Wednesday, 13 September 2017

My opinion on the Photobucket meltdown

I suppose this isn't very much a gaming-related subject but since I've largely used the free image-hosting site, Photobucket, for uploading pictures of games to forums and such, I thought it was at least semi-relevant. The way it worked is that anybody could sign up and have access to a certain amount of free image hosting (10GB last time I checked) with greater storage and options costing money via a subscription. You could also purchase prints of people's photos through the site but I imagine that the majority of Photobucket's revenue would have come from the ads (as is typical of a lot of sites offering services for "free").

Recently however, Photobucket did something that has outraged the internet. Essentially they placed a block on people's images displaying wherever they were linked, said images being replaced by messages informing potential viewers that the owner had to upgrade their account if they wanted their photos to display correctly. Such a move was of course an irritation for anybody using Photobucket casually but it was worse for anybody who had hundreds (or even thousands) of images linked to money-making websites or blogs. Not everybody can afford their own web-hosting or knows how to go about it after all so a site like Photobucket became the perfect solution over the years. However, by becoming reliant on it, users suddenly found their images effectively being held to ransom by the site. You COULD download everything in bulk from your account to retrieve it but from what I have heard, the process was slow and glitchy and had to be performed in small chunks.

Fortunately for myself,  I have nothing essential stored with Photobucket - just linked images for forum threads that are long dead or photos that I have copies of elsewhere anyway. It has however meant that I have had to find an alternative solution (in this case, IMGur) for when I need to link to a photo.

In Photobucket's defence (yes, really!) they are hosting thousands upon thousands of people's photographs on their servers for free with the majority just using free accounts. Ad revenue will surely be damaged by the fact that ad-blockers for browsers are commonplace and widely-used so it was perhaps only a matter of time before somebody at PB HQ decided that they weren't making as money as they should be. After all, would you have decided differently if this was your business that you'd set up?

Unfortunately, they went about it in completely dickish way. What Photobucket should have done is provide ample warning to its members for what was going to happen and offer a reasonable annual subscription price. What they did instead was suddenly start blocking people's images with no warning and asking ludicrous prices for account upgrades. I'm not completely clued-in on the details but I did see figures of $300-400 being banded about!!! Anybody would have been forgiven for assuming that this was some kind of scam from a crook masquerading as Photobucket but apparently it was legit. What were they smoking when they decided that any of this strategy of theirs was a good idea? All I know is that I would like some of it!

In summary, I can understand why Photobucket did what they did because if any of us had paused to think about their business model and the likes of free accounts, ad-blocking software etc. then this was perhaps inevitable. However, I suspect that Photobucket may have torpedoed themselves in a spectacular, poorly thought-out fashion and if the ship sinks, I can't say that I will feel a great deal of sympathy.

1 comment:

  1. It is great to see you posting again, I have always enjoyed reading your blog. I also think that your tottally right that they have most likly torpedoed themselves spectacularly.