Add a Face to the Username with Gravatar

June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

These days it seems like every site wants you to have an avatar, from social sites like Facebook and Twitter, to question-and-answer sites like Quora, to more techie sites like StackOverflow and GitHub, they all want you to “add a face to the username”.

Avatars give a face to an otherwise faceless username on a comment or a post. They stimulate interactivity between users by making it easier to see who is who. And they are a lot more fun then usernames. While sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Quora chose to implement and host their own avatar features some, like StackOverflow and GitHub have decided to use Gravatar instead.

Gravatar allows you to link an image, your avatar, to your email address. Sites that already have your email can then display your avatar. A generic image is displayed for  users that are not registered with Gravatar. It is clever idea and it works for both site user and site developers.

For users this means they won’t have to upload the same avatar for sites that use the service. Furthermore, if the user decides to change his or her avatar they only have to do it once for all sites using Gravatar. For developers this means they can easily add avatars for their users without having to code the feature or host the images, saving both time and money. It also has the added benefit for their users who already have a Gravatar account.

The challenge for Gravatar will be to reach critical mass. Users will only signup if the sites they visit make use Gravatar and developers may decide to wait until the service is widespread before adopting it. Gravatar does have some momentum right now. The company that owns Gravatar, Automaticc, also owns WordPress.com which powers a good chunk of blogs out there which should be driving a lot traffic to them. According to Gravatar’s website they are currently “29,015 requests per second!”

I for one use Gravatar on WordPress.com, GitHub and StackOverflow. And I will probably use it or at least recommend it on future projects that make use of avatars.

I am interested on your about opinion the service, if you already use it or plan to use and on which site(s). Leave a comment.

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