Lately I have observed that when I sign up on a website using my email address (not via my social media profile) my image automatically appears in the new profile. WordPress, Github and Stackoverflow has been doing it for long and if you noticed, even GrowthHackers website does it.
Many of you might know that it’s a simple trick and you can use Gravatar to get this done but for people who don’t I would like to elaborate a bit.
You should use Gravatar for your application’s onboarding process because of one simple reason – it saves time and hassle for your user in uploading a profile image.
Gravatar stands for Globally Recognized Avatar. You can set one for yourself by signing up on Gravatar website. If you want to use it in your application you can use their API. They have a documented API which explains step by step process on how to use it.
A Word of Caution
Though it’s a great idea to use Gravatar here are some pointers you might want to consider:
1. Don’t make Gravatar a default selection like WordPress. Always allow an option for users to choose if they want to use their Gravatar image or want to manually upload one. This is important because many people like to use different images on different platforms and they even like to remain anonymous sometimes.
2. Once you make a profile on Gravatar you can’t delete it. As frustrating as it sounds, this is true.
3. There is a heated debate online that Gravatar has privacy issues attached with it. If you head over to this stackoverflow discussion you’ll find how easy it is for any hacker to harvest emails from your application by using your users’ Gravatar image. And to see it in action, one person actually harvested about 8500 emails from stack overflow itself. There is also a solution mentioned in the thread which you can implement if you go ahead with it.
Yet another security researcher was able to retrieve email addresses of 45% of people on a forum in a single day by using Gravatar images of the users.
Now you know what you’re dealing with. Would you still go ahead and integrate Gravatar?