Photobucket P500 Error Solved for WordPress

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Photobucket has hosted blog images for free for the past ten years. They finally decided to stop hosting images for free, but instead of doing it in a classy way, they designed an evil process to screw their customers.

They quietly updated their terms and conditions to ban third-party hosting. Then, in the dark of night, they silently (without telling any of their customers) started to block all images that were being hosted on external sites. Millions of people woke up to the P500 image instead of whatever they were looking for.

Instead of the pretentious photo of what they had for dinner (that should have been on Instagram in the first place):

They got a P500 injected into their blog:

When you visit the link, you discover that the only hosting plan that is available is the P500 plan. It is $400/year, payable in advance, with no monthly plan, no refunds, and no way to download the photos. There is no way out.

The Internet was very angry too:


    If you have visited a website recently that displays images hosted on Photobucket… you may have had a rather rude awakening. All Photobucket images hosted on third-party sites…. are replaced by a dummy image. It reads: Please update your account to enable 3rd party hosting. For important info, please go to


    I just got the email saying all my photos would no longer be shown that way unless I pay their ransom. Went to my old postings, sure enough….blocked. Nothing there but their ransom note.


    Thousands of listings from online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay are now filled with unsightly error images. The photo hosting site quietly introduced a $399 annual fee to users who want to embed images on third party websites. Users are now accusing the company of extortion, as the service failed to make the update to its terms of service abundantly clear.

The Economics-inspired Solution

I think that the people who run forums and aggregate Web sites should block images from Photobucket.

The argument they can use is that these images are not reliable, since they depend on an insane annual hosting fee. As soon as their contributors fail to pay that fee, it will destroy all the images on the site.

What this will do is discourage anybody from paying the ransom, and force Photobucket to relent to market rates.

The Technology-inspired WordPress Solution

WordPress users have another option.

I found a free WordPress plugin that imported images from external sites directly into WordPress.

It works like a charm, importing about 50 posts at a time into the Media Library and rewriting the related posts.

I wound up having a lot of collisions, so I hacked my copy to put each set of photos in a different subdirectory in the wp-content/uploads directory. To hack yours, put this code up near the top of the import-external-images.php file:

define( 'TRANSIENT_RUNPATH' , 'pb-'. substr(str_shuffle('abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz123456789'), 0, 2) );
add_filter( 'upload_dir', 'external_image_upload_dir' );
function external_image_upload_dir( $dir ) {
      $subdir = TRANSIENT_RUNPATH;
      $path = $dir['basedir'] .'/'. $subdir;
      if (! is_dir($path)) mkdir( $path, 0755 );
      return array(
            'path'   => $path,
            'url'   => $dir['baseurl'] .'/'. $subdir,
            'subdir' => '/'. $subdir,
      ) + $dir;

Good luck!



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