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Wordpress Gravatar Alternative

How to have local avatars in Wordpress, and why it should be supported out-of-the-box.


Edited: 2019-10-12 14:36

I am working with Wordpress for my final exam project on my education, and for once I would like users to be able to update their profile pictures in a simple way. This is however not possible, since you are forced to use Gravatar by default.

Gravatar is relying on the users e-mail address, and hosts the profile pictures externally rather than locally. It makes no sense whatsoever to have this as the default option. There should, at least be an alternative option to host images locally.

Instead, we are forced to install a plugin like WP User Avatar, which might come with its own set of issues. I prefer to limit my use of plugins to a bare minimum, both for security- and technical reasons.

Gravatar alternatives

There are many things about Wordpress that should just be build-in, and support for profile pictures is just one of them. The reliance on third-party plugins is worrying, as it might increase the chance of security issues, as well as inconvenient updates.

I hate having to update my Wordpress sites. For most my sites, currently, I would only want to install security related updates, and preferably automatically.

If you search for avatar in the Plugins section of your Wordpress administration, several options will show up. The most pouplar seems to be these (as of May 2019):

  1. WP User Avatar
  2. Simple Local Avatars
  3. Avatar Manager

Privacy and Gravatar

Since Wordpress will attempt to download avatars (profile pictures) from for the supplied e-mail addresses, you may also want to install a plugin to disable Gravatar entirely.

You should never blindly trust the privacy policy of third parties, not even if Gravatar promises not to gather personal information.

If you are using WP User Avatar, there is an the "Disable Gravatar and use only local avatars" option in settings. Otherwise, there is also other plugins to disable it, one of them is: Disable User Gravatar.

If you prefer to keep the Gravatar system intact, you may also want to consider installing a plugin like: Avatar Privacy, which adds opt-in and local avatars.