Back in the old days, before you could upload photos straight to Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, if you wanted to share pictures online you had to host them yourself. Or if you used something like LiveJournal, you could use their limited image galleries. But with space and bandwidth at a premium in those days, you could run into limits fast.

That’s where sites like Photobucket and Imgur came in. You could upload your images there, and then put them on your fan site, or your journal, or whatever. They were also good for posting anonymously, as in communities like Fandom!Secrets. And they’re still good for posting images in places like Ebay listings, or online forums (yes, they still exist) that don’t provide their own hosting.

But you know the problem with hosting your stuff with a third party. You can’t guarantee they’ll stick around. And while Photobucket isn’t closing up shop yet like GeoCities did (taking with it an entire generation of online fandom), they’ve suddenly blocked hotlinking (the main way people used it!)…unless you pay up $399/year for an advanced account. BuzzFeed minces no words, calling it “ransom”.

So an awful lot of images across the internet have stopped working overnight.

I’m starting to think about all my photos that are hosted on Flickr, now that Verizon owns it. I don’t think they’re likely to do something similar, and Flickr’s paid service is a lot cheaper than Photobucket’s. But Yahoo was never quite sure what to do with it, and Verizon… well…

It might be time to move my “pull in remote Flickr embeds” project off the back burner, just in case.

2 thoughts on “Photobucket Lockdown: Another Chunk of Internet History Dies

  1. I’ve never relied on online sites for my sole storage of files/pictures/etc. Posting some pictures for others to view? Sure, but I have the originals locally. I use Dropbox for some files I want available on multiple locations, but that’s because it synchronizes to a local copy (which I periodically archive to another location anyway). Even all my email (GMail et al) are synced through IMAP to a local copy.

    Even with that, Dropbox dropped the “Public” directory which was readily available to everyone. Ultimately you need a regular ISP to host files on. And even some of *them* are unreliable.

    • It’s not even a matter of sole storage – it’s remote hosting due to limitations on the site hosting service, either because it’s an app like a forum, or limited storage/bandwidth. People used to recommend hosting your images on a site like Flickr or Photobucket as a proto-CDN solution, before CDNs were something the average hobbyist could use.

      Now in a case like this, if someone still has the originals *and* still has access to the pages *and* is still maintaining them *and* has the time, then sure, they can go through all of them and replace the Photobucket embeds with locally-hosted copies (or put them on an actual CDN). But a lot of the pages affected are things like old forum posts that can’t be updated (and would probably be hard to track down) or old fan/hobbyist pages that have been abandoned.

      Some of those pages are bound to be worth saving, whether for the information alone, or for their position in a chain of references, or for historical interest. (This is part of why I sometimes post how-I-fixed it troubleshooting articles here that incorporate the info I found on another forum. A lot of those old posts have gone away or become unreadable, but the information is still useful.)

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