Gravatar Properly Syncing Again

I want to apologize for the spotty gravatar syncing that has been occurring over the last two weeks. I’ve finally identified and fixed the bug that was causing the problem and your gravatar selections should propagate correctly now. I will go back and re-sync everyone just to make sure all the failed syncs get done.

The way Gravatar 2.0 deals with serving gravatar images is a multi-step process. When you assign a gravatar to an email address, the system takes your image, creates 80 scaled images from that (from 1×1 to 80×80) and puts them into a directory structure that will allow the gravatar serving lighttpd servers to serve them directly as files. Once the directory structure is created, it is tarred and gzipped to create a single compressed file that represents the images for a specific email address (based on the sha1 of the address). This file is then uploaded to Amazon S3 for distribution to the gravatar serving servers (of which there are 2). In addition, a message is placed on a queue for each server (via Amazon SQS). This completes step 1. On each gravatar serving server there is a process that pops messages off its queue, downloads the stated file from S3, and extracts it into the correct location. It is then available for serving to the internet. This completes step 2.

The problem was that the library I am using to interface with S3 (AWS/S3 in Ruby) had a bit of a quirk that seemed like it should have worked, but didn’t. For the benefit of others, I present the problem code and the solution.

The original, offending code:

:access_key_id     => '***********************',
:secret_access_key => '**************************************'

bucket = AWS::S3::Bucket.find('gravatar')
archive = bucket[sha1 + ".tar.gz"]

This code connects to the S3 service, gets the ‘gravatar’ bucket, then grabs the file from it. Simple enough, but misleading. When you get the bucket, only the first 1000 items within it are returned (a byproduct of the Amazon S3 API). Then, when you try to grab your file from the bucket, the file will be returned only if the item was within those 1000 items. This explains why Gravatar worked fine at first, then degraded to where fewer and fewer successful syncs where happening. It’s a devious bug to detect, and the documentation was not forthcoming on why this might be happening.

If you know that the object you’re interested in is in S3 but it can’t be found during a lookup, you’ll want to fetch the item directly, thereby eliminating the problem of a maximum of 1000 returned items. In retrospect, this is obviously the more desirable way to do things.

Here is the fixed code:

:access_key_id     => '***********************',
:secret_access_key => '**************************************'

archive = AWS::S3::S3Object.find(sha1 + ".tar.gz", 'gravatar')

So, if your gravatar has not been appearing properly, you can reassign it to your email address and it will propogate now. As I said before, I will push the entire contents of S3 onto the queues to make sure everyone is up to date.

I’m very sorry this problem took so long to fix, and I understand your frustration. I hope you will once again be happily gravataring!






190 responses to “Gravatar Properly Syncing Again”

  1. Benke Avatar

    It works!?

  2. MissHagrid Avatar

    Thanks for the response, Tom. I re-associated my avatar and am seeing if it’s working now.

  3. Let's see again Avatar
    Let’s see again

    alright then the Blue G YET AGAIN

  4. Dennis Avatar


  5. Let's see Avatar
    Let’s see

    alrighty then

  6. AntBee Avatar

    Thanks Tom! Mine has been working smoothly since Gravatar 2.0 was launched. I hope this is really the end of the problems so everyone can go on with their lives again.

  7. Tom Werner Avatar

    The Syncing servers are fixed but still catching up from being down before. I’ll post another comment once they’ve caught up. Looks like I need *another* server.

  8. Gillian Avatar


  9. Quinn Avatar


  10. Khalidah Avatar

    Thank you Tom for the email and update
    It is working fine now 🙂

  11. sdvgc Avatar

    Why is the URL still with .php? And MD5? Shouldn’t there be a new URL?

  12. Okay Avatar

    Thanks for the “catching up comment” becaseu I was wondering

  13. Thank you!! Avatar
    Thank you!!

    Finally I didn’t want to have to send Bokeem Woodbine to your house!!!

  14. Lily Avatar

    Looking forward to seeing my avatar!

  15. Afiya Avatar


  16. Lubos Motl Avatar

    Thanks for fixing it, Tom.

  17. msk01 Avatar

    Hope it works now. Just test.

  18. Storm Avatar

    Great! Refreshed my WordPress plugin cache and it came straight up. Great job! Thank you for having made a very cool web feature!

  19. Matthew Buchanan Avatar

    Tom, I’m still seeing an old icon that’s long-since been deleted. Have just tried re-confirming via the admin again. If it works you should see a light bulb.

  20. patri Avatar


  21. Robyn Avatar

    This is a test to see if my Gravatar will finally work.

  22. Stephen Avatar

    Testing, 1, 2, 3.

  23. JET Avatar


  24. Virgilene Swift Avatar

    Help! My avatar is still not showing up. It is rated “G”. It has a green square around the picture both below the email address and around the address with the picture. The email address matches exactly on the site where I want the avatar. What am I doing wrong? Or is it still slow from the earlier problems???

  25. Pablo Avatar

    Testing 1,2,3 🙂

  26. Chris Avatar

    testing 1-2-3

  27. Dave Avatar


  28. Nick Avatar

    Testing testing, 1 2 3 🙂

  29. xoacas Avatar
  30. Alice Avatar


  31. Alis Avatar


  32. Katie Avatar

    OMG YAY!!! I am so happy now 😀

  33. Angi Avatar

    It works! 🙂 Thank you so much Tom!

  34. Torley Avatar

    C’mon testing testing what will hopefully show up as my NEW gravatar… *awaits*

  35. Jungkeuny Avatar


  36. powwow Avatar

    testing my avatar

  37. ZappoMan Avatar

    If this works, I will be happy… Tom’s explanation certainly makes sense!

  38. Kirsten Avatar

  39. bluepanjeet Avatar


  40. LUCIana Avatar

    great TOM!!!thanks!!!

  41. Mindy Avatar


  42. Sly Avatar

    Just checking if it works.

  43. bennie Avatar

    thx for this beautiful lil work!

  44. p o i s o n e d * Avatar

    Hi there,
    I tried several times to signup for a Gravatar account but every time I get this message :
    «Application error

    Change this error message for exceptions thrown outside of an action (like in Dispatcher setups or broken Ruby code) in public/500.html»

    Quite frustrating because I would really want to use Gravatar for my comments on my blog !
    I also tried to see if I could get the answer by meself but the Help page seems to be “underway”.

    Thanks for reading this.

  45. dawnh Avatar

    Still not work!

  46. Sabine Avatar

    My gravatar has stopped showing up in my blog comments (it just shows that blue on white gravatar icon) 😦 Now I’m trying to see if it works here. Let’s see…

  47. Help Now Avatar
    Help Now

    What is the URL to pre-fill in the e-mail address? = doesn’t work. = doesn’t work. = doesn’t work.

  48. campingLisaB Avatar

    Testing my gravatar

  49. marin Avatar

    testing my gravatar

  50. Daniel Avatar

    Crop is not working properly with Firefox under Linux. It says it don’t work with my browser and I should try Firefox, even tho I already use Firefox (But on Linux, maybe your browser check is bugged)

  51. Bernard Doddema Avatar

    Thanks for getting this fixed!!!!

  52. Alicia Avatar
  53. Benedikt Avatar

    Check, check, 1, 2, 3…

  54. Corrado Avatar

    Man, it’ll be nice if this works. A bit of ‘customer service’ in the form of an announcement a few weeks ago would’ve been nice.

    Glad it’s (apparently) fixed!

  55. Lapper Avatar

    Does it work!? Does it work?! Is Tom finally back? Testing…

  56. aoyoyo Avatar

    Not working at my site.

  57. Zanthina Avatar


  58. Test Avatar


  59. matija Avatar


  60. Balud Avatar

    Just to see if my gravatar will appear. I have registerd from 15th of Feb and no gravatar seen

  61. Kaos Avatar

    Me happen something strange. I can see avatars and my friend’s avatars but my friends cannot see their avatar.

  62. riza Avatar

    something wrong, it’s only the blue g

  63. The Mole Avatar it here?

  64. Todd Avatar

    Testing as well…

  65. Renee Avatar

    Apparently the site died… get a 403 error…

  66. gailv Avatar

    It can show up here, but why not on blog?

  67. Please Avatar

    Would be grand

  68. Ren Yushiro Avatar

    Wanna test too ’cause in my blog, it doesnt work

  69. Me Avatar

    Does it work?

  70. BCSEEATI Avatar

    Gravatar reassigned… testing…

  71. cmon gravatar Avatar
    cmon gravatar

    what’s wrong if it only works here

  72. PK Avatar

    Just a test to see if it is working here (what about an official test thread ;-))

  73. Ulf Avatar

    test test test. Nope

  74. 800A Avatar

    Yeah! gravatars works in my blog!! great job Tom 😉

  75. silpheed Avatar

    yay for gravatars! i’m implementing them in my blog as we speak, but i think i might have found a bug. i’ve deliberately given my gravatar a rating of X and set my src strings to accept PG or below only (with &rating=PG). i also specify a default avatar (properly url encoded of course), but that default avatar doesn’t show for my X rated gravatar, i just get the blue icon with the white g.

    the default avatar DOES work for invalid gravatar IDs and valid gravatar IDs with no picture associated, but not for gravatars that are rated too high. is this expected behaviour? am i going mad?

  76. Lizzie Avatar

    Hi, testing but mostly wondering why my gravatar is rated x when it should be rated G.
    Thanks to this it doesn’t show anywhere, could you fix it please?

  77. testing Avatar


  78. c.urdaneta Avatar

    Thanks for the fix Tom
    Now my Gravatar works like a charm!

  79. Astorg Avatar

    Well, I’m really glad if its fixed at long last. Welcome back.

  80. Diane Avatar

    This is a test.

  81. leila Avatar

    siri e alemao

  82. Questan Avatar

    Tom: Will you sell Gravatar to Google? What guarantees do you give your users? Is it safe to implement? You never give any news.

  83. GeTa Avatar
  84. Thomas Aylott Avatar

    S3 is keen. We’re using that over at CrazyEgg for our screenshots.

  85. Chris Williams Avatar

    The whole rating thing is a mess, whoever decided a) never even point out that there ARE ratings on gravatars anywhere in the signup process, b) to make the default rating X, and more importantly c) to make the UI for seeing what it is rated, and or setting the rating completely obtuse, should be shot.

    I’ve been wondering for ages why my gravatar didn’t show anywhere, just the BLUE G. Happened upon a post that mentioned ratings (never had heard of them). Stumble around here, and find that magically if I hover my mouse near my image, some cryptic X comes up. What’s that? I click on it, and it tells my I’m X rated. Choose ‘G’, and say OK. Test it. Still the BLUE G. Hmmm… so I select to make the same gravatar (now apparently G rated) the current one, and magically it works.

    How about some documentation and a BIG HUGE INDICATION OF WHAT THE RATING IS, AND HOW TO SET IT?


  86. felipe Avatar

    ca marche ?!

  87. Barbra Avatar

    Does it work?

  88. Mark Avatar


  89. ItISDeaD Avatar

    Gravatar is dead…

  90. Piggy Avatar

    Hmm… doesent seem to be working :S

  91. Mar Avatar

    my gravatar doesn’t work

  92. Liisa Avatar


  93. Utena Avatar

    Is it working now ?

  94. kristy Avatar

    I have been trying to join all day today, and keep getting an error message. Just thought I’d mention it. You know. 🙂

  95. Mary Avatar

    Why my new gravatar dont show up??

    OMG ¬¬!!

  96. Remy Sharp Avatar

    Hi there,

    I’m consistently getting the following error when I try to add another email address to my account:

    Application error

    Change this error message for exceptions thrown outside of an action (like in Dispatcher setups or broken Ruby code) in public/500.html

    Sorry I had to post this in the comments to a blog, but I couldn’t find any other way of notifying of the problem.

  97. Hell Paris Avatar
    Hell Paris

    Hope works!

  98. Somebody Avatar

    Testing! =P

  99. Jana Avatar

    I only get the Blue G when I post to any sites…but my Gravatar is showing up in my account. Any clue why???

  100. ashton Avatar

    i’m back to test.

  101. Jakub Avatar

    This service is pretty cool.

  102. Jeff Avatar

    People, Liisa is correct. At this time only JPEG graphics are working for some reason. If you want to add a new Gravatar, first make sure your image is saved as a .jpg file and then add it to

  103. Mike Avatar


    The image you uploaded maybe to large in pixel size or file size that the site has set for allowed perams. Check with the site(s) that you go to and ask what their limitations are. They may even not know that their image convert program is not working possibly.

  104. Erik J. Barzeski Avatar

    Now it works. I went back into my profile and “re-confirmed” the current one. That seems to have properly forced a sync.

  105. S-King Avatar


  106. h0bbel Avatar

    Gravatars are back. Thanks!!

  107. Sad Avatar


  108. Liesbeth Avatar

    it still don’t work for me, this is what I see when I click on the button: this page is not availeble

  109. daphne Avatar

    It still has not worked for me. What am I doing wrong?

  110. james Avatar

    Testing. Sorry for bothering you.

  111. tentirujo Avatar

    not working 😥

  112. ping Avatar

    Checking my avatar…

  113. Fabric Avatar

    At last bugfix

  114. hanzo Avatar

    Finally everything seems to be working!

  115. Barnim Avatar

    Schau mer mal, obs jetzt funktioniert … testing

  116. Jason Avatar

    Finally, back on 🙂

  117. Freddy Avatar

    That sounds good!!!!

  118. welmar Avatar


  119. StarChild Avatar

    I didn’t see a forum where I could ask this and there is no help available yet so I thought I’d try here and see if anyone could help me. For months I’ve been having the problem that no one’s avatars show up on my site. They used to work, and then just stopped working one day suddenly. Everyone just gets my default av. And I KNOW that many of those commenters have gravatars. At first I thought it was because of the new launch coming up, but gravatars on other blogs were fine. When I check the cache everyone has NO GRAVATAR(E). No amount of cache deleting or refreshing has fixed it. My local gravatar works fine. Just not the other ones. Has this happened to anyone else? Any thoughts on why this could be? It’s driving me crazy!

  120. blang Avatar

    How can I recognize the default Gravatar image is being returned and decide in my blog to not show it – or in my case, use another image?

  121. Rob Avatar

    Nice one. Hopefully mine should start working soon……

    I signed up on Feb 16 and have not seen it working yet!

    Fingers crossed….

  122. chaoskaizer Avatar

    its work fine. yeah

  123. Tatiana Avatar

    how I can modify my password?

  124. buchin Avatar

    testing gravatar

  125. Jeff Cristi Avatar
    Jeff Cristi


  126. Cris Avatar

    Curious… it appears that when a default avatar is specified, the rating gets applied too strictly. I have a G rated avatar, and it shows up when the url string says rating=G, but when it says rating=PG, the default appears.

    I expect the rating specification to mean “this rating and below,” not “only this rating.” And that’s how it seems to work when no default is specified.

  127. @lun Avatar

    Yes it does 🙂
    ’bout time an all 😀

  128. Eli Sand Avatar

    Not sure how long it’s supposed to take before the avatar is synced, but mine isn’t working after almost 24hrs. Also, the site randomly times out my requests (though the function actually gets performed, the browser just sits loading forever).

    I have also noticed some errors in your implementation code for PHP (and Perl as well). To begin, you are encoding the ampersand symbol in your URL when it should *NOT* be encoded since it is not data, but a variable separator in it’s intended use.

    I have made several fixes to your WordPress plugin as well – I’d like to give you the updated copy so just contact me on how I can do that.

  129. markcas Avatar

    also testing…

  130. Seb Avatar


  131. Pii Avatar

    Just a test

  132. Mat Avatar

    Well, since everyone is testing here, I might as well…

  133. Sascha A. Carlin Avatar

    A more technical question: Why do you use Amazon S3 to spread the images in the first place?

    Why not rent another server and let this be the host and source for the two on the front end and sync via rsync?

  134. H.A.L. Avatar

    Is this working?

  135. Kiere Avatar

    The blog seems to be online, but I went to the link it always times out with a 502 error. Anyone know anything about this?

  136. Roly Avatar

    Why this code not working??

    $email = “”;
    $default = “”;
    $size = 40;

    You can construct your gravatar url with the following php code:

    $grav_url = “

  137. Mladen Mihajlovic Avatar

    png images definitely seem to be causing a problem. I uploaded a new avatar – linked it to my email – and the image has not changed in something like 3 days.

  138. Linda Avatar

    I changed my gravatar yesterday and it was switching back and forth between my old and new most of the day. Today I went in and deleted my old one from the file and now my new one is not showing up at all. Mostly I use it in Haloscan comments. Is there something I need to do to clear old cookies or temp files or something to get it to work properly?

  139. Hatem Avatar

    tesing again, seems nothing ? I have added my gravatar the first day the website launched maybe 😦 so long

  140. Guy Avatar

    Curious if my avatar does work here…

  141. JR Avatar

    Gravatars working but is returning a 503 since yesterday. Anyone know what’s up?

  142. Marie Avatar

    Testing my gravatar here too…

  143. balou Avatar

    Hello everyone 🙂

    On teste le gravatar hein ! Sorry, i am french because ?
    oui je me soigne …

  144. robin Avatar

    I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for arcticle.

  145. Test again Avatar
    Test again


  146. Justest Avatar


  147. afddsfasdasdfasdfasdfasdfasdfasdf Avatar


  148. Ian Avatar

    And does this work?

  149. Ponzi Avatar

    @ Ian: Very good !

  150. Ian Quigley Avatar

    Please create a test page. I can’t get image link to work just yet. (Unless I post a comment here and look at the html source?)

  151. Wazungu Avatar

    Thanks for working on it – I’ll try the gravitar plugins now for my site. Have a good day!

  152. pierluigi Avatar

    test.. and thanks for this service!

  153. Shane Avatar

    I seem to still be having the wrong gravatar coming up – showing one that was deleted a day ago. If this is working then I should have a yellow background behind me.

    If it does work here – is there a known issue with the 2.62 Gravatars2 plugin for WordPress (


  154. Nicki Avatar

    Gravatar svcs down? I haven’t been able to get to anything on this site except this blog all day. 😛

  155. Name Avatar

    … and the fucking retard dies again.

  156. 가우리 Avatar

    Server Error –;

  157. Reid Avatar

    The main site is down, let alone svcs or subversion, or whatever. The server is saying:

    Service Temporarily Unavailable

    The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.

    Additionally, a 503 Service Temporarily Unavailable error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

  158. thomasn528 Avatar

    testing, testing.

  159. baron Avatar

    are they back?

  160. nova Avatar

    not so much

  161. Gerald Avatar

    Doesn’t work for me … i’ve reapplied my avatar multiple times, still the old one is shown.

  162. seriously_black Avatar

    Interesting problem. Glad you found it. I hope that means that gravatars will start working again soon.

  163. Nat Avatar

    Works great for me, good work, love the new features!

  164. paikia Avatar

    testing again

  165. blackhat Avatar


  166. Elizabeth Avatar

    Hi, my gravatar doesn’t show anywhere, the email is good & it’s rated g.
    Any help would be great, thanks.

  167. Joseph Crawford Avatar

    i signed up and altered my site only to reverse the code ;( I found that my avatar was not showing properly, i am not sure what the case may be but at the URL
    it shows the gravatar logo

  168. Mike Avatar

    just testing. thanks for a great service 🙂

  169. Test Avatar

    Test 12345

  170. Jane Avatar


  171. LL Avatar

    Hope this got fixed.

  172. Very Different Avatar

    Thank you ..
    Known rebuilding.

  173. […] vom 3. März: Offensichtlich ist das Problem nun behoben, wie dieser Beitrag zeigt. Hoffentlich bleibt es […]

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