The Biggest Problem Yet

Originally when we devised this project, I thought the hardest problem would be to get people to use it and maybe to get an app onto iOS and Android phones. The phone problem has since disappeared and the “getting-people-to-use-it” problem is still to come but now there’s a new problem which will likely be the biggest: storage.

For a lost pet database, pictures play a crucial part. In fact, aside from geo-location, pictures are the most important as they are the best to represent a pet and help people recognize a lost one. Lost pet posters are usually bound to put just one picture of a pet up; we’re fine with three or four (though the owner would have to pick the best one to display at the fore-front).

Unfortunately, this would require a colossal amount of storage. Imagine that 50% of the pets lost in North America were reported on FindALostPet (ambitious, ’tis true, but if it works, then that’s the goal). For each pet, an average of two images is uploaded. This amount could perhaps be sustained by our servers at first but after a bit, there would be two many pictures to store.

Add in that people who see a pet might want to take a picture of it for the owner to confirm that it is, indeed, theirs. There would be way more of these pictures than the pictures uploaded by owners and if we thought we were swamped before, we’d have been sadly mistaken. Thousands of pictures a day wouldn’t be unexpected (or rather, I’d expect it to be more) and our hosting company would very quickly be either upping our prices or removing us from their system. Not good.

So how to solve this? Well, the simplest is to use a Content Distribution Network or CDN, but unfortunately those don’t come cheap. Since this is a .org projects with no particular plans of making money, it would be impossible to pay an extra $0.0001 per photo, however small that may seem.

Upon asking about a solution for my dilemma on a StackExchange forum, I was told that Imgur was a good solution. They seemed pretty nice as they had a good API and I was feeling hopeful again, until I read this in their terms of service:

Also, don’t use Imgur to host image libraries you link to from elsewhere, content for your website, advertising, avatars, or anything else that turns us into your content delivery network. If you do — and we will be the judge — or if you do anything illegal, in addition to any other legal rights we may have, we will ban you along with the site you’re hotlinking from, delete all your images, report you to the authorities if necessary, and prevent you from viewing any images hosted on Imgur.com. We mean it.

Since then, there haven’t been any other promising image CDNs. After all, a free product usually isn’t that and most of the .orgs I could find either didn’t have an API or were shutting down in just over a month.

In the end, we might have to get users to upload the images themselves to other websites such as Flickr, then link to them from FindALostPet. However, this would mean that the images would be completely out of our control and would make it more difficult for people who has just seen a lost pet to report it efficiently.

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