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CorinaMarie

The End of an Era (Photobucket Borks the Internet)

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Thanks for the help and kind words. BTW, I concur with Patricius on the principle of the non-commercialization of the internet, God knows. But being an old biddy, I also know that there ain't such a thing as a free lunch, at least not eternally. I am ready to pay reasonable prices for a satisfying product on the internet, as long as the provider is efficient, honest and respectful of its clients (that would exclude some of the main functionalities of the Internet itself -- we've all heard the rumblings of distant thunder under the New American Order...)

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I've done a bit of research and a lot of back-of-the-envelope calculating, and in any case it's an absurdity to expect me to pay $400 per year to hotlink half a gigabyte worth of images. In the first place, I'm pretty certain the server storage itself costs next to nothing (certainly nowhere near $800 per gigabyte), considering that the raw cost of hard disk storage was 3 cents per GB. So a back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that my storage over the course of nine years costs maybe 0.2 cents per year. As for hotlinking, Franklin County (my primary city journal so its figure is not too far off from my total usage) has received 108000 views over the course of its life and runs around 100 pages, so that averages to 120 views per year per page. Assuming this calculation is correct that comes out to 24 cents per year *:???:.

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22 minutes ago, Patricius Maximus said:

.... has received 108000 views over the course of its life and runs around 100 pages, so that averages to 120 views per year per page. Assuming this calculation is correct that comes out to 24 cents per year *:???:.

pretty certain its each individual picture that's being counted not the page its on

15 minutes ago, tariely said:

(the basic plan for smugmug is 3.99 $ a month, or am I mistaken ?)

As far as I know ... yes

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14 minutes ago, catty-cb said:

pretty certain its each individual picture that's being counted not the page its on

Well, I figured that you have to adjust for the fact that since the average view consists of someone viewing one page and thus one page's worth of images, only a small fraction of my total library is being loaded per view (with the number of views being the amount of times the images have been loaded). That's why I divided it by the number of pages. The 0.2 cents I used as a base figure is for the entire library, not one image. I'm happy to admit that I may be totally and completely wrong, but that was my reasoning behind the figures.

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Unsplash is a website dedicated to sharing copyright-free photography under the Unsplash license. The website boasts 25,000 contributing photographers and generates an estimated 1 billion photo impressions per month

This is their breakdown of what it costs per month

https://crew.co/blog/what-does-unsplash-cost/

Obviously way more than all of us combined would use, but it gives you an idea of why Photobucket has started charging for hotlinking pictures, but it certainly looks like they could have different levels of charges or charged less per user

-catty

 

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Well, at the quoted rate of 7.5 cents per GB for the bandwidth that is costing them, one would have to be using 5300 GB worth of bandwidth per year for it to cost $400, which I'm very certain is far more than what I and virtually all of the other small-time uploaders are using when it comes to hotlinking. Either Photobucket is really desperate and is trying to extort cash out of their customers before they go out of business (which given their recent financial troubles is possible) or they don't want small-timers like us to use their site anymore. Assuming the figures for bandwidth that I've seen there and elsewhere are correct it's not even clear to me why a "freemium" model for keeping an image-hosting website afloat wouldn't work *:???:. This sector of the internet seems well-suited to it, but as I said before I'm no expert on the subject.

Aside from that I looked into Amazon's rate structure (for their web services) and plugging in my numbers for my image library (assuming they're correct) I got a figure of $5 a year. Considerably more than 20 cents, of course, but hypothetically if Photobucket sent me a notice in January saying that starting July I'd have to pay 40 cents a month to continue hotlinking based on my small-time usage tier or some such it's very likely they'd have my money in hand today. With what they did in real life they will receive none of my business or web traffic or positive reviews/reputation in the future. Their loss of course, and entirely preventable.

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2 hours ago, tariely said:

(the basic plan for smugmug is 3.99 $ a month, or am I mistaken ?)

Yeah, the $400 per year refers to the farcical Photobucket pricing policy.

 

3 hours ago, Patricius Maximus said:

If the growth of third-party hotlinking was going to cause them problems in the future the least they could do was grandfather in the hotlinks that already existed, if they saw such a problem coming at any point in time for their outfit. At the very least they could have given us advance notice so that small-time users like us wouldn't have their work disrupted.

Absolutely spot on.

There's a known stat which says ~80% of businesses capitulate within the first year. But with Photobucket we're talking about a company which has been established for 14 years. Providing a free service for people to host and share images on 3rd party sites. This had been the status quo. It proves that sufficient revenue must've been generated from other sources (e.g advertising, account upgrades), while still allowing them to offer the core free service most people signed up for. Their fundamental policy has stood strong until now, and such provisions in their terms only make them legally entitled to make changes. It doesn't make it the ethical or right thing to do. But they can do it, and they've done it.

Especially where web services are concerned, it's understandable the costs of hosting and bandwidth increase over time. Where there's demand, anything involving mass data storage will always grow naturally without intervention. Also not to forget the hardware which must be upgraded and maintained, catering to the ever changing developments in technology. Therefore, revenue must scale with increasing costs. Clearly they'd reached the tipping point where action was necessary. But if costs were growing, and profit margins narrowing, what do you do? Surely they could've seen the danger signs early enough, planned ahead, and given everyone sufficient warning. There's no excuses.

 

57 minutes ago, catty-cb said:

... it certainly looks like they could have different levels of charges or charged less per user

Yes, I'm sure there are other more progressive methods which could've been explored. Why not ask what people would be willing to pay? Give ample opportunity for images to be transitioned. But no, they've lured people in, then turned the primary motive for using the services into a ransom.

The reason for the extortionate fee is simply because they know all too well the ultimate dilemma they've created. The task of rehosting is far greater than paying. So in reality, they're charging based on the supposed time it'll take people to find and migrate to an alternative solution. The rip-off price alone does not represent the upgraded service being offered. They also know that to cover their costs, only a very small fraction of the userbase must fall for the trap. Most likely businesses who've relied on them to function.

I still cannot get over the fact a service can go from $0 to $400. An all or nothing approach taking a drastic U-turn, and is bad enough in its own right. But alongside no prior form of communication or justification whatsoever, it's beyond a joke.

To rub it in, they've even since defended their pricing as being "competitive" with other 3rd party hosts. Unbelievable. >.<


Anyway, I'll be having talks with Dirk on the feasibility of ST offering a sustainable storage model for the membership, at a perfectly reasonable fee.

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29 minutes ago, Cyclone Boom said:

Most likely businesses who've relied on them to function.

You know, reading that article reminds me of a regular complaint I used to hear when working for AOL. People using free trials and cheap non-commercial internet accounts for running their businesses, then complaining when the service didn't meet their expectations. To which the default response was:

"I can't help you, we aren't a commercial service, as stated in our terms and conditions. I could now have your account suspended, but if you don't push the matter, we'll leave it there and ignore it."

If you are making money and using free internet services to run your business (make money), I have no sympathy for you here. Most likely it's this kind of usage model and others using high bandwidth as the rationale behind these changes. Sadly the small-time people all got hit by the change too, but again I can totally see why Photobucket made a change. Ultimately the cost of providing all the free accounts has gotten so big, they needed to do something to halt it.

You could argue the cost of the service at $400 a year is reasonable, it really depends on your usage of the service. But those leaving in droves are most likely the sort of customer PB would consider itself better off without, which includes myself. They are looking to deal with premium customers only I suspect. Although quite how they can have any of those left given the other changes in recent times, crappy slow interface and generally poor customer service, I really do not know.

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4 hours ago, Cyclone Boom said:

Absolutely spot on.

There's a known stat which says ~80% of businesses capitulate within the first year. But with Photobucket we're talking about a company which has been established for 14 years. Providing a free service for people to host and share images on 3rd party sites. This had been the status quo. It proves that sufficient revenue must've been generated from other sources (e.g advertising, account upgrades), while still allowing them to offer the core free service most people signed up for. Their fundamental policy has stood strong until now, and such provisions in their terms only make them legally entitled to make changes. It doesn't make it the ethical or right thing to do. But they can do it, and they've done it.

Especially where web services are concerned, it's understandable the costs of hosting and bandwidth increase over time. Where there's demand, anything involving mass data storage will always grow naturally without intervention. Also not to forget the hardware which must be upgraded and maintained, catering to the ever changing developments in technology. Therefore, revenue must scale with increasing costs. Clearly they'd reached the tipping point where action was necessary. But if costs were growing, and profit margins narrowing, what do you do? Surely they could've seen the danger signs early enough, planned ahead, and given everyone sufficient warning. There's no excuses.

I agree totally. The fact that the freemium model worked well for so long proves that the status quo (i.e. what we've enjoyed in the past several years) was viable, hence my suggestion of grandfathering in hotlinking for existing images. Additionally, I presume they could have lowered storage or bandwidth limits and introduced a new pricing tier, if that was their problem; I strongly suspect the minor bandwidth needs of legions of hobbyists wasn't what was dragging them down, especially since their total usage intensity of their site hasn't exactly exploded compared to previous years. I'll also reiterate what we've been saying: no matter what the circumstances acting without ample warning was irresponsible and a breach of the trust they had built up over the years with their user community.

4 hours ago, Cyclone Boom said:

Yes, I'm sure there are other more progressive methods which could've been explored. Why not ask what people would be willing to pay? Give ample opportunity for images to be transitioned. But no, they've lured people in, then turned the primary motive for using the services into a ransom.

The reason for the extortionate fee is simply because they know all too well the ultimate dilemma they've created. The task of rehosting is far greater than paying. So in reality, they're charging based on the supposed time it'll take people to find and migrate to an alternative solution. The rip-off price alone does not represent the upgraded service being offered. They also know that to cover their costs, only a very small fraction of the userbase must fall for the trap. Most likely businesses who've relied on them to function.

I still cannot get over the fact a service can go from $0 to $400. An all or nothing approach taking a drastic U-turn, and is bad enough in its own right. But alongside no prior form of communication or justification whatsoever, it's beyond a joke.

To rub it in, they've even since defended their pricing as being "competitive" with other 3rd party hosts. Unbelievable. >.<


Anyway, I'll be having talks with Dirk on the feasibility of ST offering a sustainable storage model for the membership, at a perfectly reasonable fee.

The only real explanation is that people like us have been caught between the big fish and they couldn't care less; one might even suspect they have some sort of antipathy toward users like myself. Simtropolis introducing its own subscription-based image hosting is an intriguing idea. Its feasibility should be explored, whatever the verdict on the question ends up being.

3 hours ago, rsc204 said:

If you are making money and using free internet services to run your business (make money), I have no sympathy for you here. Most likely it's this kind of usage model and others using high bandwidth as the rationale behind these changes. Sadly the small-time people all got hit by the change too, but again I can totally see why Photobucket made a change. Ultimately the cost of providing all the free accounts has gotten so big, they needed to do something to halt it.

I'd like to point out that introducing or changing bandwidth limits for free accounts can't possibly be that hard, if that was their problem. Although I respect your experience in this sort of business, I suspect that the "small businesses abusing our service" is an excuse to treat customers like dirt to a much greater degree than it is a genuine problem.

3 hours ago, rsc204 said:

You could argue the cost of the service at $400 a year is reasonable, it really depends on your usage of the service. But those leaving in droves are most likely the sort of customer PB would consider itself better off without, which includes myself. They are looking to deal with premium customers only I suspect. Although quite how they can have any of those left given the other changes in recent times, crappy slow interface and generally poor customer service, I really do not know.

If I were a premium customer I'd be wary of doing business with an image hosting service with inferior features that can't be trusted not to hold my hotlinks for ransom without any notice. Anyone with any sense in business should know that, which is why I find the rumors that they'll be going belly-up soon credible. If that's the case then this would represent a cash-grab of some sort.

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8 hours ago, Patricius Maximus said:

Although I respect your experience in this sort of business, I suspect that the "small businesses abusing our service" is an excuse to treat customers like dirt to a much greater degree than it is a genuine problem.

8 hours ago, Patricius Maximus said:

which is why I find the rumors that they'll be going belly-up soon credible.

So if you had a business that was haemorrhaging cash providing a service to 10's of millions of people, most of whom for no income whatsoever, you don't think getting all the free loaders to leave would help restore your business to a healthy cash flow? It's one thing when you consider the hobbyists who use the service freely but make no money from it, but surely those making money using a free service are simply the worst part of that equation? Shouldn't they feel entitled to at least a part of the revenue to account for their part of providing the means to sell services? It's not like eBay, Amazon etc offer their services for free, yet despite taking around a 15-20% cut (eBay + PayPal), you can't host these images as part of those costs. Why shouldn't Photobucket expect to charge for their services?, especially in such cases, I mean $400/year is chump change if you are selling products day in day out on online retailers.

8 hours ago, Patricius Maximus said:

The fact that the freemium model worked well for so long proves that the status quo (i.e. what we've enjoyed in the past several years) was viable, hence my suggestion of grandfathering in hotlinking for existing images.

This contradicts the fact that almost every freemium product out there needs a revenue source to make the business viable. That's why most such services are always doomed to fail, it's absolutely not a viable way of doing business in the long term. That or there is something murky about the business, like with freemium gaming. Lots of people get the game free, but ultimately that's paid for by a bunch of hopeless addicts spending money they often don't have.

Fact is, if PB is bleeding through cash, it would cease to exist if something didn't change, that's a likely trigger for such changes. Not that I like they way they went about it, but seriously, if you aren't paying them a cent in all these years, they owe you nothing. You are not their customer, you are a free loader, heck, so am/was I, the difference being I know I was getting something for nothing, which can't last forever, so I'm far less annoyed about the changes.

12 hours ago, Patricius Maximus said:

but hypothetically if Photobucket sent me a notice in January saying that starting July I'd have to pay 40 cents a month to continue hotlinking based on my small-time usage tier or some such it's very likely they'd have my money in hand today.

You don't expect much do you? Seriously, they should provide the service to you based on the cost of Amazon, one of the highest-scaled out vendors in the market place? You know businesses like to make a profit, right? Fact is in the real world, you'd be lucky to get any hosting service worth a damn for under $50/year. Sure, that still makes PB 8x as expensive, but if you look into it, unlimited bandwidth is not an option for $50/year, you'd need to be on a higher tier. When you actually understand the costs of real world professional hosting, actually PB is not being unreasonable asking for $33/month for their service. Of course, if your needs don't make that cost work for you, indeed, they have left you high and dry with no viable option to remain with PB. But, that is their right to change, just like the local shop can decide to charge $10 for a soda. Of course, if you do charge $10 for a soda, don't expect to sell many, but then again, these days people pay stupid-money for everyday crap. How many people pay for the convenience of popcorn when they go to the cinema? Or will happily spend $5 on a soda there?, in that context, is charging $10 actually that terrible? Ultimately if you want to bring ethics to the table, you've been using PB for free for years, if anything that doesn't exactly give you the moral high ground here.

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6 hours ago, rsc204 said:

Fact is, if PB is bleeding through cash, it would cease to exist if something didn't change, that's a likely trigger for such changes. Not that I like they way they went about it, but seriously, if you aren't paying them a cent in all these years, they owe you nothing. You are not their customer, you are a free loader, heck, so am/was I, the difference being I know I was getting something for nothing, which can't last forever, so I'm far less annoyed about the changes.

Hmm...so I should pay people money for them not to treat me like dirt? Even after they've offered a free service and treated me well for over a decade? That's an interesting view of human relations you've got there. People who practice such a view aren't people I'm interested in having any relationship with whatsoever, including in business, especially since I can get decent treatment elsewhere for free. I am certainly aware that contractually they owe me nothing, but I'd like to point out to you that you seem to be under the impression we owe them something, such as a respectful and deferential attitude. We do not.

Besides, even people with pay accounts who did not "get something for nothing" had their hotlinks locked up unless they paid the $400, so even we accept the idea that we should pay money for the privilege of not being treated like garbage then these people were certainly ripped off and deserved better treatment than this. Besides, if I should have to pay for Photobucket to not treat me like dirt then why should Photobucket not have to pay me for me to not treat them like dirt? They've certainly never paid me a cent in exchange for me owing them anything.

6 hours ago, rsc204 said:

You don't expect much do you? Seriously, they should provide the service to you based on the cost of Amazon, one of the highest-scaled out vendors in the market place? You know businesses like to make a profit, right? Fact is in the real world, you'd be lucky to get any hosting service worth a damn for under $50/year. Sure, that still makes PB 8x as expensive, but if you look into it, unlimited bandwidth is not an option for $50/year, you'd need to be on a higher tier. When you actually understand the costs of real world professional hosting, actually PB is not being unreasonable asking for $33/month for their service. Of course, if your needs don't make that cost work for you, indeed, they have left you high and dry with no viable option to remain with PB. But, that is their right to change, just like the local shop can decide to charge $10 for a soda. Of course, if you do charge $10 for a soda, don't expect to sell many, but then again, these days people pay stupid-money for everyday crap. How many people pay for the convenience of popcorn when they go to the cinema? Or will happily spend $5 on a soda there?, in that context, is charging $10 actually that terrible? Ultimately if you want to bring ethics to the table, you've been using PB for free for years, if anything that doesn't exactly give you the moral high ground here.

So now one has the moral low ground if you use a service on the terms that it's offered for over a decade without notice of any upcoming changes? *:???: Again, you do not seem to be respecting my right to call out Photobucket for their treacherous, inconsiderate behavior and lack of business ethics, which I reserved just as surely as Photobucket reserved the right to do this to us. Additionally, I can easily take my business to another image hosting service that offers their service free of charge as I have already done. If protecting their interests gives Photobucket moral standing, I fail to see why me protecting my interests does not give me equal or better moral standing here. After all, both of us are just trying to keep as much cash in our wallets as possible, but I would never have done to them (or anyone else I transact with) what they did to me. As others including yourself have said, there were much more progressive options they could have explored and they could easily have gone about what they did much better. Morally speaking, it's a level playing field at best.

As for web hosting, who said anything about unlimited bandwidth? I've never even particularly wanted unlimited bandwidth; honestly if they'd imposed a bandwidth limit on the free tier or lowered an existing limit I wouldn't even care (although many of the online retail businesses you mentioned as culprits in bleeding cash would). I've said this multiple times. As for the prices, I only used Amazon as an example because of their "pay for what you use" pricing, which provides a much better idea of how much it costs them than some others' pricing does. In any case if Photobucket wants to exclusively be in the high-tier web hosting business now I don't see how they can be a viable business if their price isn't competitive and they don't have better service or ethics, or some sort of positive differentiation to make up for the price premium.

Anyway, as you pointed out previously, premium customers have much better options available as things stand now - this is why I contend that their move to anger the entire Internet and not improve their decidedly mediocre offerings makes the most sense as a going-out-of-business move. If your service won't be around for much longer anyway, then any reaction we have wouldn't make a difference over the long term. It's just a possibility I'm throwing out there of course, and I suppose we'll find out either way soon enough. In any event today I'll be backing up everything I uploaded to them just in case and exploring other (including not-for-profit hobbyist-run) image hosting service and web hosting options, so anyone that wants to engage in a flame war over Internet business ethics (which is where this is going) can do so without me.

My advice to everyone here is to agree to disagree over this dispute and get through this blow to all of our work as a united community. After all, as non-monetary small-time hobbyist users we have much more in common with each other than we do with any of the companies we're discussing. If we stand together, we can do this, and come out stronger and more vibrant then ever before. I intend to lead by example in this effort.

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On 7/3/2017 at 0:38 PM, madhatter106 said:

if sites don't want us to hotlink, why give us the means to do so?

In case Cyclone's example confused anyone: A link (HTML <a> tag) takes you to Imgur's site where they can show you their ads in addition to any images you were hoping to see. They like that. What they don't want is for some other site's pages (and revenue model) to freeload on Imgur's bandwidth (embed HTML "<img>" tags with references to Imgur image URIs).

So, links good, embedded images bad.

Of course, if one knows JavaScript, one can probably design a web page to spoof the domain of the calling page and suck down the images anyway. However, I'm too lazy to figure out the details.

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1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

Hmm...so I should pay people money for them not to treat me like dirt? Even after they've offered a free service and treated me well for over a decade? That's an interesting view of human relations you've got there.

Human relations, not really, you mean customer service, it's perhaps a subtle difference, but we're in the world of business or capitalism here, not a group of friends. I wasn't suggesting you need to pay them money not to be treated like dirt, but my argument is that having used their service for nothing for 10 years, you've got a really good deal. Now it's come to an end, I agree not on good terms, but YOU GOT 10 YEARS OF FREE!!! Why are you mad about that?, the good times are however, over. But you got a great deal overall, if you really think about it.

1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

Besides, even people with pay accounts who did not "get something for nothing" had their hotlinks locked up unless they paid the $400, so even we accept the idea that we should pay money for the privilege of not being treated like garbage then these people were certainly ripped off and deserved better treatment than this.

I agree, those who were paying but now are restricted to the higher tier, have far more cause for complaint than those using the free service do. However I bet you that's a tiny percentage, it always is, and most of the loudest complainers have the least reason to complain from what I'm seeing.

1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

So now one has the moral low ground if you use a service on the terms that it's offered for over a decade without notice of any upcoming changes?

See their terms and conditions, you know, the ones which say they could change the terms whenever they liked, to whatever they liked. Those terms you accepted and agreed to by using the service but are now complaining about. The same terms which if you disagreed with (you seem to now), should have prevented you from using the service but somehow didn't?

PB owe you nothing, some might argue, you kinda owe them?, that's really more what I meant here. Of course that logic is flawed, they did after all, happily give you the service for free. But you don't seem to talk like someone who realises they got a free lunch for 10 years, which has now come to an end. No, you are just annoyed that it's come to an end, ignoring all those tasty dinners you had for so long without paying a cent. Some might think those 10 years of free entitled PB to some gratitude, that's the point!

1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

lack of business ethics

LOL, it's still 2017, right? Business Ethics, I don't believe such a thing exists in the world of big business, name one top fortune 500 company with an ethical track record? All of them most likely have CEOs on 7-figure salaries, pay their staff a pittance, get their products from 3rd world slavery and are generally money-hungry corporate *censored*.

It's funny how people are surprised that businesses don't give a damn about anything but money, aka profit. I didn't say I liked the status quo, but let's not be blind to the reality here.

1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

If protecting their interests gives Photobucket moral standing, I fail to see why me protecting my interests does not give me equal or better moral standing here.

I didn't suggest PB's actions were morally fine, but your argument fails to acknowledge that you were using PB for free, despite your free services costing PB money. Not having the moral high ground doesn't mean the other party are being moral either, remember, "two wrongs don't make a right". I simply mean to say that you really don't have a good case for complaining because someone took your free stuff away from you. Come on, what difference would one months notice have made in real terms? Is that REALLY your issue with this change? People are all using that argument, but really, you are all unhappy that the change happened.

"PB should have let me have another option to keep my images without the $400 fee?" Why?, how are they obliged to do this? Because you were best buddies for 10 years, you know, with all the money you spent as a loyal customer? Sure it doesn't seem reasonable, some are calling it extortion, but this is nothing new nor the first time a free service has done such a thing. It usually happens when the business is reaching a critical mass, I'm just saying I can understand why it's happening and be OK with it.

My attitude to all this:

I got my free service, thanks very much, I'll get my coat. PB you've been terrible, I'm so much happier I'll never have to use your services again.

1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

Additionally, I can easily take my business to another image hosting service that offers their service free of charge as I have already done.

Absolutely, that business that gets paid nothing and gives you stuff for free no doubt? I've done it too, moved to FlickR where I am using them for free now instead. But if FlickR change the rules tomorrow, I'll know the reason my images need moving again (natch), is because I was too cheap to pay for hosting them.

1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

As for the prices, I only used Amazon as an example because of their "pay for what you use" pricing, which provides a much better idea of how much it costs them than some others' pricing does.

Margins on Amazon are wafer thin, it's not an example of how every business can operate. But they do a lot of trade, so a few cents here x many million transactions works out for them. But few can actually compete with those prices and stay in business, not all similar things are the same.

I gave a real world example of hosting costs, a simple google search will show I'm not making the numbers up. Your estimate using Amazon was not reflective of what people in practise pay to host content. Nor is Amazon ideal for most people who want hosting, although I'm sure you could go that way.

1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

As for web hosting, who said anything about unlimited bandwidth?

I did, but if you read the statement again in context, you'll realise I also did say it wouldn't be for everyone. Just that for some use cases it's actually not a horrific deal is all. Would I pay them $400 a year, nope, if I needed such a service I would have paid for a reputable one in the first place.

But if you are selling online, so basically you are a retailer (however small your operation), $400 is chump change for what you are getting in return. I didn't say it's a good deal for everyone, but if you make $20k/year in sales, you'd be paying much more to eBay for example, even more to the taxman, it's a very small slice of the pie. These are the sorts of people complaining in the BBC article @Cyclone Boom linked to. It just makes me think they too have an unrealistic expectation of the world. Presumably they are nice people who give their stuff away for free in return, right?

1 hour ago, Patricius Maximus said:

so anyone that wants to engage in a flame war over Internet business ethics (which is where this is going) can do so without me

Why is a discussion where people disagree a flame war? Honestly, what's wrong with the world when people can not discuss things, despite not agreeing, without labelling it as more than debate? I'm not flaming anyone, I just think that your viewpoint is very self entitled, sorry for calling you out on it, but that's what I think. Yes PB aren't being very nice to users like you right this minute, but for 10 years they've been giving you a free service you were happy with.

If you read the entire thread (or just the first few posts), you'll know I spent 6 hours moving about 1/3rd of my own images when this occurred. I'm totally affected by this, I'm just not annoyed about it. I saw it coming, PB have been making things terrible for a long time and it seemed like the free days might be over.

I've posted previously about how such free services and the lack of people willing to pay, myself included, for internet services is the root cause behind the obliteration of community sites like those for SC4:

I want things to be better, but also don't want to pay for it, in fact actually, I literally can not afford to pay for it. I'm living on the edge here financially, gotta eat and all that. The key difference is that I don't expect the world to be free, I know if I want some service, I have to pay for it. Sure, for the longest time the internet was different, but those days can end at any time, after all, if a business can't make money, they go bankrupt and lots of people loose lots of money.

We're here using ST for free, you've no doubt downloaded a lot of content if you are like most of us. Did you pay or contribute for that?, because someone is, none of this is free either in the grander scheme of things. It costs money to run these sites and not a small sum either, someone has to pay for it. Now, I can't shout too loudly, I did donate to help SimPeg a few times, but due to my current situation have been unable to do so for ST or SC4D. Of course I believe I try to give something back through my community work, pay my dues as it were. But the point being, if the money dries up, no more ST, no more SC4D and we're not even a business.

If PB is really in financial trouble (seems likely), this step may actually save the business. It might seem a bizarre counter-argument, but I can see some justification for getting rid of all the freeloaders to stop loosing money as quickly as possible. Every day you wait, could be costing them a fortune in additional costs, maybe that simply wasn't an option? Some people just don't want to think there might be a valid reason for this action, but honestly, I don't think they'd risk the PR backlash if there were better options on the table. I'm just being the devil's advocate here, nothing more, nothing less.

So if you think that PB should keep giving everything away until they go bankrupt, rather than try to fix the business, for ethical reasons, you simply don't understand Capitalism or good business practise. In fact legally speaking, assuming there are shareholders involved, they are obliged to take action here to shield the business from potential bankruptcy.

2 hours ago, Patricius Maximus said:

My advice to everyone here is to agree to disagree over this dispute and get through this blow to all of our work as a united community. After all, as non-monetary small-time hobbyist users we have much more in common with each other than we do with any of the companies we're discussing. If we stand together, we can do this, and come out stronger and more vibrant then ever before. I intend to lead by example in this effort.

How? By whining about your free stuff being taken away? What productive and helpful steps are you engaging in to improve things? I bet, like me, you'll just move to another free service and ignore the pitfalls until this all blows up again when that service stops being free. Sure, I'll do much the same, the difference being, when it all blows up, I won't be making a big song and dance about it, I'll just accept moving my images every now and again is a necessary trade off for using free services.

This is the problem, we all want these services, but the majority doesn't want to pay for them. Until we realise that doesn't work, this cycle of content destruction will continue again and again and again. That's the main point in all this, not to beat you with a stick of my logic and reason. But if people think the next free service will last forever, then we are simply deluding ourselves.

Is the solution to host this content directly on-site? I worry that would impose too many costs on ST/SC4D etc to be a practical solution. But hobbies are rarely free, perhaps people need to consider paid services if we want to avoid these problems again and again.

What about self-hosting them on a domain, so the terms of hosting can change without all the links being messed up? But even then, people will stop playing, leave the community and resources will once more go missing as renewal fees may lapse.

Perhaps the only solution that is guaranteed is to host the content as part of the site, despite the drawbacks? It's really not an easy problem to solve, every solution has major potential drawbacks.

What we really need, as I mentioned in the linked thread, is simply a better internet, where changing hosts doesn't destroy your links. Like how when you change your mobile phone, you can keep the number. But that's an even bigger struggle in terms of regulation and technology. Because if your links are based on an owned domain, you are locked in, unless you own the domain. That debate could rage ever onwards, but in the here and how, we all need to accept Free isn't really Free, there are strings attached. If you lunch for free, enjoy it while it lasts, but don't count on it lasting forever, it likely won't.

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<RANT warning="politics ahead">

Those who want to know why this is happening need to read up on "net neutrality". The short version: Up until recently, a few big-money companies paid to get the bandwidth they wanted when they wanted it. The rest of us were freeloaders, sneaking our packets through when it was convenient for the carriers (exactly like flying standby on the cheap). The mix of paid-express and freebie-standby worked for almost everyone for several years

Then some pseudo-egalitarian dimwit cried foul, screaming that it wasn't fair for some evil-corporations to get higher priority service just because they pay for all the bandwidth that the rest of us use for free (all the rest of us have ever paid for is the connection to our homes -- the bandwidth has really been completely free piggy-backing on surplus evil-corporate capacity).

Some moron in the government recently agreed, issuing some new regulations forcing all Internet packets to be given the same high priority. Quite predictably, all those packets will now need to be bought and paid for. The free bandwidth for all us freeloaders is going away as an unintended consequence of "fairness" -- in reality the banning of flying standby. If you didn't mind free, second class service that's too bad -- you aren't allowed to sign on for it because evil-corporations are no longer allowed to give it away.

The "upside" is that when somebody sends you an email, it will arrive in under a second instead of sometimes taking 2-15 minutes. When you load a web page, your packets will move in milliseconds, not seconds. When you stream a movie, you'll get the packets just in time instead of having to charge up your RAM by buffering minutes in advance -- saving you literally pennies worth of electricity and avoiding a minute delay you've probably never noticed. Is that worth the loss of free Photobucket bandwidth etc?

I for one already miss being allowed fly standby. If you're like me, then you might write to President Trump asking him to kill net neutrality. The good news is that he has already taken aim at it, so we might get our free Internet back in a few years -- if we're just willing to wait for it.

</RANT>

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On 17/07/2017 at 8:00 AM, jeffryfisher said:

read up on "net neutrality"

Yes, I would, because the vision of Net Neutrality presented in your post is very far removed from what it really means. There are so many holes and factual inaccuracies in your argument, I really can't fathom how you've got things so mixed up.

Net Neutrality has nothing to do with piggybacking packets of data, it's all to do with prioritisation of packets. Now those two might sound similar, but the distinction between them is hugely important. It is a principle that states, no one packet should be given a higher priority than others, all should be treated equal, on a first come first served basis. This fundamental internet democracy, all packets are equal, is there to protect the internet, it's a good thing, we should all be fighting for it to remain.

This doesn't even stem from the internet and is not a modern principle either, it dates back to using Telegraph systems, where the government of the US decreed that all traffic should have equal priority, except for emergency and government use. This principle was taken on board very early in the Internet's life, to protect the freedom of the internet and it's users from commercial interests dictating the quality of a given service/site.

I mean come on, it's not like Trump to make out he is the one with moral high-ground, using a factually ignorant argument, to pretend the evil he's about to do for his billionaire mates, is actually what's best for the common man now, is it? Jeez, if you buy anything that man says, go look up the word gullible and try to apply it's definition to your life.

Trump thinks he was born rich, because he is better than everyone else, you know he has a higher calling and deserves what he got for nothing. You know, like some sort of royalty, what an ego-maniac, how can any person trust a single word of out his sexual harassing, failing businessman, douche bag mouth, I'll never understand. He is scum, he is a liar and his continual use of oxygen is an injustice to mankind as a whole. Geez, even when presented with unequivocal evidence of his wrongdoing, no one cares, how brainwashed is that? He is not fit (ethically), to sell girl scout cookies on doorsteps, let alone to be president of the USA.

Anyway, before getting into Trump bashing, a subject I could write a thesis upon, here's a practical example of how Net Neutrality laws protect people against commercial interests:

Let's say your ISP did a commercial deal with NetFlix to prioritise all their data packets. But you had paid for a subscription to another provider for movies/videos. Without Net Neutrality laws, your ISP could prevent your packets from having the same priority on the network as those for NetFlix. In short, that would make NetFlix's service the only viable option, since it might be your service simply could never provide you with the bandwidth needed to sustain a quality video stream. All because your ISP was being paid to ensure NetFlix customers had their content served up as a priority to other video-streaming services. Such a system is not currently allowed, because it protects people from corporate interests interfering with the order or priority which data is served by your ISP.

On 17/07/2017 at 8:00 AM, jeffryfisher said:

all the rest of us have ever paid for is the connection to our homes -- the bandwidth has really been completely free piggy-backing on surplus evil-corporate capacity).

Bandwidth has very little in the way of costs associated with it, that's why for the longest time, you have not had to pay for it. For example, you connect to your ISP, their systems then connect to the outside world, which at some point connects you to the service provider hosting the content you wish to see. The bits in-between obviously do use third party networks, but the real cost there is not in sending/receiving packets of data, it's mostly from putting in the infrastructure in the first place.

Sure there are fees charged when data moves from your ISP onto networks they don't own, regional carriers and transatlantic pipes for example, but you are paying for that. Your ISP must factor in those charges when it decides how much to bill you for using it's network every month. Here is the best explanation I could find that breaks down how internet traffic works. Just like how your telephone service includes the costs of network switching as part of a call, these costs for routing internet packets are included in your ISPs subscription charges.

Part of the way the internet works is that providers who want a better service for their customers, invest in infrastructure to ensure you can access their site, from the closest possible server to your physical location. This actually applies in the case of ST, since the hosting provider has deals in place to mirror the site to various locations for quicker access worldwide. For example I know CloudFare is being using by the hosting service ST contracts with. My connection to ST is hosted in my city, Frankfurt, on one of those mirrors. So likely my ISP has barely any costs for connecting with ST, if any at all. The ISP hasn't paid for this setup, the hosting provider has, to provide a better quality service for it's customers, making it's packages more desirable for it's clients. Of course this might sound like it goes against the principles of Net Neutrality, but since the packets are not what's being prioritised, simply an optimisation of the connection, this does not break such rules.

Of course not all web traffic works this way, some do connect to a lone physical server that is the only one. But, most large hosting providers have long since moved from this system, because it's much cheaper to use such localised hosting services. Not to mention the improvement in the speed and quality of a connection, if YouTube was all based in the US for example, the odds of a quality video stream in Europe would be very low. Thanks to their scale, they can have server farms "data centres" that are closer to where the demand for their services are.

On 17/07/2017 at 8:00 AM, jeffryfisher said:

Is that worth the loss of free Photobucket bandwidth etc?

This is totally not why PB are needing to charge. The simple fact is, PB have to host and pay for the bandwidth for everything being viewed on their servers. Net Neutrality does not make this more expensive, the two are not related in any way. PB is spending a lot of money to deal with the content of a huge number of members, 10,000,000 of them, this is really expensive. My guess is, the subscriptions simply were not enough to pay for all those costs. That would explain why their service has been very slow for the longest time. It also explains why the sheer number of ad's they put on their site, along with the annoying implementation that bombards you with them, took root. But this is speculation, I can guarantee you however, Net Neutrality rules have nothing to do with it.

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5 hours ago, rsc204 said:

Net Neutrality has nothing to do with piggybacking packets of data, it's all to do with prioritisation of packets.

Yes, we agree. At least that's what I tried to say. I mentioned piggy-backing as what we did before net-neutrality came along to screw it up.

5 hours ago, rsc204 said:

It is a principle that states, no one packet should be given a higher priority than others, all should be treated equal, on a first come first served basis.

Right, which is why I abhor it.

First, there are some packets that "spoil quickly" while others don't. In other words, there are use cases that depend on low-latency to even function, and there are other use cases where latency is almost irrelevant. Therefore the net becomes more useful if it can prioritize the former ahead of the latter. Enforcing absolute equality is a brainless way of destroying some of the net's functionality (wiping out whole businesses worth millions, perhaps billions of dollars, along with all of the utility that their customers get from them, all in blind, slavish devotion to a misplaced ideological purity).

Second, there's a very old saying that "you get what you pay for". Those who pay more should get more, especially if those who pay can make something free for the rest of us. The folks buying first-class air tickets are subsidizing my cheap-ass coach seat, so I don't begrudge them early boarding and early exit. Likewise, if some video service wants the same priority as NetFlix, then they should pay the same price as NetFlix. That's absolutely fair. What's unfair (and ultimately very harmful) is forcing latency-dependent packets into the slow-lane with others whose value is the same whether they move in seconds or hours. That's just stupid. I'd be embarrassed to have somebody's multiplayer game command wait behind the 4gig anime season download that I left running overnight while I sleep.

That's all a long way of saying that packets are not people. They're not created equal, so they shouldn't be treated as equal. The only equality I can agree with is that each priority be offered at the same price to everyone willing to pay for it. That's treating people equally, not their packets.

5 hours ago, rsc204 said:

There are so many holes and factual inaccuracies in your argument, I really can't fathom how you've got things so mixed up.

Resisting the flame-bait, I'll just say that I read the dead-tree version of Reason Magazine. Their articles are long and detailed, so prepare to be both informed and disillusioned.

Since I'm no fan of Trump's, I'll ignore all of your hysterics there. I only mentioned him in the sense that even a stopped clock can be right twice a day. His stated intention to oppose net neutrality is spot on no matter what his motives are. Net neutrality would destroy several Internet functions and render the rest more expensive.

6 hours ago, rsc204 said:

it dates back to using Telegraph systems, where the government of the US decreed that all traffic should have equal priority, except for emergency and government use.

Telegraphs sent one kind of data: text messages. The Internet transmits many kinds of data, some quite unlike others. It would be profoundly harmful to take a decree designed for 1840's technology and apply it to a 21st century Internet.

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10 hours ago, jeffryfisher said:

Yes, we agree. At least that's what I tried to say. I mentioned piggy-backing as what we did before net-neutrality came along to screw it up.

Then we don't agree, Piggy-backing simply doesn't happen, it is not how the internet works, I don't know where you get this idea from and it has nothing to do net neutrality, which has always been the default way the internet has worked. You suggest Net Neutrality is a new thing that is crippling the internet, that's simply not true, it's always been a thing and the internet has thrived despite it.

10 hours ago, jeffryfisher said:

First, there are some packets that "spoil quickly" while others don't. In other words, there are use cases that depend on low-latency to even function, and there are other use cases where latency is almost irrelevant. Therefore the net becomes more useful if it can prioritize the former ahead of the latter. Enforcing absolute equality is a brainless way of destroying some of the net's functionality (wiping out whole businesses worth millions, perhaps billions of dollars, along with all of the utility that their customers get from them, all in blind, slavish devotion to a misplaced ideological purity).

That is simply wrong. Sure some parts of the web do require low latency, but if your argument was true, how on earth do those services work under Net Neutrality right now? Things like NetFlix, YouTube and other streaming services absolutely work with Net Neutrality in place. Prioritising packets is not the solution, nor is it necessary. As I mentioned in my post, it's investment in local hosts and mirrors that allow such services to work. So if it's not broke, what are we trying to fix? But more importantly, why are we trying to fix it?

10 hours ago, jeffryfisher said:

Since I'm no fan of Trump's, I'll ignore all of your hysterics there.

LOL. Hysterics, that's your opinion... The fact is, however you look at it, Trump's word means absolutely nothing, he's proven himself to be in an ethical vacuum. But this is important, why would a person like that want to disband Net Neutrality? Doesn't Trump always do things that help big rich individuals and corporations to make more money? Isn't that what he really believes in? So if he wants to ditch Net Neutrality, do you REALLY think it will be for the greater good of the average person? Come on, seriously, if he wants to do it, it's probably nefarious. That was my point, which I tried to make in a rather stupid and humorous way. Why so serious man, I can't have a serious conversation about the joke that is the US president, it's simply too staggeringly ridiculous to think he's in office to take seriously.

Trump wants to ditch Net Neutrality, because his rich friends know by doing so, they can monopolise the internet better and make more money. You think you will get your subsidised seat on the plane, but the reality is that the plane will be a private charter and you won't be allowed to fly unless you've got the bucks.

10 hours ago, jeffryfisher said:

Second, there's a very old saying that "you get what you pay for". Those who pay more should get more, especially if those who pay can make something free for the rest of us.

But that is again flawed logic, the internet is not free because other people pay more, but you absolutely can pay more for a better service, without compromising the ideology of Net Neutrality. But more doesn't mean you get to use your internet at the expense of others, it just means you get more bandwidth, rather than priority. If you want priority bandwidth, there are service providers who can give you that, but it's much more expensive, because they have exclusive hardware dedicated for their paying customers only. For example, a company can have a super-fast regional fibre-optic pipe that no one else can use. That does not break Net Neutrality rules, because all packets using that pipe must be dealt with on a first come first served basis. But you still get access to a priority pipe with improved access speeds over other service providers.

That's what people who think Net Neutrality should be ditched seem to fail to understand. Having those rules does not prevent investment or specific businesses from offering a better service. It simply protects traffic from being prioritised to one service, customer or business over others.

10 hours ago, jeffryfisher said:

Likewise, if some video service wants the same priority as NetFlix, then they should pay the same price as NetFlix. That's absolutely fair. What's unfair (and ultimately very harmful) is forcing latency-dependent packets into the slow-lane with others whose value is the same whether they move in seconds or hours. That's just stupid. I'd be embarrassed to have somebody's multiplayer game command wait behind the 4gig anime season download that I left running overnight while I sleep.

No that's not a good thing. NetFlix could pay so much that literally no other video streaming service could possibly work. That's the equivalent of a monopoly and very bad for user choice, it would be a harmful business practise for the consumer.

If I paid the same for my internet connection as you, why shouldn't my 4GB anime season download with the same priority as someone else playing a game online? What if I didn't want to leave it running overnight, what if I was waiting for it to finish so I could watch it right away?

But this argument is predicated on the idea that somehow I can't download my anime, whilst others play games at the same time. When the reality is, the ISP should have sufficient capacity in the system to allow both things to happily work simultaneously without problems. The issue is all about scale, if your ISP has sufficient capacity to serve everyone's needs, it simply doesn't matter. Take away Net Neutrality laws and the ISP could decide to bork everyone's downloads, so one person could play their game, how is this fair? Especially if we are all paying the same fee for the same service. Why should someone who chooses to play a game have their usage prioritised (i.e. subsidised) by others who's data needs are considered less important. We all pay the same, we should all get the same service, even if we are doing different things.

10 hours ago, jeffryfisher said:

Resisting the flame-bait, I'll just say that I read the dead-tree version of Reason Magazine. Their articles are long and detailed, so prepare to be both informed and disillusioned.

Yes, I'm flaming you... or could it be that I'm simply pointing out you have a very flawed idea of what Net Neutrality means in the real world. I'm sorry, but if that article fits your narrative, it too is simply wrong, because Net Neutrality is not breaking the internet. Again, for that to be true, the internet couldn't work as it has been for the last 15-20 years, yet somehow, despite Net Neutrality being a thing (it is not a new thing either), the internet does work. If you are arguing Net Neutrality is new, you don't know what you are talking about. If you are arguing the internet doesn't work with it, you simply couldn't be more wrong. That's not flaming you, it's just pointing out your argument is completely wrong. The same logic can be applied to many of the arguments presented in that article, it simply doesn't stand up to the most basic and obvious scrutinisation.

For example, the article argues that somehow, given prioritisation of packets, a new start-up would be able to gain a leg-up on the established competition. Really?, do you seriously believe if I started a new search engine tomorrow, paying ISPs for priority access over Google, somehow that would help to gain market share? The cost would likely be exorbitant, way more than a typical start-up would reasonably have. It also blissfully ignores the fact that if someone were to do this, Google could simply pay the ISPs more to make their service an even higher priority. If you start such a war where the highest bidder gets priority, isn't it likely that those with the most money and resources will always come out on top? Isn't that exactly why Net Neutrality laws are there, to protect users from such anti-competitive behaviour?

10 hours ago, jeffryfisher said:

Telegraphs sent one kind of data: text messages. The Internet transmits many kinds of data, some quite unlike others. It would be profoundly harmful to take a decree designed for 1840's technology and apply it to a 21st century Internet.

You mean exactly as we have been doing since the beginnings of the internet? Again, if it's so harmful, why are things working? Once more this argument is simply turned around and based on flawed logic. It's not like all the laws for Telegraphs were used for the basis of the internet. Just one principle of them, which is that no packets should be prioritised over others based on commercial interests. I'd argue that totally applies to the internet, I'd also argue it's working just fine this way. I'd add too, this still has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter, PB and the changes made to their service, a point I note you didn't care to comment upon.

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4 hours ago, rsc204 said:

...I'd add too, this still has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter, PB and the changes made to their service, a point I note you didn't care to comment upon.

I'm guessing the main reason Photobucket is having to charge is down to changing technology, and by that I mean how people use the Internet, back when Photobucket came into existence your main means of connecting to the internet was by dial-up modems and for those of us who have spent all night trying to download a program via a 56k modem you really had to have a good reason to upload or download images or files anywhere and yes broadband was just starting to take over but there are still people out there who still use 56k modems ... I've still got one somewhere ... but anyway the point is people didn't have huge photobucket albums unless they were a commercial company so hotlinking pictures wasn't a major issue.

Then technology changed again and broadband  made it possible to upload large amounts of data so those photobucket albums are getting bigger as is the number of links people have to them and now you have smart phones so you don't need a computer with internet access or a camera and uploading a picture to photobucket is as quick as pressing a button on your phone and its done, and just as easy to hotlink your picture to a forum or Facebook or wherever.

And at some point a tipping point is reached at Photobucket where its now costing them more to host your pictures than they are getting back in revenue and no company that wants to stay in business is going to keep running at a loss ... I still think they should have done a better job of communicating the changes to their customers and the reasons why they were having to do it and yes I think they should have had different levels of charges but at the end of the day I can quite understand why they needed to start charging people and its got nothing to do with net neutrality.

 

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11 hours ago, rsc204 said:

Piggy-backing simply doesn't happen, it is not how the internet works,

Perhaps I should not have called it "piggy-backing" (a term more commonly used for wi-fi leeching that I didn't mean). I probably should have said "freeloading". I was referring to the quid pro quo exchange by which local ISPs offload traffic (my network takes traffic yours hands to me, and your network takes traffic that mine hands to you).

Much of this traffic waits for and then uses telephone networks' spare capacity. This moves packets for free but at a priority below the actual digitized telephone data packets (hence the freeloading, or what I was calling piggy-backing). The end result is that residential customers are paying only for their local connections (the so-called "last mile"), and not low-latency end-to-end transmission.

For the curious, here's a good CNET article on net neutrality that includes a section on How the Internet Works. It's the basis for much of what I've been trying (and failing) to get across.

 

11 hours ago, rsc204 said:

If I paid the same for my internet connection as you, why shouldn't my 4GB anime season download with the same priority as someone else playing a game online? What if I didn't want to leave it running overnight, what if I was waiting for it to finish so I could watch it right away?

Answer: Because prioritizing my interactive game commands would delay the completion of your hours-long download by a few seconds that would not change the value of the download. However, treating your hours-long download at equal priority would freeze my game controls for seconds at a time while my opponents kill me. When other bulk downloads freeze their controls, then I'll kill them. Thus, the entire online game would be unplayable, ruining it for everyone.

Your misplaced egalitarianism would utterly destroy an entire hobby (and business model). And, when your download interferes with a surgeon operating remotely, your misplaced egalitarianism would kill people (Well, not that directly; your "all packets are equal" rule would kill tele-operation tech, and the lack of tech would mean that people would die who should have been saved).

To even ask your question, you must not know the meaning or importance of "latency" (time-sensitivity). That and a whole slew of other misconstrued or misunderstood terms means that we're talking past each other. It's not worth the many days and thousands of words I'd need to repair what's an OT side-discussion anyway, so this conversation is over.

I hope a few people will read the articles I linked. They explain these issues far better than I can. They also highlight the shifting definition of "net neutrality", which in today's "all packets are equal" common usage directly contradicts Tim Wu's original 2003 coinage. I suspect that this fuzziness in definition is part of why we're not understanding each other. Maybe the linked articles can clear that up for some bystanders here.

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20 minutes ago, jeffryfisher said:

... I suspect that this fuzziness in definition is part of why we're not understanding each other. Maybe the linked articles can clear that up for some bystanders here.

I read them even went and read another couple of articles on the subject of "latency" and I've got to say they aren't helping your argument as to why Photobucket is now charging its customers for hotlinking pictures  :cry:

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