If you have visited a website recently that displays images hosted on Photobucket, or are embedding images hosted on Photobucket on your own, you may have had a rather rude awakening one day as Photobucket decided to block these images from being displayed on third-party sites.
All Photobucket images hosted on third-party sites, at least from what we can tell, are replaced by a dummy image. It reads: Please update your account to enable 3rd party hosting. For important info, please go to www.photobucket.com/P500.
Tip: We have published a Photobucket alternatives guide for users of the service who are looking for an alternative.
According to some users that we spoke with who are affected by this, this happened without prior notice or any form of warning on Photobucket's part.
Photobucket defines third-party hosting (what is with using 3rd instead of third?) as embedding an image or photo on another website. This includes embedding photos on forums, eBay, Etsy, Craigslist or another other site on the Internet that is not Photobucket.com.
When you open the referenced page on the Photobucket website, you are informed that you may restore the third-party hosted content by becoming a Plus 500 subscriber.
A Plus 500 plan allows for unlimited third-party hosting, and provides members with other benefits such as an ad-free browsing environment on the Photobucket site, priority customer support, or full resolution photo storage.
Photobucket offers three paid plans to members, but only the most expensive plan supports third-party hosting of images. It is available for $39.99 per month, or at a discount when billed yearly for $399.99.
According to Photobucket, the site has more than 100 million unique users who have stored more than 15 billion images on its servers.
For users who are affected by this, it is important to note that the images are not gone. They are still hosted on Photobucket, and you can actually load them right then and there by right-clicking on them and selecting "open image in new tab" or "open link in new tab" depending on the web browser that you are using. This opens the Photobucket website where the original image is displayed.
The problem right now is however that Photobucket has been used as a host for images for years on many sites on the Internet. And it is not even the case that the site owner can do something about it if other members of the site have embedded photos from Photobucket as the disabling is account linked.
All members of a site who used Photobucket in the past would have to sign up for the -- rather expensive I might say -- Plus 500 plan to restore the old functionality. This is not practicable at all, and it won't happen.
As far as alternatives are concerned, there is Imgur for instance which supports the embedding of images on third-party sites.
While members of Photobucket may wait and hope that the company reverses the stance on third-party hosted images, it is probably better to migrate the photos to another hosting service entirely.
You can download your entire library of images by selecting Library on Photobucket, and there the download album link under actions.
Photobucket may make a quick buck from the unannounced change, as some members may feel pressured in paying up so that their images are displayed again on third-party sites.
I think however that many more will leave Photobucket and use another service instead for image hosting. This may be fueled by site-wide bans of the service.
The plan is overpriced in my opinion, not only because there are free alternatives available out there, but also because you may sign up for a VPS or web hosting account instead for a fraction of the price that Photobucket charges.
Even if it would be priced reasonably, and Photobucket has any right to adjust its pricing, blocking images without prior notice or migration options, especially since this was free before, is not the most elegant of ways to go about it.
Now you: Do you host images on third-party sites? If so, on which?