V is for Victory

Thanks to your tremendous efforts and generous donations, the crisis has been averted. The victory belongs to you, our users. Your donations bought us enough time to keep our servers humming while we were figuring out what to do. Your technical expertise allowed us to cut some corners and employ clever tricks. Your connections finally allowed us to establish contact with parties that made a long-term solution affordable. Your emails kept us going on extra-long workdays, because we knew that you were counting on us. We hereby wish to thank everybody who extended their help and advice, and would especially like to mention and recommend the following parties:

  • AdvancedHosters for their stellar tech support and for offering great terms for their CDN service
  • SG.GS for their technical expertise and generous bandwidth consumption terms

Also, the following parties readily came to our aid, although our needs did not exactly match their expertise:

  • DaciHost for offering us a powerful dedicated server for free
  • Aba-Soft for designing a custom private cloud solution to help us handle the uncached load
  • Greta.io for offering their ingenious peer-2-peer CDN technology

A special thank you goes to every single one of the 159 people who contributed a total of over $1700 of donations via PayPal. This would not be possible without you.

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Postimage needs your help

NB: This blog post has been updated to reflect the current situation and is slightly different from what was posted on our main page earlier this week.

It’s official: Postimage.org is in danger and needs your help. Here’s why:

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Who is at fault?

On October 27, 2016, CloudFlare abruptly cut us off from most of their services except DNS for abusing their system. This came as a bit of a surprise, since although we’ve been using one of their cheapest plans for a long time, we had reached an agreement earlier this month that we would be upgrading our account when the next billing cycle started. A couple of Skype calls later we learned the following:

  • CloudFlare was very unhappy that the total traffic usage of our project had surpassed a staggering figure of 1.8 petabytes in the last 30 days.
  • The amount of money we had to pay monthly to make them happy again grew after each Skype call as more people in CF got involved in examining our case: $200 became $1000, which in turn became $12k.
  • The sales team was adamant that although CloudFlare did not officially have bandwidth limits, our violation of Section 10 of their terms of service could not be remedied by serving less image traffic and more HTML traffic (although, being an image hosting company, we have no idea how we would pull this one off anyway without blatantly gaming the system), and that at the level of petabytes of data, they would never allow that on a $200/month Business plan.
  • We were officially screwed.

Let us make this absolutely clear: we do not hold a grudge against CloudFlare for refusing to foot our traffic bill any further. We do realize that we are costing them a ton of money, and it is solely our own fault that our current business model is not sustainable. We also recognize that the deal they offered is probably better than anything we could reasonably expect from any other CDN providers. The only thing we disagree with is that instead of publishing estimates of how much traffic customers are actually allowed to consume at each service plan, CloudFlare insists that their bandwidth is unlimited and declines to comment on the actual terms of service.

What should we do now?

A possible outcome is that Postimage.org will have to shut down, terminating nearly 140 million images embedded into some 450 thousand websites, first and foremost a number of great message boards (although a lot of online auctions, personal galleries and corporate websites will be affected as well).

However, thanks to a generous stream of donations it looks like we will make it through the next couple of weeks until we develop more permanents solutions both to cut costs and to implement a viable business model. We didn’t pay enough attention to making money off Postimage, as the advertising revenue was sufficient to support ourselves and our servers. We are now rethinking what we can actually offer to our community while minimizing the harm done.

While we are definitely bothered that the project on which our modest livelihood depends is shutting down, this latter circumstance bothers us much more. We would hopefully find other jobs, but a huge historical layer spanning more than a decade of some of the Internet’s most vibrant communities would be obliterated forever. Thus, at this point failure is not an option; we must fight tooth and nail to keep Postimage.org running and to correct the consequences of our earlier mistakes.

Where’s the money?

Historically, advertising revenue has been our main source of income [approximately a 50/50 split between AdSense and content recommendation systems]. While we’ve recently decided to experiment with header bidding platforms, we have yet to collect a single dollar from these experiments, so we don’t really know if this will work.

We are also considering the option of running a crowdfunding effort a la Reddit Gold or a donation system. Our main website is seeing 8 million unique users per month, and if just 0.125% of our user base sent us $1 every month, that would be enough to cover our bandwidth bills.

Finally, there is an option to try a different role in the digital marketing industry, perhaps even become a DMP data source as well as a publisher (our recent measurements indicate that we’re serving over 28 million unique daily users over our whole network of 450k websites). However, we have to first answer a couple of important questions such as if this data is actually worth anything, and if such a privacy-impairing trade-off would be acceptable for our users if that’s what it took to keep their images online.

We realize that there is a certain probability that neither these nor any other options we have will be able to cover our costs. Still, we intend to fight hard to save this project and all the amazing websites it has become an integral part of. Because some things are just worth fighting for.

P.S. If you have any suggestions or bright ideas, please contact us at admin@postimage.org.

New gallery sorting options

By popular demand, we have completely revamped the way we handle gallery sorting.

  • Previously, sorting order could be set for the whole account only. We now support a higher degree of granularity by switching to gallery-specific sorting options.
  • We are also introducing an option to order your images in the gallery alphanumerically by their names in addition to sorting by upload time.

To access these new options just click the cogwheel icon on the gallery you need to adjust.

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We don’t speak your language but PostImage will

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PostImage is a site with a global, multilingual community. However, until recently many translations of our updated site were of pretty low quality (many were generated by automated tools such as Google Translate), although the legacy site had amassed quite a number of fan-contributed translations in its days.

This is changing now: we are introducing the beta version of PostImage translation tool, available immediately. Using this tool, anyone can propose an improvement to our new website’s localization strings, and these improvements will go live immediately upon review and integration procedure (usually within a few days). As usual, we are listening to your feedback, so if you think that the current version of the translation tool can be improved or you want to be credited for your contributions in the “About” section, please contact us.

URL uploader back in action

Although our recent software upgrade caused surprisingly few bugs and failures (and whatever problems did arise we’ve been working hard to fix), we did not anticipate that our inbox will be literally flooded by requests to bring back the feature to upload images by URL. This actually turned out to be the #1 request by a solid margin!

So as soon as we fixed the ultraviolet-priority problems we switched our attention from resolving the less common issues to bringing the URL uploader back to life. Because, you know…

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So, after exactly one week since the website’s relaunch we bring you the Upload by URL tool. Don’t mention it.

Postimage website update

After our recent introduction of our new mods the time has come to update our main web app. We had to rebuild most of the site from scratch in order to support our growing loads, and also we had to update the interface in a way that would both be familiar to our long-time users and have an appealing/modern look.

Continue reading

Our mods are getting a facelift

We are happy to announce that the new generation of our forum mods is ready for public use. The transition should be seamless; forum visitors should simply start enjoying an upgraded image upload experience. Please let us know if you encounter any problems so we can fix them.

Attention webmasters: if you are still using legacy forum mods (those with the addform.html file installed locally), please make sure you test the new system as written below. We did our best to maintain backwards compatibility but cannot guarantee that everything will work flawlessly. As usual, your feedback is welcome at support@postimage.org.

 

Hello, World!

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Hello everyone,

I think it’s past time since we started blogging on our activities, as there’s much stuff going on. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to these past few months:

  • New backup system: We’ve found an affordable solution to back up and store all of the 60Tb of your images in a data center located in a city far enough from our main base of operations, so theoretically PostImage is now more resistant to data loss due to fires, earthquakes and nuclear strikes. Theoretically.
  • New email system: we’ve been receiving numerous complaints that our registration/password retrieval email robot has been slacking off lately so we decided to give Postmark a try. So far so good.yZ35yCOu.png
  • Speed improvements and bugfixes: we’ve completely changed the way we’re handling blocked images and IP addresses, so uploads are now completed much faster. Also, we’ve fixed a couple of problems that have been occasionally annoying people. The worst part is that some of these were initially intended as features, ages ago.
  • Operating system upgrades and disk space expansion: Okay, now this was fun. Some of our servers reached maximum capacity, so we had to juggle tons of files and quickly move databases between them in order to keep the site running. Sometimes this didn’t happen quickly enough, though, and more than once we experienced several hours of downtime for anonymous uploads and for a small part of registered users in one case as well. Also, on one occasion we experienced a hardware failure at the most breathtakingly inconvenient time possible (mere hours before we had planned to decommission the faulty server and to repair it), which led to a total blackout for new uploads. Sorry about that.
    Still, as a result of this ongoing work the site is gradually becoming more stable and faster than ever before, and it also allows us to nearly double our storage capacity over the coming weeks.

We’re also working on a big update to the project, available now at beta.postimage.org, so check it out and let us know what you think.

[ Featured image provided by cliparts.co ]