If you blog or sell goods on shopping sites such as Amazon, Ebay and Etsy, you may have noticed that your images have been removed after a photo hosting site changed its service terms.

Thousands of images from online marketplaces, blogs and forums are now filled with error images by Photobucket, after the hosting site introduced a US$399 (S$552) annual fee to users for allowing images hosted on its platform to be embedded on third party websites.

The fee caught many of its members by surprise, prompting some to accuse the US company “blackmail” and holding their content “ransom”.

The US-based image and video-hosting website has been around since 2003 and it has over 100 million registered users and over 15 billion images on its servers.

According to BBC, Photobucket is popular among small retailers because of its ad-suported free accounts that could be used to upload images on one platform and pushing it to multiple outlets.

In a blog post on 26 June, Photobucket published a post advising users to “take a moment to review our updated terms and policies” as they have updated their terms of service which was “effective June 20, 2017”.

Buried within the post was an announcement that read “free account does not allow any image linking or 3rd party image hosting”.

Users only realised the change when their embedded images were replaced with graphics saying “3rd party hosting has been temporarily disabled” and were asked to update their accounts.

So far, the photo hosting site hasn’t commented except for a tweet on 2 July, which has received over 150 mentions, mostly hatful.

Besides being a choice of an image hosting site for small businesses, Photobucket was also a popular among bloggers in the early 2000s offering 2GB of storage for free or US$100 (S$138) a year for 102GB of storage.

Now users have to upgrade to the upper tier Plus 500 Plan which costs US$399 a year, if they want “unlimited image linking and unlimited 3rd party image hosting”.

Cheaper plans Plus 50 does not allow both but Plus 100 gives users unlimited image linking but not hot linking.

If you are one of the thousands of affected users, here are three free image hosting sites:

Imgur 

It’s the social news community’s favourite free image hosting site for those who spend a lot of time on Reddit. You upload images from your computer which you can then share on your social networks via a URL. You can also upload pictures from your mobile via Imgur app to be shared anywhere online.

Flickr 

It is one of the oldest photo sharing networks and it allows for free image hosting. You can edit your images with tools provided, organise them into albums before you publish it to the rest of the community. You can even filter your audience using the privacy options.

Free Image Hosting 

Said to be similar to Imgur and comes with ads, unfortunately. You can upload photos without needing to create an account. The site will provide a direct link to your photo which you can then share.

Top image via Shutterstock.com.