Just Say No to ImageShack
03/20/12 -06:41 Filed in: Personal | Food Photography
This blog is a heads up about what is IMHO some simply awful customer service exhibited by the ImageShack image hosting service. I usually try to keep these blog entries related to food, but I’ve made exceptions in the past (NAME GAMES - JUST SAY NO TO GO DADDY) when I run into truly bad customer service in a computer or website related area. Many of the folks visiting this site are like minded folks who are into grilling, smoking, food photography etc. You may post some of your own images to messages boards and like me use an image hosting service such as ImageShack to host your images. The point of this blog is to tell you of my recent experience with ImageShack. Also I would suggest you should possibly NOT choose them if you are looking for a new image hosting service. Lastly if you already use them you should plan ahead for your future and what you should do if you run into the retroactive 500 image limit they are suddenly imposing. This blog entry will describe the rather poor customer service choices made by ImageShack recently where in effect they hi-jacked my images.
First off, for any of you have read on but don’t know what an image hosting service does, let me explain. If you already know what an image hosting service does, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. In order to post an image on a message board you must have it hosted somewhere on the internet with a permanent non-changing location with a constant URL (http://wwww.myimagehost.com/myaccount/myimage001.jpg). Message boards do not allow users to upload the actual image to the message boards. Otherwise they would be stuck paying for the extra storage space and servers required to store all of these 10’s or 100’s of thousands of images. The reason the location needs to be permanent is because moving the mage to a different address changes the path and will break the link to the image. Then instead of the image you will see a broken link icon. An image hosting services allow you to upload your images to their site where they host them and give them a permanent URL. They supply you with a code for the image that you paste into the message board, forum, blog what have you to create the proper permanent link to the image.This code is often a combination of the image name, image path and often some PHP code depending on whether the image is hosted on a message board, blog. website etc.You copy the appropriate code into the body of your message where you want the image to appear. ImageShack is just one of many image hosting services. Some are free, some are paid.
At the time I joined ImageShack in 2006, it was a FREE service with an UNLIMITED amount of image storage. I always wondered what their business model was. They were free to the end user. While there were some ads on the pages, over time people didn’t necessarily have to view the ads. The first instance where someone would view the ads was when the end user was uploading images to the site. There would be ads displayed on the pages you would use. But ImageShack developed bulk loading applications which allowed you to launch an app on your computer and upload all of your images to the site in one operation. Once the upload was done, this same app supplied the URLs needed to post the images to the message boards. The end result was that everything was done from the poster’s computer and the poster never had to visit the site and were no longer exposed to the ads. The second way people would see the ads was by clicking through to the ImageShack site from the message boards the images were posted to. In the past when dinosaurs, er I mean dial-up, ruled the earth, folks traditionally posted a thumbnail of the image that was quick to load. Anyone interested in seeing a full sized version of the image would click the image thumbnail and would be brought to image hosting service’s site. Once again the image hosting service generated a code that would provide the thumbnail image for the message board with additional code allowing you to click through to see the full sized image. The full sized image showed up on an Image Shack page where you would see the full-sized image on a page together with some banner ads. Over time connections got faster and people began posting the full-sized images directly on the message boards. No thumbnail and redirect was required. While clicking in this image would still bring you to the image hosting service’s page with the image on it, there was no point. You were seeing the full sized image right in the message board. So over time people weren’t exposed to these banner ads. The other problem was the banner ads themselves. At one point in time banners ads were thought to be this amazing revenue engine that would drive the the internet. The problem is time showed otherwise. Banner ads were and are routinely ignored.
Up until now I had been quite happy with ImageShack. They were easy to use, they offered free tools to make the bulk uploading of images fast and easy and they put no limits on the amount of images. I never ran into an instance of the service being down, which would mean your images would go missing anywhere you had posted links to them. My only complaint was some individual images, usually older ones, would go missing on image shack itself. Since these were older images, they would be associated with older posts i’d made and therefor these posts would not be in active use. So I didn’t sweat this to much. It was annoying, but the service was free. The only other complaint I ever heard about ImageShack was from some folks I knew on the various message boards I visit. They claimed viruses were rampant on ImageShack at various times and they were switching to a new service. Now I personally can’t verify this, because I am on a Mac, and viruses just aren’t a problem like they are on Window’s PC’s. I never saw any evidence of this, but Window’s viruses generally don’t affect Macs. But these were folks I knew, who claimed visiting ImageShack to upload images, visited them with viruses on their PC’s. They switched to a different image host after this. This is something you could check out yourself through an appropriate Google search or by searching on message boards you frequent.
So for 6 years I had been quite happy with ImageShack, the FREE image hosting service I joined in 2006 that advertised UNLIMITED amounts of images could be hosted. That was until February 23, 2012 when I received an email from ImageShack, entitled “Important Notice about your ImageShack account!”. Ironically this email came from ImageShack’s Marketing Department. I guess the folks there didn’t pay to much attention in their Marketing training, because they way they handled things is a marketing disaster. The email informed me that things had changed. ImageShack was moving to a model where if you had more than 500 images, you would need to pay for a new Premium service for $2 per month. If you didn’t move to this new model they would only host your 500 most recent images. At first read this didn’t offend me too much and I considered the price reasonable. But something about the wording of the letter bothered me. I read it again and I started getting a bit pissed off. The opening paragraph read: “We noticed that your ImageShack account has reached or is close to reaching the maximum number of images allowed for free accounts. “. Several things began to bother me here. First “We noticed...” makes it sound like this is a recent development. I’ve been a member since 2006 and I probably went over 500 images in 2007 or so. So there is nothing new about this. Besides since when does unlimited = 500 images. This wording seems to put the onus on you: You’ve been getting away with something for a long time and we just recently noticed it. Well when they say UNLIMITED excuse me if I though it was UNLIMITED meaning any number of images with no cap. But silly me, ATT&T and Verizon now routinely get away with having have “Unlimited Data” Plans for cell phones that have 2 or 3GB limits on them. I was kinda pissed about the clever language they were using when it was they who were changing the rules and they were making it sound like you were a party to the problem. You exceeded the the maximum number of images for the free account. Uhhh until I got this email you were allowed an UNLIMITED amount of images, No matter how you cut it UNLIMITED means any number from 0-infinity and beyond, not 500 or less.
Though I didn’t like their approach to making the change and making it look like you were in part to blame, I did understand the situation they were in. I also knew that banner ads, which were though to be the solution to everything back when I joined in 2006, hadn’t worked as well as people once thought. I felt $2.00 per month seemed reasonable and I clicked the link in the email message to sign up for the Premium account. However what I saw when I logged into my Image Shack account, changed everything for me. There was a big red banner notice at the top of the page informing me that I had 2021 images hosted on ImageShack and that unless I upgraded to the $2.00 a month Premium Account only the 500 most recent images would remain. The other images would “expire” March 01. Expire was a Politically Correct way of saying deleted. That just about did it for me, they make a unilateral change like this and give me 6 days to react. What if I was away on vacation for a week or two? I’d come back only to find my images had expired. Doesn’t “expired” sound so much nice than “deleted”. “Expired” sounds like your images ran out of gas and died of their own accord. “Deleted” implies they were killed by ImageShack. This got me to thinking about alternatives to ImageShack, but I was still thinking I’d pay the man. What totally pushed me over the edge, was when I tried to look at my images and see what might be involved in downloading them back to my desktop and hosting them myself. Since May of 2011, when I found I had to move my website off Apple’s MobileMe service to a new host, I’ve had a way to host the images myself. Clicking on one of my images on ImageShack, I found that the ability to download my own images was disabled. So basically they were holding my own images hostage. I also tried a Firefox plug-in that allowed you to download all of the images on a page and it didn’t work either. Well that tore it. At that point there was no way I was going to give them a cent. Basically I felt like ImageShack was saying: “We’ve changed the terms of our agreement with you unilaterally, and if anyone asks were going to say it is your fault for having too many images. Just to show you we mean business, we’ve got your images held hostage and if you don’t pay the ransom within 6 days we are going to kill the hostages.”
Now you might think all this over $2.00 a month is a bit much, but I think that is piss poor customer service. I resent the way they make it sound like I had been getting away with having more than 500 images all this time and they only just became aware of it. No they changed their policy from UNLIMITED to 500 images max in the last month or so. I wouldn’t have been annoyed if they had put it more like this: “We are sorry to say we are no longer able to host an unlimited amount of images using a free account. We are moving to a new model where free accounts can have up to 500 images. For more than 500 images we have a new Premium Account for an unlimited number of images. The cost for premium accounts will be $2.00 per month. Since your account has more than.....” To me this sounds reasonable. I would have read the email, not been pissed off by there sneaky language and signed up without giving it a second though. I do also think they should have done something different for current “unlimited” customers with more than 500 images. Perhaps let them stay at their current number of images as is, but if they want to upload any new images they must switch to the Premium Account. Also give folks more than 6 days to react to this, before their images ”expire”. Now somewhere just before March 01, 2012 they changed their deadline to April 01, 2012, but they still don’t allow you to get to your own images.. To me that is too little too late. The image kidnapper is giving you more time to collect your money for the ransom.
For me it was a matter of principle. I simply don’t make a habit of rewarding bad customer service. I had a solution which probably costs me far more in the log run. If I billed myself for my time to rehost and relink the images it cost me more than the $2.00 a month would have. But the images are now under my control, I am paying for storage space for my website anyway, why pay a separate and additional $2.00 per month. I just wasn’t prepared to reward ImageShack’s thug like behavior with any of my money. If they had just handled things differently they would have had a customer for life. So it was a good bit of work I had to do, but it made me feel good that I had an alternative to paying ransom. Fortunately my images are well arranged in my Aperture Library, so they were easy enough to find and export. During the export process I made the images all 800x600 which is the size I currently use. In the early days I posted smaller images, but now people have faster pipes to the internet. I also added a watermark to the images. So this was a net plus over keeping them on ImageShack as is. Next I uploaded them to a dedicated folder my site via FTP. This was no biggie, just time consuming and I simply did other things while this was going on. The last step was to copy the new URL and paste it into the old messages in place of the old URL pointing to ImageShack. This was the really time consuming part. I was able to make macros on the computer to somewhat automate this process. I would type a single keyboard shortcut and the computer would do all of the 16 or so steps necessary to change the link. It was still very time consuming because I ad to search through all of my postings, find the ones with images and replace the links.
I am now done and my next step after posting this blog will be one I’ve truly been looking forward to. I am going to log in to ImageShack one last time and delete, or as they like to put it “expire”, my account. I wanted to keep it running until I typed out this blog-in case I wanted to take some screen captures or look something up on ImageShack. Now I wouldn’t recommend my solution for everyone who is over the limit. I am just a stubborn cuss sometimes when I feel someone is taking advantage of me. I have been known to be stubborn even, when it would be better if I just shrugged it off and decided to just “go with the flow.” My main purpose in posting this blog is so folks shopping for an image hosting service can see an example of ImageShack customer service in action. Also I posted this for other folks on ImageShack who haven’t hit the 500 image limit of their unlimited service. Hopefully you can now plan ahead for what you’d like to do without having a 6 day do or die deadline hanging over your head like I did. And yes it felt good venting too!!
OK I’m off to pull the plug now....
I’m back. That was a very satisfying feeling. When I got to my account I found that ImageShack had stayed the execution of the hostages by a month. Sorry: too little too late. I thought I had only six days to react and had jumped through many hoops to get my images all re-hosted. There was no follow-up ransom note, I’m sorry no follow up email sent mentioning the stay of execution. I’d been thinking of writing an FU ImageShack email, but you know what? I’m not wasting any more time on them.
ADDENDUM:Several folks who know me contacted me by email and some others used the Contact form on the site to ask where I’ve been. Why no new blob posts or picture posts. Thanks for your interest/concerns. After reading this blog entry, you know what I’ve been doing for some of the time. The rest was a combination of things: I was given an iPad 1, which I spent some time setting up and playing with, work picked up, there were times where I’d only be able to cook for one and I’ve been in bit of a lull lately where I haven’t been able to go out to the grill. Hopefully things will be getting back to normal real soon.
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