For many years – ten, at least – I have been contributing to pen discussion boards. Often, the subject required a photo of the pen under discussion and I hotlinked the picture from my Photobucket account. It was a matter of pride to me that while some other people’s photos might disappear and leave a blank space, mine were still there years later. I have a paid account and I was confident that it would remain secure for years to come.
Without any warning (though Photobucket say they emailed members) all the photos belonging to those who have free accounts were deleted and replaced by an image indicating that the photos would be restored if a premium account was taken out. The premium account costs $400.00 a year. Oh, excuse me. $399.99.
I would imagine that a very high proportion of those who had free accounts will not be able or willing to pay such a huge sum. That means, of course, that those links will remain broken. The precious archives of all the fountain pen discussion boards will be so damaged as to be useless. Of course all the other hobby groups and blogs like LiveJournal and Dreamwidth will be affected, too.
Even those of us who have paid Photobucket accounts will eventually lose all our links, too, unless we pay the blackmail. I, for one, couldn’t justify paying more than £300.00 per annum. We have about 18 months grace, after which all the links will go. I won’t use my account anymore. There’s no point in making photo links which will die in December next year.
Of course there are many other photo embedding services. I have signed up with Fotki.com who seem to be one of the best. I could download all my photos from Photobucket but that’s not the point. I archive all my pictures anyway. It’s not those photos that are important, it’s the links. There’s no way to re-establish them.
We know that nothing lasts forever. One day even massive companies like Google and Amazon will have had their day. If you don’t believe that, think back to how dominant Yahoo once was, and that recently it was sold off like a second-hand car. But Photobucket’s change of terms of service was done with no warning and no explanation. It wasn’t necessary and it was immensely destructive. Instead of ending up with, perhaps, thousands of customers paying $400.00 they could have had millions paying a more sensible fee. The CEO of Photobucket has made himself the Gengis Khan of the web.
Now that this has happened, who else can we trust? Might not other photo hosting companies and cloud storage providers decide that blackmail is a good business model? The only way to avoid that is if Photobucket crashes and burns. I certainly hope they do.
Thankfully, the photos in this blog are safe. WordPress provides its own photo hosting so I didn’t use Photobucket here. Unless, of course, WordPress have a sudden bright idea…