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Amazon and eBay Images Broken By Photobucket's 'Ransom Demand' (bbc.com) 277

An anonymous reader shares a report: Thousands of images promoting goods sold on Amazon and other shopping sites have been removed after a photo-sharing service changed its terms. Ebay and Etsy have also been affected, in addition to many forums and blogs. The problem has been caused by Photobucket introducing a charge for allowing images hosted on its platform to be embedded into third-party sites. The company caught many of its members unaware with the change, prompting some to accuse it of holding them to ransom. Denver-based Photobucket is now seeking a $399 annual fee from those who wish to continue using it for "third-party hosting" and is facing a social media backlash as a consequence.
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Amazon and eBay Images Broken By Photobucket's 'Ransom Demand'

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  • idiots (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:02PM (#54742059)

    Why the fuck would you use a third-party service to host your products/auctions images instead of using Amazon or eBay?

    • by nnet ( 20306 )
      to make it more difficult.
    • Re:idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Harold Halloway ( 1047486 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:10PM (#54742115)

      Because if you sell a lot of items on a number of different platforms it makes more sense to upload the images once and then link to them from the various platforms.

    • ideally, use your own website/server. It's not that hard to do.
    • Re:idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

      by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @02:59PM (#54743103)

      Because back in the day Ebay at least didn't offer photo hosting. My sister has been selling things on Ebay since the 90s and she hosts her images on my server for the simple reason that it's the way she's always done it and it works well. Now on top of that she has an independent site hosted on my server that also sells the same items and reuses the same image links.

      I imagine a lot of Photobucket users started off doing it a few images at a time when they first started and now it's a matter of process inertia and a large number of images that would have to be moved. People aren't necessarily idiots for doing it, they do what works simply for them with their limited experience.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:04PM (#54742077)
    "Host your own data! Eschew 'The Cloud'!"
    • 'The Cloud' (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekprime ( 969454 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @01:05PM (#54742421)

      Every time I hear or see someone talk about 'The Cloud', I make certain to remind them (or explain to them) that 'The Cloud' is literally nothing more than someone else's computer.
      By putting your stuff (whatever it is) on 'someone else's computer' you are trusting that, they will respect your privacy, not mess with or copy your data, and when they eventually lose interest in keeping your data for you (and they will, someday) that they give you the warning and opportunity to get your data back before they turn off their computer.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        It's a little bit more than just "someone else's computer", it's "someone else's computer, and I don't know which one".

      • Re: 'The Cloud' (Score:5, Insightful)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @04:07PM (#54743429)

        Unfortunately that other computer has a much easier to use interface than mine. Probably more redundancy than mine. They have a cool website where I can access data from anywhere... unlike mine.

        It's not just someone else's computer. It's the computer belonging to someone who is far better at working with computers than I am. /idiot user mode.
        Okay so I run Owncloud / Seafile on mine on a zfs zpool with an offsite backup. But I'm not going to pretend that it didn't take me a long time and a lot of learning to get to that point.

        My girlfriend on the otherhand just booted up Windows 10 and dragged some files into the folder called Onedrive. Those "other people's computers" sure sound tempting.

      • ...and then you look stupid when that person points out an example where the machines in "the cloud" are owned by the organization using them.

        The actual meaning of "the cloud" is the part of the network diagram whose specific location and provenance are not important to the service being described, and which was literally down as a cloud with no details.

  • by ToTheStars ( 4807725 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:07PM (#54742097)
    Be careful when choosing to host images via Someone Else's System. If you're not paying them, they've got some other business plan going on, and it may not be to every end user's advantage.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @01:46PM (#54742689)

      Be careful when choosing to host images via Someone Else's System. If you're not paying them, they've got some other business plan going on, and it may not be to every end user's advantage.

      I believe eBay now self-hosts the images that show in the image side, but allow linking to external images in the listing itself. (So you have to post an image on eBay's system in order for the listing to have an image where people expect it).

      And hotlinking of other people's images isn't an uncommon thing. I've seen many websites relink their photos because some idiot on eBay hotlinks the images. So what they do is simply replace the hotlinked image with something else and relink the image in their text with it.

      And I've seen images changed from the item to clearly broken versions of the item (with the auction claiming "works!" but the screen is cracked, for example), to missing pieces (for "complete!" items, but now the image is missing a charger or other accessory), to goat porno and worse.

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:10PM (#54742109)

    But $399 a year, someone will just develop a new technique.

    However, Amazon should provide free cloud hosting for any image being hosted to one of it's sites.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:14PM (#54742141)
      Its actually shocking that Amazon allows hosting images offsite.
    • Using an argument other than you believe so, why?
      • by Comboman ( 895500 )
        Because it costs Amazon virtually nothing and it is in their best interest to both make things easy for their vendors (more $ for Amazon) and stop those vendors from using outside hosting services (less $ for competitors to AWS). Win-win. Not everything is a zero-sum game.
    • Bull, if you have an e-commerce site making even $1,000 a day, it's not worth the downtime to switch.

      Now, you may wanna switch because you cannot afford the downtime if they raise prices again and you don't notice, but the $280/yr savings, while real, aren't worth fucking up a well-oiled machine.

    • by nnet ( 20306 )
      Should they also provide access to those images from non-Amazon sales sites, just because the user also sells on Amazon?
      Should those other sales sites provide image storage and make that available to other sales sites not associated with them?
      Should any of these sites provide image storage to all 3rd party sites for free?

      "its on the interwebz, it should be FREE! cuz data WANTS to be FREE!"

  • Can't Blame Them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:13PM (#54742133)
    Its hard to really blame Photobucket, if the images are embedded everywhere then they have no opportunity to show ads and fund servers. People using them for commercial purposes have no justification for complaints other than lack of notice.
    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:26PM (#54742217)
      " if the images are embedded everywhere then they have no opportunity to show ads and fund servers"

      Sure they do - they could set it so, say, a random 10% of the linked images are displayed as ads instead. A page (or image) reload would then still have a 90% chance of showing the desired image. Win-win, except for the sites on which the ads might appear. They may not like non-remunerative ads appearing on their site, but that provides incentive for them to provide their own image hosting.
    • by dfm3 ( 830843 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:57PM (#54742373) Journal
      What's to stop them from adding a logo or ad banner directly onto the image so that, for example, the bottom 1/4 of the embedded image contains "Hosted by Photobucket, and sponsored by..."

      If Ebay or Etsy have an issue with that, they can easily prevent embedded images from Photobucket in posts on their site and force their users to utilize another service.
      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        I imagine we're talking about smaller embedded images which could require a significant portion of the image dedicated to the ad. More importantly no link, no money.
    • Uh...lack of proper notice is a justification, and possibly a class action. I have no quams about a fee being charged, but proper notice time/method is reuqired so people can change without being in a panic. That could come back to haunt this service if a class action takes place.
      • The service to this point was free, what could a class action possibly do except make lawyers money? Entitlement, indeed.
        • It wasn't free. There was a free option, but most people I know were already paying. They just weren't paying $400.

      • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @01:25PM (#54742561) Homepage Journal

        I have no quams about a fee being charged, but proper notice time/method is reuqired so people can change without being in a panic.

        People were uploading images:

        • to a free service
        • ...who hasn't advertised itself as an image host
        • ...but has been paying the server and bandwidth bills of people who are hotlinking its content
        • ...and whose terms of service say "These Terms and the Privacy Policy can change. Again, please carefully read this document and our other policies. We may announce if any "big" changes are made, but so long as you've used the Site after the change, regardless of any separate notice, you agree to the current posted version of the Terms."

        I don't have a dog in this hunt, but I can't see that Photobucket did anything wrong or that they have any moral or ethical obligation to allow people to keep using them in a way they never intended. Do you think for a second that if people had been using Facebook as a CDN that Facebook would hesitate to nip that in the bud? And would you blame them? If people were misusing your service in a way you never advertised, would you feel obligated to support that for "proper notice time"? (Rhetorical question: you wouldn't.)

        • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @01:45PM (#54742681) Homepage Journal

          I'll counter with:

          “But the plans were on display”
          “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
          “That’s the display department.”
          “With a flashlight.”
          “Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
          “So had the stairs.”
          “But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
          “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

          • by mjwx ( 966435 )


            Its a classic case of a bait and switch. However the users have no recourse unless Photobucket uses their images without their consent.

            Whilst Photobucket are legally and ethically correct (and it's important to remember the difference between ethics and morals, you can be ethical and still be a complete arse-wipe) we're about to see the true power of the internet at work here, the ability to route around damage.

            Damage is effectively what this move is, its a form of poorly thought out extortion. Thousan

        • Many people I know were paying Photobucket. The changes affect them as well, so its not just the free service, its also those that weren't paying 'enough'. Also, not explicitly allowing hotlinking in the T&Cs is a red herring - they provided a photo storage service that provided a URL for each image. I think any normal person would construe that as allowing hotlinking.

    • Well, actually it isn't hard to blame them.
      First, it's a PHOTO SHARING site. So what precisely were people doing? Using it to host images.
      Second, it ran for years (a decade?) hosting images FOR FREE.
      Third, IIRC you have to provide an email to have an account, there is ZERO reason they couldn't send out ample, repeated warnings to people MONTHS in advance.

      To all, there are a TON of other photosharing sites like imageshack, imgur, etc. Abandon shitty photobucket and their $ demand.

    • It's not just the people using PB for commercial purposes though. Several friends of mine have been hit with $400 ransom demands for their hobby photos. Most of them used PB to host photos they'd share on various forums.

      Going from 'free' to $400/yr is absurd, so yes, I blame them.
      I never used PB myself. NoScript shows PB tries to load scripts from something like 100 different domains, that was reason enough to avoid them. I pay $25/yr to host a website with more space for photos than I can fill in a decade,

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        How exactly is it a ransom? They aren't a backup service. They've decided to stop providing a free service.
        • "pay us a ridiculous amount of money, or spend a whole lot of time replicating the system you used to have with another service". Sound familiar? It's the ransomware MO.

          • by Luthair ( 847766 )
            So someone else should pay for you to leech off them indefinitely? Give a homeless man a sandwich and be responsible for feeding them for the rest of their lives?
          • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
            So when McDonald's stops you from bringing in your 5 gallon jug to fill at the soda fountain because they offer "free refills", you are going to scream that they're "holding you for ransom" too?
    • The point wasn't that it was free before - most folk that I know were already paying, but they were paying a lot less than 400 bucks. The free service was limited, so if you used it a lot you tended to upgrade to a non-free account. That was their business model. The same business model as many free 'cloud' services - the limited free account to attract customers. (I'm talking about non-commercial users here though - people who post on canoeing or wargaming or other forums).

      Personally, I think if they'd go

    • It's easy to blame Photobucket here because they jumped in with a pants-on-head retarded $399 price tag for this. They don't *really* want people paying that price, they want an excuse to cut Ebay and Amazon traffic off completely so they slapped a way too high price tag on it in anticipation that everyone would throw their hands up and accept the coming cutoff without a fight, and instead they have a brewing shit show on their hands.

      What they should have done was realize that yes indeed the battle was los

  • ...to think it's the only game in town. Huh.

  • Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @12:44PM (#54742305)

    I don't have many issues with someone charging for what has effectively been free hosting. However, the last time I was there Photobucket looked like a giant clusterfuck. 'You need to enable javascript to view the image even though it's already been loaded in the background and we're just not showing it', etc.
    If photobucket tries anything too extreme to make money, they're going to be dumped in favor of literally any other service that isn't completely awful.

    • I still have a Photobucket account. The site has been getting more terrible every year for the past 10 years... that adds up to a whole lot of terrible. It's gotten to the point where I can't even access the site in Firefox even when whitelisting everything in Noscript. I have to open up Internet Explorer to get it to load. The next time I bother doing that, it will be to grab all the pictures from ~2006 that I have saved on it. I haven't bothered with it quite yet, because it sounds like a pain in the ass.
  • Wow, dumb move. Bye bye photobucket. There are a billion sites ready to take your place for free.
  • It was fun while you lasted. Too bad you now want money, but luckily, you have inspired many copycats.


    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      I'm reminded of the famous SNL skit where the bank claims to make money on volume. Actually, half the internet companies follow this model ;)
  • by Travelsonic ( 870859 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @01:18PM (#54742511) Journal
    For non-eBay stuff, I just used a spare Google Blogspot/Blogger account to host my images, and never had issues, but somehow I can't picture that working so well for sites like eBay.
  • Stop using photobucket. That's what they want anyway. It takes all of 2 mins to find somewhere else to host your images.
    • Its not so easy if you've been posting on a hobby forum for years. A couple of forums I am on now look pretty sparse if you browse back through previous posts. The canoeing forum in particular, since people post logs of trips which are very useful if you plan to canoe there yourself.

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        Your hobby forum could simply change the embedded images to links to Photobucket, its only embedding they're blocking. Really, they should be hosting images themselves if they are important, this could have just as easily been Photobucket closing its doors.
  • I am not an "internet entrepreneur", but from the outside this appears like a suicidal business plan. Was this the plan from the beginning? Get everybody "hooked" with "free" hosting and then, when it was embedded everywhere, try to extort an arm and a leg? Or did they try it as it was, then finally panic as they started to run out of VC, and this is their reaction? Or are they doing this to cause a problem, wait for the obvious and inevitable backlash, then are going to come back in a week and say "we hea

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Apparently they've been around 14-years, one imagines they hit a point where they couldn't afford to keep the lights on and needed drastic change. Hard to see how they convince people to pay $399 though.
    • Agreed. At $400 its suicide. Almost everyone I know has already sourced other providers. Plus they will never forget that Photobucket has killed all the images in their old forum posts.

      I think even if they backed down now they have killed any good will.

  • There is no cloud -- it's just someone else's computer

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn