Posts Tagged ‘500px’

500px Creates 500px.me – Hosts Photos in China

500px fingerprint logo   Earlier this year I wrote a post outlining why I no longer wanted to participate in the 500px website. As you may have heard, a few days ago another rather large issue with 500px came up regarding its deal with the Chinese Company Visual China Group. Initially I wrote this to be an addition to my 8 reasons post, but I think it merits mention on its own as well as mention on the list.

   Last week many 500px users noticed a site called vcg.me that contained 500px user profiles and photographs. I don’t know how they found this site, but it appeared to quickly mirror new photo uploads, comments and favorites. This caused some confusion and discord in a number of 500px groups (their user forum) and in other posts on the internet and social media. Initially I speculated this was another Chinese site scraping the content of another website, which isn’t that uncommon. I believe this very thing had happened to 500px before, but in this case, it was not a malicious site – it was 500px themselves.

   Back in July of 2015 500px announced they had obtained $13 million in funding from China’s Visual China Group (VCG) in order to fund various ventures including expansion into China. I didn’t think too much about this at the time, China is a huge market and a lot of companies want to explore business there. When the vcg.me site (now rebranded 500px.me) showed up earlier this week it became apparent that there could be some major issues with the move into China. This was to be an entirely new Chinese site written in Chinese and hosted in China. 500px support confirmed with various users frantically asking for an explanation that indeed this was a 500px affiliated website. This was the first the company had indicated that a whole new site would be the platform for a move into China, though nothing official was really released until a few days later when they started damage control. They promised that at some point in the future users would be able to control what images showed up on the Chinese site. Allowing this only after the fact really is too late – the cat is already out of the bag and images have already been transferred to the new Chinese based hosting. As I write this 500px.me has been hidden while it is finished – something I bet 500px wishes it had done from the start.

   All of 500px’s customer communication failures in this matter aside, the main issue for me is the Chinese based hosting. As you might know I pursue copyright infringements of my work. All of the legal and copyright infringement “enforcers” I have dealt with immediately bow out when China is mentioned – there is simply no way to enforce copyright laws in that country (or many others). I have tried on my own with a few infringements that I found particularly frustrating (one of my bear photos used on a trophy hunting guide’s website) and got absolutely nowhere with the web hosts or the companies in question. While I realize that any image I upload anywhere may be used in China and other jurisdictions where I have no legal power, I’d prefer my images do not start on servers in those countries. I don’t know all the implications the 500px.me Chinese based site might have for the intellectual property rights of its users, but I bet there will be some. 500px indicated to me on Twitter that if a Chinese infringement occurs they will “act on your behalf to send takedown notices and infringement notices”. Since this is not possible for my lawyers and companies that handle copyright claims already, I have no idea how 500px can guarantee this. I suspect they won’t be able to do anything more about this than any other company or law firm currently can – so their statement to the contrary likely means nothing at all.

   Another issue that I find unsettling is one of censorship. As I stated, I don’t have much of a problem with 500px pursuing business for its photographers in any country, including China. I had imagined that this would take place on their current site but it has been indicated by many that the main 500px site is banned/blocked in China because it contains a lot of images that the Chinese government doesn’t want their citizens to see (and not just the nudity). Having the files located in China itself allows the government and VCG to censor it so that it can be shown domestically. While this is not new on China’s part, I do find it an unsettling part of this deal.

   I had abandoned 500px in late 2013 due to the reasons I outlined earlier this year, but I had left 5 images behind as a kind of advertisement of sorts. After finding out that this vcg.me/500px.me site was indeed an official 500px entity – I deleted all of these images immediately. Perhaps I was lucky and caught them before they were transferred to Chinese servers, but I have no way of verifying this. As it stands now, 500px has blocked access to vcg.me and 500px.me as they (presumably) continue to develop the sites. Unfortunately this also means people cannot directly see if their content is being transferred there or not. A lot of users seem angry enough about 500px’s handling of this that they are deleting their images and their accounts entirely. I feel that is probably the proper course of action at this point, but I can’t help still feeling disappointment in what 500px has become after their promising beginnings only a few years ago.

Further Reading

 

9 Reasons I No Longer Use 500px

500px rf sales message   Three years ago I signed up for an account on 500px – an online photo sharing website. I was pleased to see they were based in Toronto and I liked the notion of supporting a Canadian based photo sharing site as I had with Flickr back in 2004. I read their TOS, and all seemed straightforward and uploaded some photographs. Considering how many followers I had a the time, I had a good reception, and one of my photos even had an “editors choice” which gave me some early attention.

   I don’t want to give the impression with this list that I hate the people involved in producing 500px, or the users on the site. I do like the layout and manner in which 500px displays its user’s photography, and the reaction to my photography there was generally positive. I wrote this over the period of the last few months, but have hesitated to publish as it’s more of a negative post than usual. The subject of 500px comes up often enough in online conversation I thought it would be beneficial to write down some of the issues I’ve had over the years and communicate why I no longer participate in sharing, voting, or viewing there.

EDIT#1 (October 19, 2015): I have updated this list to include mention of 500px’s new site 500px.me – their Chinese hosted 500px.com mirror. I’ve listed it as #1 here instead of #9 as I feel it might be the most important on the list (the rest aren’t really in any order).

EDIT #2: (December 28, 2015). I’ve had a number of people ask me where I DO recommend hosting photos. If you just want to display your photos on a network for sharing and not selling, Flickr still does a decent job at that. If you want to sell your work, I’d recommend Photoshelter. It isn’t free but their site tools are good and they don’t come with any of the sort of BS 500px does. If you really want to go to the next level I would host your own website with your own domain name. I use Photoshelter along with web host Dreamhost (40% off) for this photography site. No problems encountered with either after many years. On with the list!

1. 500px creates 500px.me (initially vcg.me) and hosts your images in China

   In July of 2015 500px announced they had obtained $13 million in funding from China’s Visual China Group in order to expand into China. When the vcg.me site (now rebranded 500px.me) was discovered last week it became apparent that there could be some major issues with the move into China – an entirely new Chinese site written in Chinese and hosted in China. 500px support confirmed with users asking for an explanation that indeed this was a 500px website. My main issue with this is the fact our images were copied onto Chinese servers, but the way 500px handled this is also problematic. Once again they have dived into a new feature or development without sufficiently communicating with 500px users, or determining the outcome of their actions.

A more thorough discussion of my issues with this move to China can be found in the following post:

https://www.mrussellphotography.com/blog/500px-creates-500px-me-hosts-in-china/.

2. V+F

   I wrote this section a few months ago. Since then I’ve read a great post by Sarah Marino titled “Photo Consumption, Conformity, and Copying in Landscape Photography“. Sarah’s post nicely sums up the issues with voting, goals of popularity, and the resulting conformity better than I did, so you should just go read her post. Well, after you finish mine. 😉

I’ll just say that since I left 500px I don’t miss comments simply consisting of “V+F” or the emails I had saying that they would vote for my images only if I would vote for theirs first.

3. Pricing of Digital Downloads

   When 500px launched their 500px Market option that allowed users to opt into limited canvas sales and digital downloads I was interested. The canvas side of things seemed reasonable, but it was tied to the digital download, and you couldn’t pick one over the other. The digital download gave out a large file (if not full resolution) for around $3. As I was not willing to give images away for that price, I wasn’t allowed to access canvas sales on 500px. I should point out this was not the same as the 500px Art store I mention below.

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Interested in Photography? You should be on Google+!

google plus logo

   When I first started writing a blog years ago I did not imagine that anyone would read it – and I was correct. For a while. When I eventually drew an audience it changed the way I thought about putting my thoughts “out there”. I was more careful how I wrote things, and what stories I told. For about 4 years I have been posting my photography on this blog, and my audience continues to increase. I want my work to be seen by as many people as possible, so naturally I also post my images on social media – namely Twitter, Facebook, and now Google+. Google+ seems to be quickly changing how many people see my work.

“Social” Media Should Equal Interaction

   Let us pretend that the number of followers, friends or circles is an approximate indicator as to the potential size of my audience. In about 2 years on Twitter I have just over 700 followers. I have had a Facebook page for my photography since January, and have 100 “Likes” there. When I post a link on Twitter I often can get a few retweets, and occasionally a comment or two. When I post to Facebook, quite often nothing happens. I post content directly there and sometimes links to content like the blog posts here. Part of this is due to the lower number of “followers” and part seems due to Facebook deciding on its own what content is important to others. As a consequence, much of my content goes unseen. I have seen frequent discussions about business pages who have tested this and often their content doesn’t even get viewed (or doesn’t have enough instant reaction to be deemed “interesting” by Facebook). As someone promoting their work, this is not very beneficial.

Interaction!

   When Google+ was launched 3 months ago I managed to get an invite a few days later from the guys at 500px. I set up my Google+ profile, and started posting content both directly to my image galleries and occasional links to my blog posts. I shared the content of the others in my “circles” that caught my attention. I believe I behaved exactly as I have with Facebook and Twitter (though I share the content of others a bit less on Facebook). What happened next was similar to my experience on Twitter but completely unlike Facebook. Google+ has an unprecedented amount of interaction. I don’t know why exactly, the content I am offering has not changed much, but I have a lot of frequent +1s (analogous to a “like” on Facebook) and comments from those who have added me. In addition to this, I currently have over 4,000 followers. While I have no illusions that 4,000 people will always view the content I offer, this gives it a much greater chance of being seen. The greater amount of interaction is a good indicator of this.

As a Photography Enthusiast why should YOU be on Google+ ?

  • This is a great place to share and to view the work of others. Viewing images is easy and visually appealing.
  • If you put in the effort – fill out your profile and comment on the posts of others – Google+ has a tremendous amount of interaction with other users. My experience with it has truly been social. If you do not put in any effort do not expect a social experience
  • While I think that the photography community is one of the most successful on Google+, there are a lot of other communities that have taken off as well. I see a lot of tech and science related information. Of course, it is still just as good at sharing information with your friends and family
  • Google+ has a favorable Terms of Service (TOS) for photo sharing. No copyright grabs or other deceitful behaviour. I feel comfortable uploading my photos there, and I do not with some other social media. Google has no desire or need to anger those who upload their content to its servers. A few wrote that this was not the case in the early days, but they were largely just seeking attention for themselves.
  • Frequent updates and response to user feedback. A lot of the features evolving on Google+ have been a result of user feedback.
  • Flexibility. If you want to write a lot of text in a post – there is a lot more room to do that on Google+
  • While Google+ was only released to the public a few days ago (though is still in Beta) there are still over 45 million users on it already. You will not be alone.

If you are interested in getting involved with Google+ – Colby Brown has written a great guide for photographers ( or any user really ) on how to use the various features of the platform: Google+: The Survival Guide for a Photographer’s Paradise v2.1.

See you there!