Web image hosting FOTKI.COM resorts to extortion

That’s not how actually message that was sent by a large online image hosting and printing service Fotki.com looked like.  They tried to make it look friendly with smileys and sad stories. This is what message that paying Fotki.com users received this Saturday morning:

Dear Fotki Member,

We love our users, and we love what we do, but the BIG GUN (Facebook, Google and others) have been such a powerful force to deal with, that SMALL GUYS like Fotki have to find ways to adjust.

We analyzed our servers, and it looks like many of our members, like you, store many gigabytes of old photos, which are never viewed by anybody for years and years. It costs us money to host these photos, and since nobody is looking at them, we are wasting our valuable resources to host them.

In order for us to optimize our service, we are reaching out to you, and asking for your help. If you really want us to keep your originals, we have no choice but to start charging for hosting them, but don’t worry, we need VERY LITTLE. We are not asking for much, just to know that you care about your photos and you really need them. If you don’t need your photo originals, then you don’t have to pay for anything extra, and we will just go ahead and erase them from our servers.

We will charge just 8 Fotki Credits per gigabyte per month (around 5…6 cents), which comes to just 50 cents a month for a large 10GB photo collection. This is five times cheaper than buying your cup of coffee! 🙂

Thank you in advance for your understanding and your support!

To tell you the truth I did wonder if they will stay in business for long with more and more people using Facebook and Picasa to host their pictures. I even felt sorry for Fotki.com, although a more than a little annoyed that they are asking money after I’ve been paying them ($60 for 3 years) to host about 10 GB of my pictures which accumulated since I’ve been member for over 8 years.

Only few hours later I found out that I can longer download any of my originals. That’s right, without any warning, Fotki.com decided that they want me to pay more money and immediately took all my photos as hostage.

As far as I can tell there’s no precedent to something like this, it seems highly illegal to me.  Cell phone companies did something similar when they announced end of unlimited data plans, but they didn’t just start disconnecting your service in the middle of a contract demanding more money. Who does something like this?

Needless to say Fotki.com will not see a single cent from me every again. I used to pay them for “premium” membership, buy large size prints, etc.  Fortunately I have backup of all my photos, but I feel really sorry for photographers who kept their originals in the cloud.  I predict many of them will pay extortion fees, get their photos and run like hell from these crooks.

You’ve been warned, stay far away from Fotki.com

In fact I don’t recommend relying on “Cloud” for any of your data.  Buy a couple of large hard drives, get a safe deposit box and keep copy of your irreplaceable data there (or take it to your parents house, etc.) and just keep rotating HDDs every few months.

Update: Fotki.com owner replies to frustrated users on dpreview forum. They seem to trying to work out a deal:

Sorry to hear that you feel this way, we are trying to do our best NOT to screw your guys over. We reached out to the community for help, because we just can’t afford to pay for hosting anymore. And if we didn’t do it, site would be shut down, and the all will be lost, which we don’t want to.

We discussed with our hosting provider, and they are allowing us to shrink down our database foot print, and we just need to figure out whose stuff to keep. So, if everything works out, we will stay online and we will keep providing out service.

Sorry if you feel bad in any way. We didn’t expect that membership revenues would fall down so fast.