As a content provider, what makes large-scale hosting possible is in large part the fact that access follows a very strong power distribution (Zipf's Law), with a minuscule fraction of content accounting for the vast majority of traffic. Front that on your CDN and the backing store is only occasionally accessed as cache expires or something becomes Teh New Hawtness.
Meme-hosting services are particularly suitable for this, for some reason....
When an archive project starts, suddenly assumptions on which design, service, and provisioning decisions have been made fly out the window as everything becomes popular. It's a bit like the proverbial monkey trap -- there's only so much that can squeeze out through the pipe at once.
And yes, such attempts can very much look like a DDoS to site engineers and ops teams.
As an archivist, it's immensely frustrating to get scant, no, or rapidly-changing reports of content culls or service EOLs. Gfycat's problem here is somewhat self-inflicted as the window for deletion is so short. ArchiveTeam's efforts would have far less effect if spread over more time.
As user of online services, finding my own content, and interactions with others, suddenly missing (and having to figure out how to fix such issues as broken image links) is immensely frustrating.
Or, conversely, there's the wish for content posted years ago to simply die an honorable death. The fact that many services (HN among them) don't provide a reasonable way to delete old content is problematic.
The fact that Gfycat have immediately jumped to threat of lawsuits, and don't appear to be talking with Jason Scott on Twitter, increases tensions and disappointment levels. Being reasonable, understanding, and human makes much of life vastly more tolerable.
Additionally, I've been looking for gif hosting websites and Google does not make one mention of Gfycat anywhere in their search results for keyword "gif websites", and this is after going through the first 5 pages of results, which seems a bit odd to me.
edit: I found Gfycat on the 7th page of Google search results, interesting...
It sounds like the initial effort from archive team was a bit too concentrated and strained server resources.
"On Nov 18, we are planning on permanently removing anonymous content that meets the following criteria: 1) less than 200 views, 2) older than one year, and 3) anonymous (made w/o an account)"
"On November 5th, @Gfycat announced they were going to delete scads of content off their site in 15 days. @archiveteam began trying to download some of the at-risk works. @gfycat has threatened to sue and is demanding compensation for the downloads. We have stopped the project."