Pho­to­bucket re­sponds to charge com­plaints

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Tamara Chuang

Den­ver-based Pho­to­bucket on Thurs­day said that a side busi­ness dis­cov­ered by cus­tomers long ago is not sus­tain­able as the com­pany stuck with its new pol­icy to charge $400 a year to those us­ing Pho­to­bucket to host a large num­ber of im­ages.

“This path to a more sus­tain­able busi­ness model al­lows us to de­velop an even more ro­bust prod­uct to meet our cus­tomers’ needs,” Pho­to­bucket chief ex­ec­u­tive John Corpus said in a state­ment.

In late June, the com­pany be­gan charg­ing $60 to $400 a year to cus­tomers who were us­ing the site as es­sen­tially a host­ing ser­vice. Users could store im­ages on Pho­to­bucket and link to the im­ages from mes­sage boards and other web­sites. The ser­vice had pre­vi­ously been free and sup­ported by ads.

But 75 per­cent of Pho­to­bucket’s costs orig­i­nated from “non-pay­ing users lever­ag­ing 3rd party host­ing,” Corpus added. And it re­sulted in “zero rev­enue.”

As a busi­ness, the com­pany turned the ser­vice into a paid fea­ture and of­fered 500 gi­ga­bytes of stor­age and un­lim­ited band­width for $399.99 per year, which al­lowed for “un­lim­ited im­age link­ing and third-party host­ing.” The cheaper $60-a-year plan al­lowed for 52 GB of stor­age but no third-party host­ing.

The prob­lem for af­fected users was that their pho­tos dis­ap­peared on­line. They were re­placed with im­ages that asked the user to un­lock their ac­count be­cause “3rd Party Host­ing has been tem­po­rar­ily dis­abled.”

Cus­tomers ac­cused Pho­to­bucket of black­mail and be­ing forced to pay a ran­som. One user who wrote to The Den­ver Post said that he’s used Pho­to­bucket for nine years and posted 9,800 pho­tos.

Pho­to­bucket said it let those users ei­ther sub­scribe to the new plan or mi­grate the pho­tos off the site.

Pho­to­bucket, which started around 2003, be­came one of the na­tion’s largest photo-shar­ing sites in the early 2000s. Two years ago, the com­pany said traf­fic to its site still hit about 60 mil­lion unique visi­tors per month. Dur­ing its dot­com hey­day, the com­pany was ac­quired by News Corp.

After mov­ing into mo­bile apps and home goods, the com­pany made per­son­nel changes and re­placed long-time chief ex­ec­u­tive Tom Munro in Jan­uary 2016. Corpus, who joined Pho­to­bucket after it ac­quired his own so­cial video site Mi­ly­oni, be­came the new CEO. At the time, the com­pany em­ployed 53 people mostly in Den­ver.

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