Recently, the Gravatar service was bought out by the founders of WordPress. The immediate result was to move Gravatar over to their servers which resulted in a significant speed boost, and also accelerate gravatar support into the WordPress core. The major advantage of this is that it fosters a sense of community among your commenters, because the visual icon really accentuates everyone’s identity in a way that mere text can’t. I wasn’t motivated to actually sign up for a gravatar myself, however, until Shamus installed it on his blog over the weekend. However, there are two major disadvantages to the service: 1. your users have to actually sign up, and 2. it really slows down the page load.
Instead of Gravatars, I decided to go with MonsterID. This is built on Identicon technology which creates a custom hash based on the user’s email address. MonsterID takes this a step further, using that hash as an input to create a custom, unique “monster” graphic for each user.
I’ve installed the plugin here and on my geekblog, Haibane.info, and you can see it in action on this post about anime which has a healthy discussion thread. I am quite pleased with the result, especially since there is no real impact on page load since all the action is happening locally.