Planning on launching a new site and was wondering if I should simply host my own user avatars or integrate gravatars. What is the best way to approach this?
Gravatar for those who don't know what it is
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I'd offer both (I really wish Stack Overflow did). Some people want a more 'professional' or perhaps even site-agnostic gravatar to follow them from place to place, but might want to use a more informal or funny avatar on your web site.
Others might be concerned with Gravatar knowing a little too much about the surfing habits of people that use their service, it would be nice to let people upload their own. This also lets users upload an avatar without giving you their e-mail address to associate with a gravatar.
Just make sure to take the proper precautions. I suggest:
Gravatar makes it easy to include avatars quickly. It's very useful for that. If you want to roll your own, you can always do so down the line. But It's a piece of cake to just include gravatar avatars in your site, and if you are concerned with launching quickly, it's less to think about than rolling your own avatar system. While allowing users to upload their own avatar images, and storing them is not overly onerous, for the sake of speed, I'd say use gravatar to start, then if you want to allow more customization, add it in later.
I like to offer an Identicon or a Gravatar for my users. When a user becomes trusted, they can upload or link an icon of their own choosing, but only after inspection.