There's a third-party service for userpics now, called gravatar. Interesting idea, to make it a third-party service, but:
- The pictures are 80×80. As implementors (that is, people setting up their weblogs to show gravatar pictures) can already pick the size of the pictures, I would allow up to 100×100, if only because LJ does. They also don't say they limit the file size, which (if they don't) could be a big surprise when they're suddenly serving minutes-long animations.
- They use MD5 hashes of email addresses for their IDs. That means you can't use them with all TypeKey users or people for whom you have a FOAF document, as they use SHA1 hashes to identify addresses. Oh, well.
They manually rate them for content. They use MPAA ratings and don't explain what they mean, and besides, all they need are G and X. What makes an icon PG instead of G, or R instead of X?
Nor will that scale. There were 11 minutes between my confirmation email for joining the service and the notice that my icon was rated, but I doubt that will last. They could use a system for collaborative rating by users, but there's no upside for the users and such systems are prone to gaming, plus they'd have to actually build such a thing. They could let people report “adult” pics, like LiveJournal does, but human rating is the only reason not to do a more distributed system where people host their own pictures.
So, probably, they should have an additional option to let implementors allow “NR” pics, so when they finally do get popular and fall behind there's a way to not make the system totally unuseful.
- They offer some implementor-side options, which would be neat if they were useful, and the rating limit is the only useful one. You can add a 1px border of any color, but why do it on their end when you could do it in HTML, without using their processor to mangle the image? Resizing is probably a waste too, as 80×80 pictures are small enough that you probably wouldn't care if they're resized in HTML.
- They don't say anything about animated GIFs. They should have a “deanimate” option that only serves the first or last frame of an animated GIF gravatar. That would be a good server-side option, as you can't do that in HTML.
But it's a good idea. I did sign up, but I don't know if I’ll implement it on my weblog. We'll see!