Photographers are racing to recover pictures from image-sharing website Fotopic.net whose owner went bust last year, leaving tens of thousands of photos trapped in cyberspace.
Many photographers expressed outrage when their images vanished from the site without warning.
It later emerged that Snappy Designs Ltd, which owned the site, had hit the buffers and ceased trading.
Though its assets were sold, plans to revive the Fotopic.net website were abandoned, leaving up to two million images irretrievable, according to one Amateur Photographer (AP) source at the time.
Now, after more than 18 months of uncertainty, ‘selected’ Fotopic.net customers have been told they can download images stored on the site.
A statement posted by the ‘Fotopic Legacy Team’ reads: ‘We have only opened up Fotopic to allow existing users to view and download their pictures. Once this process is completed the site will be shut down again.
‘So, if you have images you want to retrieve, please download them as soon as you are given access.’
But, from the statement, it is not certain if all customers will get their pictures back, in what appears to be a username lottery.
‘Initially, only users with usernames beginning with “0″ or “9″ or the letter “a” will be given access. Notification will be via email,’ adds the statement.
Users have been warned to move fast or miss out and told that access will be rolled out to more users ‘if all goes well’.
‘For storage and processing reasons [it] is not possible for us to give all former Fotopic users simultaneous access to their photographs…,’ adds the October statement.
‘Access to photos will be given as soon as possible and in rolling alphabetical order. For operational reasons and cost reasons we cannot make any exceptions.’
At the time of writing, customers whose username starts with anything up to, and including, ‘G’ were eligible to download images.
Among those welcoming the news is Fotopic.net user Mark Schiller who said he had many ‘irreplaceable’ holiday photographs on the site of which he had no other copies.
Mark told AP: ‘It shows the value of having multiple backups in different locations/companies.’
Speaking last year, liquidators warned that the site which hosts the Fotopic.net name would have to agree to the transfer of images, before customers could retrieve them.
They have since blamed ‘technical reasons’ for the delay in making the images accessible.
Estimates of the number of stored pictures varied wildly.
Last year, one user, who did not wish to be named, said he held 33,000 images at Fotopic.net and knew of others who had stored up to 100,000 pictures there.
Though some gallery accounts were free to use, Fotopic.net charged a subscription fee for the use of some features, of around £50 a year.
Snappy Designs Ltd said it was forced to cease trading due to an unexpected, significant decrease in revenue.
Among the victims was Richard Hall who said he paid Fotopic.net £90 for a ‘Premier Service’ and had renewed his subscription shortly before the site closed.
Fotopic.net also enabled photographers to sell their pictures or buy extra memory to store digital files, for example.
A spokesperson for XL Business Solutions, which had been dealing with the affairs of the troubled business, was not available at the time of writing.
XL Business Solutions today confirmed, however, that it closed its files on Snappy Designs Ltd in August.