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Photo hosting site Fotki has said all its subscribers’ photos, galleries and comments are safe and that the site will continue, following cash concerns. Subscribers will also be able to download their full-size original images or have the option to pay ‘a small fee’ for continued storage or faster, FTP downloads. Founder and owner Dmitri Don also said the support of the Fotki community has ensured the site’s future.
The company had previously asked subscribers for payment towards the hosting costs of the large original files, leading to accusations of holding images to ransom (though Don stresses the images presented on the site were never threatened). In response to this feedback, Fotki has now made it possible to download original files through a web browser.
'I know a lot of people are angry, and worried about their images, and maybe I could have communicated better, but I'm not doing this to cash-in,’ Don explained: ‘I'm doing this because it was the only way of saving the site.'
He explains that he was 'trying to do something to get out of this hell' and says that the company 'hasn't deleted anything.'
Don says the most positive aspect of the experience has been the support the company has received from its community: 'It's true there was some negativity, but, without exception, every single Fotki user who started talking to me changed their tone to one of the utmost support and understanding.'
Enough subscribers have supported the move and that the company is now safe he says: 'the positive news is that a lot of people have paid for their storage, so we have cash, we've been able to pay our bills and we're not closing down - definitely.' Users who need their original files will be able to download them, if they don’t want to pay the $0.06 per GB, per month hosting fee.
'There will also be the option, for a small charge, to download over FTP, which will be a more convenient option,' he said: 'we have to charge to make sure that everybody doesn't do it at the same time and overload the servers. But it means that everybody will be able to get any original files they don't have backups of.'
Don explained to us the problems at Fotki: 'We've been online for 14 years and, until 2008, everything went well. We took on staff, we opened an office. In 2008 the economy collapsed and the iPhone came out. People started using their mobile phones to take pictures and uploaded them to other sites - they didn't need Fotki for that. Revenue started to go down and we had to cut salaries, then fire people, then close the office. We are a small business - a family company. We don't have investors to turn to.'
'It got to the stage that, if we didn't do something fast, there would be no site - everyone would lose everything. What we've been trying to do is find a way to stop that happening. The only thing we can optimize is our hosting.'
'The problem is that we have all these terabytes of originals that aren't being viewed or downloaded - we've basically been giving away free storage and that was killing us.'
However, he says, the future of the business down require them to find a way of working out who needs the storage they're using and that means asking users to pay for their storage. 'We need to know, really fast, who needs their storage.' In a blog post on the Fotki site, he suggests the company might change its business model: 'One idea I see is that we might get rid of memberships, and only offer pay-as-you-go method.' The company will also be experimenting with seeking donations. 'As we progress, we'll be trying different things, to work out what we can do to try to make everyone happy.'