When Megaupload was suddenly wiped from the world stage in January the cyberlocker market was plunged into chaos. Fear, uncertainty and doubt spread throughout the file-hosting business and millions of users were left without their files and had concerns over where to host others in the future.
As outlined in our earlier article, in the immediate days following the shutdown alternative hosting services enjoyed an unprecedented surge in traffic, with some welcoming in hundreds of thousands of extra users.
Now, just two months later, it’s clear that some are still doing well but for others including some seriously major players, it’s turned out to be a disaster.
For Fileserve, the site previously placed 7th place in our list of Top 10 File-Sharing Sites of 2011, the news could hardly be worse. Following a decision to change the way it operates including a temporary ban on 3rd party sharing and removal of its download rewards program, the site has lost more than half its traffic.
The developments in January were also bad for Hong Kong-based Filesonic. After completely stopping 3rd party sharing and killing their affiliate program, traffic went into a a massive nosedive. From a peak of nearly 3 million (data via ) estimated daily visitors the site is now down to around just 750,000.
FileJungle, a relatively recent entry to the storage market, got out of the blocks quickly but it wasn’t to last. From a standing start in 2011 they quickly grew to a peak of 1 million visitors per day, but after banning US users and closing its pay per download rewards program, traffic plunged by up to 90%.
It’s a similar story at UploadStation. This relatively new site also removed US-user access and nuked its affiliate program. Traffic has nose-dived from nearly 1 million users per day to under 250,000.
After climbing to more than 700,000 visitors per day, Filepost also changed its way of doing business in January. Its traffic also nose-dived and it now receives less than 400,000 visitors per day.
Hotfile, placed 8th in 2011, initially enjoyed a 20% boost in traffic to roughly 1.5m daily users, but this surge was short-lived and its levels are now a token few percent lower than before the Mega shutdown.
FilesTube, the cyberlocker meta-search engine that was placed 4th in our list last year, has had a neutral Mega-shutdown experience. Traffic levels either side of the event are comparable.
Depositfiles, a site placed 10th in the world in our 2011 list, has done very well indeed. As can be seen from the graph, since the Mega shutdown the site has more than doubled its traffic. Depostfiles is one of a decreasing group of cyberlocker services that still pays out cash to uploaders when their files are downloaded.
For our 5th placed site last year, RapidShare, the changes since January have been positive. Despite further cracking down on unauthorized sharing, the site’s traffic has grown by roughly a third. Nevertheless, the dizzy traffic heights of 2010 seem a distant dream, one that seems unlikely to return. RapidShare killed their rewards program in June that year over piracy concerns.
In 3rd place last year was US-based MediaFire and this huge site has done rather well since the middle of January and is now pulling in up to a million more visitors every day. The company does not appear to have modified the way it operates and does not offer cash rewards for downloads. It is considered one of the best sites for non-premium users, hence its continued popularity.
The world’s biggest file-sharing site 4shared has enjoyed increases of several hundred thousand visitors per day, despite killing its affiliate program in January. 4Shared’s overall traffic levels have remained fairly stable since October 2011.
Not being in the Top 10 list didn’t affect the positive fortunes of other sites such as Uploaded.to. Despite initially disabling access to United States users, the site has done extremely well and is now pulling in nearly 2 million visitors a day, up from around 600,000.
While the site has reportedly just re-enabled US-user access in recent days, Uploaded.to almost simultaneously killed its PPD (Pay Per Download) affiliate program so it’s possible that the slight dip at the end of the graph is an early sign of traffic being affected.
While it seems clear that the presence of pay per download affiliate programs has the potential to affect traffic to a site, companies such as RapidShare, Mediafire and 4Shared appear to be doing well without them at the moment.
That said, many sites are still running programs which pay members when users downloading their files decide to sign up for a premium account. If uploaders can make decent revenue in this way, it may encourage them to keep uploading their files as they did with pay per download models.
But of course, these days millions of users are simply using their cyberlocker accounts for personal storage and a sharing between family and friends. Expect the bigger companies to spend time and money attracting more of these customers in the months to come.