Some time ago, I generated a Gravatar for myself, a Globally Recognised Avatar. It’s simple, it has become free some time ago, and it’s easy. The idea behind Gravatar and its sidekicks is that you want to have something recognisable on the web, no matter in what forum or on what blog you are posting. On the internet, that’s done using an avatar: An image or a photo you choose to depict yourself. Without a similar service, using an avatar on multiple sites means registration on every site you want to post (which isn’t bad, mind you) , and uploading your chosen image to all of them.That’s not so hard, unless you start changing avatar image every few weeks or months (as many people do). Then you almost need an accountant to keep track of what you have been uploading where, and the fun is soon lost.
Enter Gravatar.com . A nice idea, that simply links an image to an e-mail address.
At the moment, email addresses are the closes thing to a universally accepted identification. It’s not truly unique : one person can own more than one email address, but there is exactly one person that holds that email address (except for mailing lists, but that’s a special case). But that last part makes it really useful to the gravatar concept: one email address, which you have to provide almost everywhere, and one linked image.
Strangely, the only place where the gravatar has been missing lately is in email clients, and there the link with the email is immediate. Forums, content management systems like ImpressCMS and Joomla include gravatar support now, but not a single email client I could find. I went on a search and came up with MessageFaces, a plugin for Thunderbird 2.x, which displays the avatar of your email correspondents.
As you can see, the image linked to your correspondent is shown on the right-hand side of the message header in Thunderbird. Sadly, not everyone has all his mail addresses associated with a gravatar. No problem, the options screen allows you to check for Gravatar images, but also simple images that are indicated in the mail headers. As mentioned on the option page, this could pose a security problem. A nice touch would be to do this only with people in your address book.
I must say I like this plugin. It won’t change the way I use email, but it’s a nice touch to have Gravatar images linked to your email correspondents. It’s the image you identify them with on the web, so why not use it for email as well.