Someone took a nice photo of me recently. I’d like to use it as my avatar photo everywhere to present a consistent image. This is not easy to do.
I’ve had to manually change it on a dozen different Slacks, a bunch of social networks, a few forums, all my email accounts, and I’m still not done.
I just want to change my photo once. Because I’m vain and lazy.
For a nerd like me, the solution is obvious:
- My latest avatar image has a permanent web address – https://edent.tel/avatar.
- When I register for a service, it should ask me for my homepage address and automatically detect the URl for my avatar.
- Periodically, it should check for an update.
What about Gravatar?
The Globally Recognised Avatar project from WordPress is supposed to be a solution to this problem. But it doesn’t work, for two main reasons.
- Not everywhere uses it.
- Works on a per-email basis.
Nothing we can do about (1), but I find (2) is annoying. I use a different email address for each website I use. Which means I have dozens of Gravatars!
Because Gravatar uses MD5 hashes, there’s no way around this. It’s also a (minor) privacy concern.
What about Libravatar?
The Libravatar project is basically an open source version of Gravatar. It also uses hashes for email addresses. And, sadly, very few sites use it.
What about Webfinger?
The documentation for Webfinger is comically absent.
What about Microformats?
Standards like microformats2 let you add an image to your profile.
Social Networking Sites
Sadly, the service isn’t maintained any more, has broken images for Instagram, and doesn’t include newer services like GitHub.
There are two fundamental mistakes we’re making.
- An email address is not an identity.
- A 3rd party service is not an identity.
Given that Gravatar is promoted by WordPress – the largest website provider on the planet – and it still isn’t universally accepted, I don’t think there’s any hope for smaller services.
So, I guess what I need is an app which can log in to all my accounts and automatically change the avatar whenever I want.
Or is there some other practical action I can take?