Monday, 10 July 2017

The future?

A quick update - like others in this hobby, and indeed many other hobbies, I have used Photobucket as an image hosting service.  By now I expect most readers will have heard about Photobucket's change of terms and the global reaction to its removal of (largely) free third-party hosting services.  Photobucket's decision at the end of July to vary their terms and conditions without any notice, so causing millions (I assume, using their own published figures) of photos to vanish from blogs and forums, has not gone down well.  As plenty of others have said, this has cost them the goodwill and trust of customers, even those who are prepared to pay the "ransom demand" or are, like me, on existing plans.  I have a paid account with Photobucket: I have been on their "plus-20" plan for several years, paying around USD 60 a year.  I've no idea whether the company made money out of that USD 60, but I didn't mind paying an annual subscription for the use of an enhanced service with greater bandwith that presumably ultimately cost Photobucket something to provide.  USD 60 seemed reasonable; I'd probably be prepared to pay USD 80-100.  However, what I'm not prepared to do is pay the USD 400 that Photobucket are now asking for. 
Now there may in the near future be a sea-change in people's opinion, and a realisation that for something as important in our lives as social media activity a price has to be paid.  I'm not the only person who's happily been blogging and Facebooking away for years on the basis that doing so is basically free.  I even started a Twitter account earlier in the year, largely to berate the train company that operates my local commute (not in my own name, of course - my Twitter persona is an Australian-born South African called Wesley who likes cricket and ballet; he sounds fascinating and I'd love to meet him).  That's also free.  I don't even have to pay for my mobile phone - work picks up that tab.  All of us enjoy spending a great deal of time using services, websites and online accounts that we haven't had to pay for; and now we resent being told that, actually, the people who provide these things want to earn some money from doing so.  It was about 2-3 years ago that I noticed just how many newspapers and journals now charge for access to websites that had been free to use since the internet was invented.  Next, it seems, will be the turn of social media providers to move to a similar model.  I don't think that stamping one's foot and shouting "it's been free so far; how dare you charge for it now" is that helpful, although it's certainly understandable.  These providers are businesses and if advertising, which brought in revenue on the basis of the numbers of users who could be targeted, is no longer proving financially viable then I can see why other avenues should be explored.  Nor do I think that shouting "it's corporate greed" is really justified.  The market sets its own price, and I sense that people will shortly have to decide just how much their social media activity is worth to them.
So I understand that nothing in this world is "free".  But my feeling at the moment, given all the other claims on my wallet, is that no blog is worth USD 400 each year. Photobucket have described this amount as being "competitive", and maybe it is when compared with the cost of building your own hosting website from scratch.  But for the casual internet user, it's currently unjustifiable.  My plan was paid for in advance, so I understand that the photos on this blog will not vanish until that plan expires.  I'm trying to work out exactly when that will be - I think in November/early December, but possibly earlier.  But unless Photobucket drastically reduce their new fee, at that point my images will disappear and this blog will become redundant.  So like many other people I'm currently trying to find a cost-effective alternative for third-party hosting, although I've noticed that a couple of popular alternatives don't appear to allow third party hosting.  For the reasons above I don't have much hope that we aren't seeing the beginning of a major change in the cost of social media usage, and that what's "free" today is unlikely to be so in two years time.  In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for alternative hosting options....