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Why Did CG Hub Shut Down Without Warning Its Users?

It’s been one week now since CG Hub, the popular portfolio site and social network for digital artists, shut down without warning, leaving its users angry and confused. In an instant, thousands of artists who relied on CG Hub’s free and paid services lost their online portfolios, networking contacts, and years’ worth of bookmarks.

The website, which had been in operation since 2007, began redirecting users last Thursday to a placeholder site called The site simultaneously shuttered its Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Many users assumed at first that the site had been hacked or was experiencing technical problems, but after three days of silence from its unknown owners, the website’s Ukranian web developer Shakuro felt compelled to post a message on their Facebook page:

No more CGHUB.

Sad day. Project CGHUB is officially closed.

The reason behind this extremely tough decision is personal and will remain private. It’s absolutely not connected with business or any kind of technical difficulties.

On behalf of development team I would like to apologize to CGHUB users and fans for abrupt project closure and delay with its announcement.

If you have any kind of questions please send them to [email protected] . Can’t promise replies to everyone though.

CGHUB wasn’t ideal, but we loved it SO MUCH! :*(

Shakuro issued a follow-up statement explaining that they didn’t actually operate the site and were only responsible for its development. In this lengthier message, they expressed their own frustration for being mislabeled as the people who were responsible for shutting down the site:

The site’s sudden disappearance has left many artists in the online community wondering who had operated the site for all these years. In their second Facebook post, Shakuro identified an American company called Full Spectrum Digital. Full Spectrum was registered as a Nevada limited liability company (LLC) in 2007 by an individual named Ryan Duncan. Last January, just a few months before the shutdown, Full Spectrum re-registered as a California LLC based out of Toluca Lake, which is a neighborhood near Burbank, California.

Various online forums have identified Duncan as a Ringling College of Art and Design graduate who has most recently worked at Disney Feature Animation on films like Frozen and Tangled. Duncan is also listed as the domain owner of other CG Hub-related domains.

Two other names have been associated with the site in the past. Jennifer Yu listed herself as a founder on this website last year, and Jeff Fowler is listed on Shakuro’s portfolio page as the commissioning client for CG Hub. Fowler, a director at Blur Studio, co-directed the Oscar-nominated short Gopher Broke. He was a classmate of Duncan’s at Ringling, and they both graduated in 2002. It should be stressed that we do not know whether Fowler, Yu, or Duncan were the parties who ran the site at the time of its closure.

CG Hub’s unannounced shutdown leads one to believe that something tragically unexpected (or unexpectedly tragic) occurred in the lives of the site operators. Those issues, personal as they may be, do not excuse the site’s unprofessional shutdown which showed a callous disregard for its community, many of whom relied on the site for professional reasons. If the shutdown was indeed for truly personal reasons, then the people who run the site, whoever they may be, should have made the announcement themselves instead of going into hiding and letting their web developer take the blame.

The website Concept Art World has posted a lengthy list of similar online communities for hosting online portfolios, but the real takeaway from the CG Hub fiasco is for artists to think twice about using such third-party sites as the primary home for their online portfolio. When a long-established forum like CG Hub can disappear overnight without leaving a trace, it’s a wake-up call that the best investment for any artist is a personal web domain.

UPDATE: Matt Kohr writes on Ctrl+Paint about the impact that CG Hub’s abrupt shutdown had on the community:

Some lost their contacts, others lost artwork, but nearly everyone lost something. And from the artists I talked to, no one saw it coming…Some of my peers lost their artwork when CGHUB dissapeared. As in literally didn’t have backed up copies of their paintings. You may be rolling your eyes at this, but I’m willing to bet you have some documents that only exist in “the cloud.”…The worst CGHUB assets I lost were my “favorites”. As a great convenience, the site allowed me to collect a list of my favorite paintings and artists. This list slowly grew over the years I enjoyed the site, eventually serving as my primary directory of concept art inspiration. Now it’s lost forever.

  • Aaron R.R.R. Nance

    My condolences to any artists suffering losses as a result of this shutdown.

  • I think that before adjectives like “unprofessional” are bandied about people should have solid information on what happened. Off the top of my head I can think of MANY life events that ANYONE would deem completely understandable reasons for stopping work on the site. Think twice before working up too much righteous indignation about the cancellation of a FREE service to the community. I’ll miss CGHUB in a big way but I’m grateful for the time the site was there–many hours of enjoyment and professional assistance for which I paid nothing but gained very much.

    • AmidAmidi

      There are plenty of understandable reasons for halting operations of a site. There are zero reasons for doing so in such a shady and malicious manner that destroys a community that had put its trust into its services and helped it grow.

      Many products are free online, including Google and Facebook. That’s an irrelevant point. CG Hub was a for-profit business registered as an LLC, not a non-profit. Cartoon Brew is an LLC too, and though we are a free service, we still earn money through advertising. To blame the community for its ‘righteous indignation’ shows a profound lack of understanding of how the Internet functions or the responsibilities that large community-based websites have to their userbase.

      Director Michael Sporn, who passed away from pancreatic cancer earlier this year, made it clear to his family that he wished for his amazing non-profit blog to remain online as a resource for the community after his death. That shows the kind of foresight and thoughtfulness for his community that the creators of CG HB lacked.

    • Are you the same Tim Miller who employs one of the site founders? Figured that might be the case given your tone.

  • EvilDrPorkchop

    “Some of my peers lost their artwork when CGHUB dissapeared. As in literally didn’t have backed up copies of their paintings. You may be rolling your eyes at this, but I’m willing to bet you have some documents that only exist in “the cloud.”…”

    Quite honestly, eye rolling is pretty appropriate here. Personally, nothing I have exists only in the “cloud.” And if you do that…stop it immediately. It’s incredibly irresponsible if you do that and it could affect anyone else’s work or schedules. And if its just you…well sucks for you, move on. Should’ve made backups. Or host elsewhere too (CGHub certainly wasn’t the only place around the ‘net). You cannot trust that your work will be safe with anyone else, this proves it. Which is the right instinct.
    If anyone truly lost work that they’ll never get back in this endeavor: Why would you trust the only copy of your hard work with someone else? Why would you only upload your work to one website? Why don’t you have the work files, and files you had uploaded, on your hard drive? And a backup hard drive?
    Really not trying to be a dick but in the professional world, if you rely on the “cloud,” don’t have your original work files, aren’t organized – you’re done, fired, gone.

    • AmidAmidi

      Actually, a lot of this site’s shared business spreadsheets exist only in the cloud. It’s a valuable reminder to me that I should back up copies of them. It’s easy to overlook these things sometimes.

      • doctormo

        It’s easier to control backups and have a sense of responsibility over technology when it’s a federated open source technology instead of a centralised proprietary service.

        I can see the quality of federated services getting better and I can see projects like Media Goblin being the future of art portfolio online because they give you the power of your own domain but with the advantages of the social network like favourites, cross linking and collaboration.

  • DangerMaus

    This is a perfect example of why I do not like the non-physical media and internet-based storage business model that media companies and others are promoting.

    This demonstrates, unequivocally, how little ownership a person has of their own created content or purchased content if one doesn’t have a physical backup on a local drive or discs.

    • Funkybat

      Hear, hear.

      I trust “the Cloud” about as much as I trust “the police” or “elected officials” when it comes to counting on them to reliably do the right thing.

      • Samnold Telfort

        Ya feel me

  • DC

    As mentioned by Shakuro: “The reason behind this extremely tough decision is personal and will remain private. It’s absolutely not connected with business or any kind of technical difficulties.”

    So I guess you can nix “technical reasons”.

    • Funkybat

      I guess you can also nix “do some research” since clearly any further details are being withheld by the people who know what’s going on. Would you have Amid hack into their email or solicit gossip from their cohorts to try to “research” this? I’m not sure what else anyone not connected with CG Hub can legitimately do at this point to get more details.

  • double post.

    • AmidAmidi

      Just noticed that the longer post was in the spam folder. It’s up now.

    • Moz Chops

      it was CGhubbed

  • Funkybat

    The unprofessional and abrupt shutdown is pretty much inexcusable, but in regards to people who lost their only copies of their artwork, I have to question their sanity.

    Nobody with a lick of sense should EVER trust their sole copies of anything that matters one whit to “the Cloud.” I don’t care if it’s Apple, Google, or two guys from Ukraine running the service, NEVER assume that the networked nature of online equals redundancy. IF someone were to go out of their way to upload something to multiple online services, servers, etc. as a form of backup, that is more likely to provide some measure of security should, say your house burn down and kill your hard drives. But that also opens that many more avenues for potential loss of control of your data, even if it’s a FTP site you pay to maintain.

    Nothing is guaranteed, but a good way to protect yourself is to have at least two different physical media backups that you update at least somewhat regularly and store at different locations from your primary workplace/home. It makes it easier if this remote hard drive/flash drive is connected on an always-on online feed, meaning you don’t need to go retrieve them and connect them to your main hard drive to backup data, but that also makes them more vulnerable to loss than an unpowered drive sitting in a sealed container on a shelf somewhere.

    This stuff should be elementary in 2014, but some people just don’t remember the lessons of our computing forefathers.

  • skullsquid

    Yes, you’re a victim Jason.

  • BannedForLife?

    If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black.

  • davaro

    “As a great convenience, the site allowed me to collect a list of my favorite paintings and artists. This list slowly grew over the years I enjoyed the site, eventually serving as my primary directory of concept art inspiration. Now it’s lost forever.” like me. why they didnt inform us at least i cant understand.

  • Darren Rawlings
  • many

    the site was unprofessional im sorry if your too scared to announce a shutdown.And just decide to pull the plug without warning so you wont have to face the comments .that was stupid i tell you they could have just announced in their big adds that it will shut down

  • JJ
  • Anyone know if the property is up for purchase? Why let it die? Hit me up if you have more info.

  • I agree. While I make sure to have copies of my work it’s very easy for something to only be a copy in the ‘cloud’. Also, saving and backing up all of your artwork takes up a lot of space and depending on how large the file size, no small amount of processing power. And for an older computer like mine… It is difficult.
    That being said, my condolences of any and all who lost something with the shutdown. While I wasn’t a member personally it really is a major problem when these things happen.

  • Kirill Chepizhko

    Hey guys. Just a little update from Me ( Kirill Chepizhko ) and team SHAKURO.
    Let me know what you think

  • Vlad Ŝerbakov

    Some day you’ll get a message saying “Sorry guys, I have to shut this universe down. This has been a personal project of mine and has been really bogging me down. I appologize for any inconviniece this might cause you. God.”

  • Wayne Adams

    Back up your work. you have no one to blame but yourself. I had a bunch of stuff on chub.. and on my pc.. and external hd and backed up on my own ftp and a pocket drive.. you lost your work? you didnt care much for then did you?

  • Samnold Telfort

    Damn, glad the truth is revealed.