ImageShack is one of the popular image hosting websites on the Internet. The service has been around for a long time and open to users from all over the world ever since it was created. Up until February of 2011 everyone was able to embed images on their own website. Visitors were able to view those images, regardless of the country they came from. This changed on February 23 when ImageShack began to enforce a new policy that separated users from "first world" countries from the rest. The change however did affect all users of the service, either directly or indirectly.
The policy changed to whom images are displayed on third party websites. Users from the US and Europe were able to see ImageShack images that were embedded on third party websites.
Users from other countries however could not see the ImageShack images anymore on those website. They would see a dummy image instead that informed them about the change with the sentence: "your country can only view this image by logging into ImageShack". To make matters worse, some webmasters noticed that the images they had embedded on their websites were replaced as well with another dummy stating "Unregistered domain. Go to http://imageshack.us to register". And this change affected users from all countries.
These are two related issues. It appears that ImageShack is checking the IP address of every user who is requesting an image that is hosted on their site. If the IP lookup reveals that the user is not coming from a country in the whitelist, the dummy image with the log in to view the image is displayed.
Webmasters who have been using ImageShack to directly embed images on their websites that they have uploaded to the image hosting site will see a slightly different version of the frog in ice.
This basically means that ImageShack performs two checks: They check the user's IP to see if the country is in the whitelist, and they check if the website the image is embedded on is registered.
ImageShack displays solutions to resolve both situations on the dummy images. Users from blacklisted countries need to register, log in and stay logged in to view images on third party websites.
Webmasters are asked to register their domain so that the replacement image is removed and the "real" images are shown on the website again. The Imageshack homepage does not link directly to the domain registration form, nor does it reveal any information about the process. The Faq and Blog do not reveal information either.
Webmasters need to visit this page to register their domains with ImageShack.
Regular users need to visit the ImageShack sign up page instead to register an account with the image hosting site.
Webmasters have only two choices. They can register their domain name, which they should do anyway to display the images again on their website. They then have the option to use another image hosting service for future images, preferably one that is more reliable and communicative when it comes to changes that impact embedding images on third party websites.
Another option would be to move the ImageShack images to another hosting service. This option may not be practical depending on the amount of images and pages of the website. A user with 100 pages and 10 images on each would have to upload 1000 images and change the embed code on all images.
A viable hosting alternative that webmasters may want to take a look at is the image hosting service TinyPic.
Regular Internet users from blocked countries can alternatively use a web proxy, virtual private network or other tool to hide their original country so that they can view the embedded Imageshack images directly without having to register and stay logged in. Check out or web proxy listing for a start.
Why did ImageShack make the change? (Please note that this is all theory, the company has not made an official statement as far as I know)
Bandwidth could be a core reason, or more precisely the bandwidth to ad revenue ratio. Ad revenue is highest for users from the US, Canada, UK, Europe (west) and some other countries. Maybe they have found out that it is not cost-effective to display images to users from other countries. Many factors do play a role here though that they would have to add to the calculation. Just look at the bandwidth consumption vs. the ad revenue would not be enough. Indirect factors, e.g. how many visitors from whitelisted countries view images on unregistered domains or the mouth to mouth advertising come to mind.
It could also be that ImageShack tries to grow their registered user base and domains that they serve, for instance to show growth and make the company more attractive to potential advertisers and buyers.
But this is all speculation on my part. The fact that stands is that ImageShack has made a change to their site that affects many users and webmasters. To make things worse, the company failed to communicate that change to their user base.
Then again, it is their good right to make changes to their service, even if it alienates a large part of their user base.
Have you been affected by the change? What were your consequences?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.