I’ve been working on a project recently that uses avatars, while planning out this specific feature it occurred to me – why should we re-invent the wheel? There’s already at least one service that specializes in doing it right: Gravatar.
While building something as simple as avatar support takes a relatively small amount of time, when working against a tight deadline or a tight budget every minute counts. In the world of an ISV (especially a young one) the balance of user satisfaction and development time is critical. Using a service such as Gravatar is a great way to give the users what they want with minimal impact to the timeline.
With a super-simple implementation we were able to get it running within a few minutes – compare that to at least a few hours to build a custom system. Plus, reduced server load as we aren’t hosting the images and a cleaner, simpler interface as it’s one less option the user has to look through.