loss of really good information from forum posts is sad though. I guess trusting 3rd party image hosts is inherently short sighted.
posted by leo_r at 2:37 AM on July 2


Came here to watch Pb die. Stayed for resource comments thread!
posted by filtergik at 3:30 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Why don't forums just host their own images?

Because then you are liable for DMCA claims from publishers like Getty.com, my guess is that this is driven by the potential legal liabilities and how those will affect a valuation of PhotoBucket itself.
The price is not a realistic reflection of hosting costs in 2017, it's much more a "go away we don't want your business" kind of price.
posted by Lanark at 7:39 AM on July 2


It's strange that they don't just line-item your S3 costs with a 1% handling fee

Because then they'd be charging users about $2 a year. That's the S3 cost of hosting Photobucket for most not-very-popular users. That's not a business. Holding 10 years of photos hostage for $400 a year, though, now that's a business.

I have done everything via NFSN via GUI ... you can use username.nfsn.com if you're cheap.

Do you mean https://www.nearlyfreespeech.net/?
posted by Nelson at 8:01 AM on July 2


1. Unsustainable business model (though it's amazing how long it was sustained!)

2. Get the internet depending on you because you provide something at a loss.

3. Change to a sustainable but loathsome business model.

4. The world ends and everything sucks and everyone is miserable, because your loss-leader-for-god-knows-what business model subsidized a lot of really positive helpful things that made things better for people.

4. Profit(?) (maybe?) (if you're lucky?)

It's the Internet Way.
posted by edheil at 11:38 AM on July 2


But I was originally told your butt had free unlimited storage capacity!

As long as you remember your butt is just someone else's computer.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:52 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Do you mean https://www.nearlyfreespeech.net/?

Yep; it's incorporated as "NFSN, Inc.".
posted by XtinaS at 12:39 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


As long as you remember your butt is just someone else's computer.

The implications here for the whole existential argument about "does consciousness exist" and "are we just brains in jars" and what it means for "your butt" to be "someone else's computer" is going to be a doctoral thesis in the next 5 years.

Whether philosophy or computer science or transhumanism, I cannot say at this point.
posted by hippybear at 12:45 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


AWS really expensive as far as hosting goes. They have an amazing platform and API, but be aware that there is a whole world of hosting providers that charge 1/10th Amazon rates (or less).

It depends what you're hosting. If you need an EC2 instance, sure. For my low-traffic static Jekyll site that is served directly from S3, the most I've ever been billed is 81¢, and that covers not just storage and bandwidth but DNS and a pretty solid CDN. I think it would be hard to find a host who'd do all of that for 8¢. (To be fair, most of my images are loaded from Flickr—moving them to S3 as well would likely get me to a buck or two a month.)
posted by enn at 1:13 PM on July 2


Amazon and eBay images broken by Photobucket's 'ransom demand'. Amazon's store pages are affected if a third party seller used a Photobucket URL. To point out the obvious irony, Amazon also operates the world's biggest web hosting service.
posted by Nelson at 8:16 AM on July 4


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