If you’ve been around the internet for a while then you’ve no doubt heard of Photobucket. Up until a few days ago, the photo-sharing website was much beloved by bloggers everywhere.
Instead of hosting hundreds, if not thousands, of image files on their own servers, bloggers could simply link to the images stored elsewhere.
But on June 29th, Photobucket moved the goal posts and incurred the wrath of the blogosphere, possibly for good.
What was the Photobucket fiasco?
I first learned for Photobucket’s mammoth FU to its users on Friday morning. I’d shared my most recent blog post, my review of the CoSchedule app, to a Facebook group in a promo thread. The group’s owner, the very awesome Martine Ellis, pointed out something weird was up with the images in the post. Specifically, this was showing up instead of my screenshots of the CoSchedule interface.
Believe it or not, that’s not the image I’d intended to show in the post.
I visited the website Photobucket mentioned on the image, only to find that they’d changed their terms of service (ToS) pretty much overnight. Third-party hosting was now disabled, meaning none of the hundreds of images I’d linked to now showed up in blog posts.
Given my fiction blog has just under 1000 posts, that’s a lot of links to fix.
Photobucket’s solution was to ask users to pay for the service that had, up until that point, been free. The old paid accounts simply removed the irritating pop-up ads. The new paid accounts reinstated third-party linking…for a cost of $399.
Why is this a problem for bloggers?
Not everyone has oodles of storage space on their web host to store images. Bloggers using WordPress.com suffer from restricted storage limits. So storing images on a third party site and linking back seems a solid solution. Until the third party site revokes your access.
Photobucket’s decision also impacted on forum and eBay users. Thousands of linked images disappeared overnight. As you can imagine, Twitter exploded with furious tweets. Some twitterers complained that they’d take their business elsewhere. That’s a bit problematic if you had a free account as Photobucket likely won’t care if a non-paying customer leaves their service.
But it’s still holding images to ransom unless users cough up the cash. The notion of ‘ransom’ led to my own personal favourite tweet.
Photobucket have a lot of disgruntled users on their hands. Some bloggers spent days fixing links to images on their blog. That’s time that should have been spent writing new content, promoting posts, or responding to comments. You know…being a blogger.
If this is you, how can you fix it?
You could do what I’m doing and download all of your images from Photobucket. I’m uploading some of my images direct to my web host. But I’m putting others on imgbb.com if I think I might want to use them on other blogs.
It’s a much easier website to use than Photobucket and doesn’t come with a gazillion ads. Look at how clean this is.
Best of all, check out the bottom of the screenshot. If I’ve uploaded ten images, I can get the embed codes for all ten images at once. Thank you, awesome website!
It’s not a brilliant fix because it is time-consuming. But short of paying $400 to reinstate the original links, which is not a recommended strategy, there are few other options.
One twitterer pointed out that buying new web space would be cheaper than paying Photobucket. I’m inclined to agree.
Lessons to be learned
The biggest lesson to be learned from all of this is; avoid building your property on someone else’s land. It’s the same as those social media gurus who advise that you build an email list instead of focusing on Facebook Page likes. Or people like me who tell you to run your blog on your own website, instead of using platforms like WordPress.com or Medium.
If any of those platforms go away, so does your following. And it’s unlikely you’d ever get any of those potential customers back. At least with a blog, it’s your space on the internet. You can make backups, design it your way, and pretty much ignore the changing ToS of social media platforms.
Photobucket is still up and running, and users still have access to their images (for now). But if the whole site had gone down, been hacked, or just closed, all of those images would be gone.
Don’t let your business rely on any other company for its online real estate.
Over to you! Have you been affected by the Photobucket fiasco? How are you handling it? Let me know below!