Photos in mobile apps

A few months ago we shifted to using the Amazon Open Dataset Sponsorship Program (ODP) for storing openly-licensed photos. Photos with open licenses that were eligible for inclusion were moved into the dataset, and the URLs of those photos changed accordingly. We did not immediately delete the copy of these photos from where they were originally being served, giving us time to test the new configuration. Keeping the source copies would allow us restore photos if there were isolated problems, or revert entirely if there were large-scale problems.

Fortunately these problems did not arise and the Amazon ODP setup has been working well these last few months. We are now planning to remove the copies of photos from before the transition as they are unused yet still incur storage costs.

Users of the website will not notice this at all, as the website is always using the most up-to-date URLs for all photos. The iNaturalist mobile apps do cache some data, and it is possible that the apps have cached the old URLs of some of these photos. If the old copies of photos are removed, it is possible users may see missing or broken photos in the mobile apps.

If you do see a broken or missing photo in the iOS or Android iNaturalist apps there are a few things you can do to update photo URLs in the local app cache.

  • If a photo appears blank or missing, clicking on the observation to load its details page should update the photo URL references.
  • If there are many broken photos you can fix those by logging out and logging back in again. Please make sure you have uploaded/synced any pending/unsynced observations or changes first. Also be aware that this will clear all your local caches, including things like taxa you may have looked up in the past that can be used in offline searching.

We will start removing these old copies of photos soon, and the process will take a few weeks. Hopefully very few mobile app users will notice. But we don’t want any surprises, so if you are affected please try the steps above to fix affected photos/observations. This is the last big task in the Amazon ODP transition which is helping making iNaturalist more open and sustainable.


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