More info on
favicon.icofiles is explained elsewhere.
With the help of Gravatar – globally recognized avatar – there’s been a rise in the use of avatars on weblogs. An avatar is a small image representing a commenter.
But no later than the Gravatar service’s skyrocket to success did the wings break. Gravatar’s host had shut them down temporarily. Since Gravatars are server-based, one could guess it was only a matter of time.
There is an alternative, dubbed “Favatars”. The idea, which has been around for a while, is to use small icons files named (
favicon.ico files) as avatars. Their initial purpose was to provide a small bookmarks icons and URL addresses.
I am, of course, writing about this because I have now implemented “favatars” on this very website. -Leave a comment — try it out-. No more testing. Trust me, it works if you type in the correct URL 🙂
1. Technical Background
The initial implementation of Favatars here on Noscope was based on work by Alex Jones that in turn relied on code by Paul James. The basic idea was to analyze the URL of commenters using regular expressions, looking for the presence of a
In their latest WordPress plugin, version, the presence of a
favicon.ico file is automatically stored in the same SQL database WordPress uses.
2. Favatars vs. Gravatars
Whether to choose Gravatars or favatars is a matter of individual taste. Both systems work well, but each system has their pros and cons.
Personally, I have never been a of avatars. While they can potentially make an online debate a bit more personal, this is rarely the case because people will often choose Bart Simpson or Britney Spears. That’s hardly personal. Furthermore, had I chosen Gravatars, I would’ve chosen a very small size, partly because of the above mentioned reason, partly as to not interfere or overshadow the comments themselves. Finally, favatars are peer-based, while Gravatars rely on Gravatar.com running.
Considering this, the 16×16 pixel alternative is perfect for Noscope.
- Rating system
Gravatar rate submitted avatars. You can choose to show any rating, or only “work-safe” avatars. This is impossible for favatars.
- Fewer size limitations
Gravatars can be as much as 80×80 pixels, whereas favatars are _very rarely_ larger than 16x16px. As Matt points out, favatars _can_ be up to 128×128 px in size.
If Gravatar.com succumbs to server pressure, all weblog gravatars will be unable to load.
Each favatar is loaded from each individual commenters server. That means if that commentators server is down, his/her favatar _alone_ will not load. It won’t influence other favatars. It also means if a commentator wants to change his/her favatar, he/she can update their
favicon.icofiles at their own leisure.
- Size limitations
While favatars can be 16×16, 24×24, 32×32, 48×48, 64×64, 128×128 pixels in size, it is the exception to see favatars that are larger than 16x16px. Additionally, since favatars are bitmap files (whereas gravatars are JPEGs), filesizes are slighly, although not noticably larger.
- IE problems
Internet Explorer has problems rendering badly formed
favicon.icofiles, which do appear from time to time. Other browsers have no problems. Worst case is that IE shows black squares in place of the favatars.
- No rating
It’s impossible to rate the contents of favatars. As such, graphic material could potentially appear. Due to the nature of favatars though, this is unlikely to happen.
3. Favatars for WordPress Plugin
Jeff Minard improved my initial experimental plugin. Go grab the latest version now!
Download the plugin and drop it into your plugins directory (wp-content/plugins). Activate the plugin on your WordPress Plugin Admin page.
To show comment author Favatars in your comments, place the following code where you want it to show up:
If you want to set the maximum size of the favatar icons, you can add parameters to the function:
<?php comment_favicon($before=''); ?>
Another method, suggested by John Serris, is to have the favatars load as CSS backgrounds. To do this, instead show the Favatar this way:
<?php comment_favicon($before=''); ?>
window.onload events to run before all favatars have finished loading.
Technicalities aside, feel free to discuss or test favatars.
Oh, and did you know that the word avatar comes from Hindu mythology, and means “the descent of a deity to to earth in bodily form”?