For years, Photobucket allowed users of its free accounts to embed images in third-party websites. The free service level included 2 GB of image storage, and $100 per year bought a user 102 GB of space. The company announced in a June 26 blog post that it would be doing some changes, but the announcement didn't highlight the details present in the service's new Terms of Service page, namely this paragraph:
The free account does not allow any image linking or 3rd party image hosting. If a free account Member exceeds their Content Limit, their account will be immediately suspended and they will need to become a “Paying Member” (defined below) in order to continue accessing their account. You can upgrade to a Plus account at any time.
Former Free plan users are now required to pay $400 per year for a "Plus 500" account that includes 500 GB of space and is the only service tier that allows for embedding images links on outside websites. Users are now complaining that Photobucket will not allow any access to the stored images until the $400 fee is paid, and are throwing around words like "extortion," "blackmail," and "ransom" in comments about the sudden change in the company's terms. If you spot any speed meter-shaped holes in your daily web browsing, now you know what's up—or down, in this case.