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Gravatars: Why Both Commenters and Publishers Should Use It

Gravatars are global recognizable avatars, a hosted avatar service for profile pictures, usually used to pimp comment sections on blogs, but also on forums, author pages, and whatnot. We’re using Gravatars here on Devlounge, both for the author byline at the top of each post, and for commenters.

It used to be a poor web service, actually. Gravatar started out great, but then got massive issues, having a hard time serving all the avatars across the web. That all changed when Automattic bought the service, and with the hardware support of their servers, Gravatars are now delivered promptly and without hassle.

I’d say they have managed to get the Gravatar service to where and what it should be: A stable global avatar supplier, with support for multiple email addresses for the more schizophrenic among us, me included.

So why should you have a Gravatar associated with your email when commenting, and why should you have Gravatar support on your blog or forum?

Commenters: Get a Gravatar!

No matter if you comment to voice your opinion first and foremost, or if you have a more hidden agenda (like getting visitors to your site, or promote a product or service for that matter), you should have a Gravatar. Not only does it make your comment stand out more than the ones who doesn’t it’s also an opportunity to promote your brand, be it yourself or something else, a little.

You could use:

  • a photo as a Gravatar, which will show off your face.
  • a logo as a Gravatar, which will build brand recognition.
  • a product picture as a Gravatar, which will build product awareness.

You could also have a humorous Gravatar, or a serious one, or whatever you’d like to gain attention to. Having a good and thought-through Gravatar is a way to be seen, and to get a message across, in addition to your actual comment.

For myself, I’ve got a photo. This is suitable for several reasons, one being to show my face and therefor imply that I’ve got nothing to hide. Or something like that.

Publishers: Add Gravatar Support!

Publishers should definitely add Gravatar support if they have any kind of user interaction on their site. As I said, user comments is a pretty common way to add Gravatar support, but you could also add it to a forum, a more elaborate guestbook, or similar.

So why would you want to do that? Well, first of all, it will be another push to get readers involved. Think about it, if a reader is aware of the benefits of having a Gravatar, and possibly using it to promote a brand of some kind, then that’s just another reason to leave a comment to your post. Not only does the reader get to write a comment, the Gravatar further adds to the free exposure. The same goes for forums, of course.

Another reason is to help you manage spam. Most spammers don’t bother to get Gravatars for their spambots, if any, and that actually makes it a little easier for you to manage your comments in moderation. No Gravatar doesn’t mean that the comment is spam, but it is way more likely than if there is a Gravatar. It works the other way around as well: If a commenter’s got a Gravatar, it’s probably not a spammer, at least not an automatic one.

Also, adding Gravatars makes the comments more pretty and alive. That in turn makes them all the more appealing to participate in.

How to Add a Gravatar

Are you using Gravatars on your blog or forum? Why, or why not?


  1. By Jason posted on October 20, 2008 at 9:02 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Gravatars create a visual brand for an individual. It also gives a reason to use a real email address. If you visit the same ten websites everyday you start seeing the same gravatars appear on multiple sites, which can be somewhat comforting – or a little stalkerish.

  2. By Andrew posted on October 20, 2008 at 5:31 pm
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    I entirely agree. I expect to see them so much now that I miss them when someone doesn’t have one, and I have recognised one or two people by their gravatars when we have met in real life.

  3. By Lisa posted on October 20, 2008 at 6:18 pm
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    I don’t use Gravatars on any of my current sites, simply because I started off with themes that didn’t support them. When WP 2.7 comes out, and I update each site and freshen their themes, I’m going to look at adding Gravatars to those sites that are starting to generate more community participation. Seems like a good time to do it, since 2.7 is supposed to add threaded comments, making comments more like a mini message board.

  4. By Jeffro2pt0 posted on October 20, 2008 at 8:14 pm
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    Good article Thord. One of the other reasons to use Gravatars is to consider the image to be part of ones individual brand. The more sites and services which support gravatars the better. even crazier are Wavatars and Ravatars.

  5. By Oluniyi David Ajao posted on October 21, 2008 at 7:15 am
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    Thanks for the write-up. I have been using gravatar since I got to know about it and have since implemented it on my personal blog powered by WordPress.

  6. By Jan posted on October 21, 2008 at 11:13 am
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    Great article. I added gravatar support when I redesigned my website a few months ago and I’m using my company logo as an avatar.

  7. By Steven posted on October 21, 2008 at 3:33 pm
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    I would like anything in comments that offers visual stimulation. The wavatars, monsterids, and identicons options in WordPress suffice work great too. That people can personalize (or logo-ize) is a fine bonus.

    Ravatars sounds fun too.

  8. By Nick Nichelle Dael posted on October 21, 2008 at 10:13 pm
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    With gravatars I don’t have to get the MonsterID plugin for wordpress. Haha.

    Great article. I hope more people realize the importance of this.

  9. By pinkparis posted on October 22, 2008 at 12:06 am
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    yes, i’ve been using Gravatar for some months now. It’s lovely to see our avatar in the comment’s of many forum/ blog that we participate.

  10. By Ash posted on October 22, 2008 at 7:56 am
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    I use Gravatar, but I’d really prefer something decentralised and less likely to expose my email address to spammers.

    I’ve read reports where email addresses at common domain names (like gmail.com, hotmail.com etc) have been brute forced from the MD5 hash. I guess it’s not really feasible in practise, but I’m still somewhat concerned about the privacy implications.

  11. By Static Brain posted on October 22, 2008 at 10:46 am
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    I have been using gravatars for quite some time. I think they make the comments more attractive, but that isn’t my only reason for using them. I also think it allows commenters another way to make their link stand out from other comment links. When I visit gravatar enabled sites I am more likely to click on a gravatar enabled link, than a non-enabled one. I figure if they care enough to make their link more pleasing, then their site is most likely more pleasing as well. :-) Just my opinion…

  12. By Xander posted on October 22, 2008 at 12:10 pm
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    I have found that Gravatar works well on blogs about blogs, techblogs, and other areas where geeks congregate in masses. But if your audience isn’t hip to the Web 2.0, good luck with that–I’ve had an uptake rate of approximately 0 from my readership… which just means that my comments section is one long series of blank avatars, and how welcoming is that?

  13. By Jeff posted on October 25, 2008 at 11:35 pm
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    The blank avatar problem can be solved by using one of the handfull of fallback avatar services built in to Gravatar: “identicon” “monsterid” or “wavatar”. Go for it!

  14. By teddY posted on October 27, 2008 at 9:00 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Thanks for the writeup! I should be lucky that most of my comentators have Gravatars of their own so there isn’t a problem of desperately promoting and cudgeling my readers to use Gravater for me. Anyway, for the problem of blank gravatars raised by Xander, you can always use a substitute image (you can learn how to use it here)

    p/s: For me, I choose to use a logo instead of my photo because… I think I look hideous *laughs*

  15. By Miroslav Glavic posted on October 29, 2008 at 9:41 am
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    I use gravatars and my current theme has support for them. Most of readers who comment on my site have Gravatars. I personally use a photo for all my e-mail addresses.
    I have 112 @mydomain addresses and all of them use the same photo (Thank you Gravatar for letting me do that when I upload a new photo for Gravatar usage).

  16. By alex posted on October 31, 2008 at 2:31 am
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    I signed up the other day and am very happy!!

    I also incorporate them on my own site, except not a single commenter has had one yet!

  17. By JasonK posted on November 3, 2008 at 6:40 pm
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    I recently worked on a blog site which displays some gravatars but nothing for most people. I’m assuming its because they don’t have them. We have a gravatar plugin for that site but have not activated it yet.

    If we activate the plugin my understanding is that we can get it to display random identicons for each commenter. This is perhaps another reason to go the second step and add the gravatar plugin for self hosted blogs.

  18. By Sparkenstein posted on December 17, 2008 at 9:04 am
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    JasonK wrote: “If we activate the plugin my understanding is that we can get it to display random identicons for each commenter. This is perhaps another reason to go the second step and add the gravatar plugin for self hosted blogs.”

    This is also, perhaps, a little bit of a nudge to get folks to sign-up and create their own Gravatars rather than having to be identified by an icon not of their own choosing.

    You don’t like the random Gravatars you’ve been getting lately? Then go sign-up and take control of your online “image”.

  19. By chriscashdollar posted on January 27, 2009 at 3:47 pm
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    I just signed up for Gravatar after hearing about it from friends. I’m thankful that they seem to be getting some traction and hope that this service is here to stay.

  20. By Shine Stars posted on February 27, 2009 at 7:29 pm
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    It is the clever methods to deal with giving a comment and be regoginzed.

  21. By M.Hamid posted on July 2, 2009 at 9:12 pm
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    Great …

    nice topic

  22. By Renato Cerdena posted on July 3, 2009 at 8:34 pm
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    Thanks!

  23. By Rav posted on October 9, 2009 at 9:46 am
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    Comment branding is what main concept I liked with Gravatar.

  24. By Sarah Millery posted on October 13, 2009 at 7:51 pm
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    I support all sites that support Gravatar. I love this concept as blogs are normally so cold, so I like putting a face (most times) to the posts. I am not really a fan of the non-human gravatars but who am I to judge. My favourite picture I have seen so far is a pair of sexy looking feet:)

  25. By victoria posted on December 11, 2009 at 12:17 am
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    I’m very impressed with gravatar it’s so handy not having to sign up to the millions of blogs I read and want a human facey presence on :)

  26. By LeShae posted on December 31, 2009 at 11:02 pm
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    Im just testing my gravatar, so it may take a few post in order to get it right.

  27. TrackbackGravatarer gör dig igenkänd i bloggsfärenFive Points of Interest (21-10-08) | Cal.vini.stGFMorris.com » links for 2008-10-20Matt: Why Gravatar | KaosKoxp Oyun PortaliMax Design - standards based web design, development and training » Some links for light reading (21/10/08)Useful Links (21/10/2008) | ApramanaWordCast 32: Is This Jeopardy Question? | Kym HuynhWhy Gravatar — Matt MullenwegMarc’s Voice » Blog Archive » Blogging from Chesnut stFreelance Friday: My Writing Week 43 | tdhedengrenHur man använder Gravatarer | BlogFriends.se Allt Om BloggsfärenLibrariAnne · gravatar reduxHomemade Yummy Pie! | Free BlogsGravatar su Wordpress: come inserirli e perché usarliGravatars for amateurs « learn.amniisia.comGravatar - what is it? « Shiri Design StudioGravatars Why Both Commenters and Publishers Should Use It | Wood TV StandHow Much Is NOT Having a Gravatar Costing You?Who The Heck Are You? Get a Gravatar! | Website In A Weekend