TinyPic was a platform for hosting images popular on the Internet between 2004 and 2019. A drop in traffic and thus advertisement revenue was partially the reason it was shut down. However, the primary cause was the inception of a sister company and a direct rival who acquired them, Photobucket. While that is nothing unusual, as you’ll see below, the company left users to fend for themselves regarding images they uploaded over a decade and a half. We don’t believe saying there are over a hundred million pictures with dead URLs pointing to them is an exaggeration. With that said, we’ll try our best to demonstrate how to recover TinyPic images.
What happened to TinyPic and all hosted images?
In June 2019, Photobucket announced that TinyPic will be shutting down shortly. They gave users a few months to sign in to their accounts or directly download images they uploaded anonymously. Users had a deadline, September 16, 2019, after which all links to hosted images would stop working. Even worse, the service had no bulk download option, forcing visitors to download images one by one. Since revenue was the key issue, TinyPic had no plans to create an archive or a backup which was the case with tech giants like Google and their Picasa service. Consequently, a default error thumbnail replaced all images hence no direct methods to access them exist.
1. Recover TinyPic images by searching on Archive.org
A warrior project on Archive.org, a non-profit organization that vows to preserve as much data on the Internet from disappearing, took the matter into its hands. Therefore, there are two ways of restoring images from TinyPic using Archive.org:
1. Use their warrior project archive
In late August 2019, a crawler employed by Archive Team began scanning the TinyPic website and its servers and extracting images. Despite the fact it ran until the time servers went offline for good, it merely obtained ~1% of the data in the database. Therefore, with time on your hands and lots of luck, you may find your image on the Archive.org TinyPic image collection project.
2. Employ their Wayback Machine tool
Another method involves utilizing the Wayback Machine web tool we mentioned numerous times. In short, it takes a snapshot of pages on a certain date and time and preserves it even after the page is no longer available. Links that were visited more often have a higher chance of being kept by the tool. Thus, if you have direct links to your images, do this:
- Enter URLs one by one on the Wayback Machine home page.
- Click on Browse History.
- A calendar chart with some dates highlighted or circled will appear. This indicates that a snapshot was taken of the page (in this case, image) on that day. Their absence represents the lack of a snapshot of that day. Click the date you want.
- If there’s one snapshot for that day, Wayback Machine will redirect you there. Otherwise, select one of the available snapshots based on the time of day.
- If all goes well, you’ll see an image you can screenshot or capture in other ways.
2. Search user-made TinyPic archives and libraries
Users decided to crawl the TinyPic servers themselves and save as many images as possible, too. For instance, one member of the aforementioned Archive Team, JustAnotherArchivist, decided to act independently. Using a different method named qwarc crawl, they archived approximately 13.2 million images. They split them into 4 parts: TinyPic archive part a, TinyPic archive part b, TinyPic archive part c, and TinyPic archive part d.
Furthermore, a collective effort of Archive Team users and helpers resulted in a TinyPic image warrior archive of nearly 5 TB. Unsurprisingly, that is still a small portion of the total data on TinyPic servers. Finally, users who transitioned to Photobucket or other image-sharing services (Google Images, PhotoBox Imgur, Flickr, ImgBB, and so on) individually uploaded hundreds of thousands of images over the last few years. Thus, whether you can find them is a matter of time, effort, and luck.