At the end of June, Photobucket made some changes to their TOS (terms of service) policies that caused a lot of outrage and a lot of havoc in cyberspace. Their social media channels blew up with the outrage. While it is well within any company’s rights to change their TOS at any time and just about any TOS you find anywhere specifies that (that’s part of the deal with using a 3rd party service for anything you don’t own yourself), what Photobucket did was nothing short of an epic fail motivated by greed of epic proportions. I am writing about this now, because it has just now started affecting me a couple weeks ago, probably because I am a small fry in their big pond, and it has taken some time to get to me. They started screwing my stuff up and then send me an email notice on July 22 (a Saturday at that!) a couple weeks later even though this brouhaha started about a month ago at large. Pheh.
What this is is an example of for business owners big and small is how NOT to go about a policy change or to implement paid usage for something that had been free since its inception.
I learned about Photobucket back in 2013 when I worked with someone else on some publicity websites where we used Photobucket to host book covers and author photos off site to keep the website running smoothly and to save disk space (which is what most people use them for until now) since images can take up a lot of space. We stopped using it in 2015 and have since adopted a new strategy of about how long to keep posts on the site since covers and purchase links change, etc.
I am/was a small time user that mostly uploaded images supplied by guests onto Photobucket, so I didn’t really have that much content on there, but what they have done is still going to be a real pain in my ass to fix. I had been considering going through some of my old posts and deleting some for some services that have gone defunct and revisiting others and updating my resources page so I had work to do on this site anyway, but now the work has increased and I have other things to do (like write books) besides having to go back and edit old posts because some greedy asshat wanted to screw up my site. I am not the only one who has felt this way. These people screwed up years /a lifetime of work for folks in just a few seconds or minutes. Oy. Talk about selfish ambitions!
In case you don’t know what all the fuss is about, I will summarize it in a nutshell without rehashing it. I will link to some reviews and articles for you at the end of the post to get an idea about what I am saying is true.
Basically, what they did was change the policy with very little or absolutely no notice whatsoever to over 1oM users. To add insult to injury, they blocked users’ photos they were linked to and replaced them with the image at the start of the posts with a demand staring them in the face (another example below). Entire forums, Amazon listings, Ebay, listings and more were riddled with that butt-ugly, dopey image with it’s corresponding demand. Everybody could see it! To make matters worse, the feature that most people were using them for would cost them $400 a year or $40 a month. They had lower cost tiers, but they did not include the hotlinking/3rd party hosting feature.
I don’t know about you, but going from free to $400 bucks is some major sticker shock. It may be their right, but it’s not right how they went about it. And they are forcing you to pay them this kind of cold hard cash to display your images again or the cost of time to download, reupload to your own server or another service and reedit all your posts or what have you. Some people have a lot more work ahead than I do, but it’s still a pain in the ass no matter what.
Some users were accusing them of “ransom”, but this isn’t the case since they could still retrieve their pictures, but they had to go through their glitchy interface and captchas to do it. No, this is just flat out extortion. Even if you pay this outrageous fee, there is still no guarantee that your images will reappear and that everything will be hunky-dory. Furthermore, that most expensive plan has a lot of things that most people don’t need. Most people aren’t going to need 500 GB of storage; I’ve only used like 1-3% (I had two accounts) of 2 GB, so it’s not worth it. You also have to pay to share. So in short, their “free” plan is practically useless, and you have to deal with ad bloat from hell. It has since gone from an ad every once in a while to an ad popping up every time you click. They even have one that blocks the entire screen. Ugh!
When I first started using Photobucket, their ads on the free plan were manageable, but over time the ad bloat became so egregious and caused their interface to crash. There have been copious complaints about their features not working and the website being down, etc. So who wants to pay $400 bucks for something that stays broken? Not me.
Some of the articles say that Photobucket is going to stick this hefty bill to it’s “heavy users”. I am here to tell you that this is not true. They want to charge $400 bucks to small users like me for 3rd party hosting. Uh-uh. Not happening. I am going to find another means to do this and my new hosting plan also has a premium plugin that comes standard with it called WP Smush (since I am on WordPress) that compresses images, so Photobucket is getting kicked to the curb. I am not playing their game. I can get an edit for a short book or get a really awesome book cover for $400. I don’t even think this would be useful to a professional photographer either!
If you are looking for a free and well recommended (also by others) 3rd party hosting check out Imgur. It’s even easier to use than Photobucket. Update: Click this article for some additional notes about Imgur. Read this discussion on Reddit for more info of potential pitfalls of Imgur including the murky TOS about their hotlinking policies.
Before I go, I just wanted to add this in. Articles boast of Photobucket having (I know that’s past tense now) 100M+ users and billions of images hosted there. The ads were not covering costs, which I could see. I and other people could see implementing a paid feature and limiting some things on the free plan, that is the “cost” of free after all and it not staying free forever. With that number of users, and if they PROPERLY introduced a paid plan(s) anywhere from $10-$50 a year and half of them paid for it, then that should more than cover the cost if you do the math. Of course, free people would still be stuck with the ads; that’s what a lot of apps and services do. If that still didn’t cover the cost, then there has to be some cutting back or something that is impacting efficiency. But noooo, they want to be greedy and indiscriminately slap everyone who uses them for 3rd party hosting with a $400 a year bill, and their other paid plans are useless.
Have anything to add or an experience with this? Leave a comment!