On Pavatars

Like 112 people pointed me to Pavatar… okay not really, but I got a Google alert about it. Since “Pavatar – like Gravatar, but better!” got 2 votes on Digg, I feel a need to defend Gravatar’s honor. (What little it has.)

  1. The homepage says “Many of you noticed that the Gravatar.com service is offline quite a lot.” Heeeelloo-ooo! That is so 2007. Gravatar is now super-reliable.
  2. The chance of your page slowing down is much higher. Imagine you have 20 comments with Pavatars on a page, instead of using one service that might be up or down, your page is now calling 20 different domains, each of which could have a problem and be down. The browser also has to resolve up to 20 different domains. (Unless you implement caching.)
  3. Pavatar uses your own bandwidth, Gravatar uses ours.
  4. It’s fixed width, 80×80, where Gravatar allows any size up to 80×80. (And way bigger in the future! Or smaller. Did you know you can request a 1×1 Gravatar? Beat that! Actually 3×3 is my favorite.)
  5. There are no ratings.
  6. On the client side you need to support 3 different methods of autodiscovery.
  7. Pavatar allows animated GIFs. The horror!
  8. If I want to move a Pavatar to a different URL on my server, I break any place that has cached the old path. It’s not clear if or how ofter clients are supposed to re-autodiscover Pavatars, or if they hold on to it forever.
  9. If you implement the caching part of the spec you’re storing other people’s arbitrary images on your server.
  10. There’s no WordPress plugin on the directory.
  11. Finally, if you’re going to go the distributed route, do it right! Everything you need is in hCard, no need to invent new rel values. (I say this as a rel value inventor.)

On the bright side, Pavatar has a real spec that looks like a real spec. We have md5(). Point: Pavatar.

P.S. There’s no reason Gravatar couldn’t auto-discover hCards, or Pavatars, on Flickr avatars, etc. That way you could have a single API to whatever type of avatar someone is using.

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25 responses to “On Pavatars”

  1. Aaron B. Hockley Avatar

    People still use animated GIFs? Wow. I haven’t done that in around 7 years…


  2. Vincent Avatar

    Whaha, that’s my submitted article 😛

    And yeah, I noticed too that the “Gravatar is service is down quite a bit” has aged, but the argument of being in control yourself still stands IMO.

    Also, the bottom of the Pavatar page links to this page as a WordPress plugin, unfortunately, that’s a French page.

    All in all, I’d say, for users, Pavatar is better. For website owners, however, I might say that Gravatar might be the better choice (and in the end, they’re the ones that need to implement it). Plus, Gravatar is more popular. The single API, however, might be the awesome-est solution 🙂


  3. Vincent Avatar

    Oh, by the way, the Gravatar homepage says

    A gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is quite simply an 80×80 pixel avatar image that follows you from weblog to weblog appearing beside your name when you comment on gravatar enabled sites.

    So if it supports more sizes than 80×80, I suppose that’s outdated information too…


  4. Matt Mullenweg Avatar

    It doesn’t yet, but will soon. (Meech is working on the rewrite.) We talked about it in the roadmap:



  5. Ingrid Avatar

    I have tried to ask this before – will the gravatars of wordpress.com every become available to self-hosted wordpress blogs?


  6. Matt Mullenweg Avatar

    Yes! Every WP.com avatar will be a Gravatar.


  7. bentrem Avatar

    Earlier today I read something about someone disabling gravatars cuz they were too slow. They included something about Flikr being faster. I don’t know the Flikr service and am happy enough with Gravatars so just blew it off … sorry.

    have a good one, y’all!


  8. Matt Mullenweg Avatar

    It’s hilarious that this blog post has 4 diggs. 🙂


  9. Weefz Avatar

    “The horror!”

    LOL! Too right. Static gravatars are classy.


  10. atropos Avatar

    Number 12, this post has 8 diggs, while pavatars has only 2 😛


  11. Ivan Levashew Avatar
    Ivan Levashew

    Actually I can’t understand completely how to use Pavatar. I’m using Gravatar mostly on Usenet, mailing lists and GMANE. OK, suppose I’d like to switch to Pavatar. First, what the hell I need a homepage? What if I don’t have one? Second, how the hell they are going to discover my homepage if I ever had one? All the info contained in post is my name, my email and some additional headers. So, I’m currently adding X-Image-URL to my posts. May be Pavatar for Usenet is just X-Image-URL? Well, I’d better call it “X-Image-URL header” instead of Pavatar.

    My comments on Gravatar:
    I was surprised by the fact that it is not the first such a service. Picons existed long ago before Gravatar. Not to mention, picons are deprecated now. But their owners still use the network, especially Usenet, and I’d like to see their faces too. I see a problem with current Gravatar URL implementation:
    It is MD5, Picons autodiscovery method sometimes need the full address. For example, lookup for kinzler@cs.indiana.edu is:
    Gravatar currently can neither act like this nor serve existing picons because of MD5. I’d like it to be RSA-encoded mail, so that it’s both hidden from spammers’ eyes and can be intellectually parsed on the Gravatar.com side. May be it’s time to launch additional Gravatar URLs? And make them default. I still think picons’ autodiscovery is superior. Currently Gravatar displays ‘unknown’ avatar for unknown addresses. With picons-style autodiscovery the whole organizations can be added. And, for unknown domains I would like to see a country flag instead of stupid “Gravatar” logo for everybody unrecognized.


  12. […] What else other than Gravatar is FOC? Bookmark and Share: These icons link to social bookmarking sites […]


  13. Alejandro Rivero Avatar
    Alejandro Rivero

    An advantage of a centralized site is that you can offer more online editing of the pictures. Cropping is great; next I’d vote for live capture; we have a couple experiments online in demofoto.hurriquest.eu ; check the Standard Web Page versions both for server and serverless. They work nicely in most PC’s. For Apple it is sort of troublesome because the user must choose by hand the “USB camera” even if it is using a laptop (!?).


  14. JP Avatar

    I just got a Gravatar.. it’s pretty sweet. Kudos for the guy who came up with it!


  15. loihenuoc Avatar

    hay qua


  16. Tim Davies Avatar

    I still love gravatar


  17. jav Avatar



  18. drtyd Avatar



  19. Josh Spaulding Avatar

    Hi Matt,

    I just deactivated my WordPress Gravatar plugin because users gravatar images, including my own, just stopped showing.

    I don’t want a bunch of blank faces throughout my posts.

    Any idea what the issue may be? I think it’s a neat idea when it works.


  20. Josh Spaulding Avatar
    Josh Spaulding

    P.S. I would have just sent an email or put in a ticket, but I didn’t see a contact link anywhere.


  21. Hoowy Avatar

    I reall looked forward to using gravatars but I have to say it is very stressing as its true, it hardly works! like right now for eg, why isn’t my picture showing?


  22. phyzome Avatar

    Sadly, even though your post talks about Gravatar being so much more reliable, that 3×3 link turned up a 503 error. 😦

    I love gravatar, I really do, but I’d like to see more reliability.


  23. demetrius3d Avatar

    I’m going to check out the Pavatar thing. ALL of my Gravatars used to animate. Now they don’t, anymore. I miss that.


  24. roguedarkninja Avatar

    I think this is a joke.


  25. Sorcix Avatar

    I’ve simply linked the pavatar meta-tag to my 80×80 gravatar. Easy way to support both standards.