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Many blogs are using a service that associates pictures with the email addresses people use when they leave a comment. I recently added this to Ask Leo!

Why is there an icon of a man with a question mark in it next to the comment I just left?

Why do some comments have pictures with 'em?

Those are the two most common questions that I expect to get after enabling images on posted comments here on Ask Leo!

As it turns out, many blogs use this service to add a little personality to their comments. Personally, when I see real photos, it helps remind me that these are real people leaving comments.

Let me explain what they are and what you might want to do if you are interested.

Enter the Gravatar

A "Gravatar" is a globally recognized avatar, meaning a photo or other image that you can set up to represent you when you leave comments on blogs that make use of the service.

A Gravatar is nothing more than an image that you provide that is associated with your email address.

If you have multiple email addresses, you can have multiple gravatars that are either all different, all the same, or some combination of the above.

For example, here's the Gravatar associated with my business email address:



What's worth noting is that even though your email address is used to fetch the associated image, it is not exposed. In the example above, the URL to that image is:

That jumble of numbers and letters is the "md5 hash" of my email address. That's a number that's calculated from the text of my email address. What's important is that you can't go the other way. Given an md5 hash, you cannot reconstruct the email address that was used to generate it.

And neither can spammers.

No Gravatar? No problem

If you haven't set up a Gravatar, sites will typically display a default image in its place. Here at Ask Leo!, that's this:

Default Gravatar

Different sites may use different default images or may simply assign you a random image from a set of default images.

Setting up a Gravatar

Setting up your own Gravatar is pretty easy. Head out to and begin by entering your email address. For security's sake, you'll need to confirm that you are indeed the owner of the email address by clicking on a link sent to the email address that you specify.

Once confirmed, you can upload a photo or image that you would like to use, associate that with your email address, and you're done.

Setting up Gravatars on a site

As I alluded to above, using a Gravatar image is as simple as just referencing an image where the name of the image is the md5 sum of the email address.

The Gravatar website has more information. Click on the link for "Developers" on the bottom of most pages.

Article C5814 - September 15, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Black Dahlia
September 16, 2012 1:31 PM

I have hash tables for every Windows password up to 10 characters; I wouldn't be surprised if there are similar tables published for user names on the major webmail services.

elangovan s
September 16, 2012 9:48 PM

Hi Leo, there are dozens of Hash crack sites. I understand Hash algorithms are one -way algorithms, but the hash Crack websites seem to build their wordbase from random words created by algorithms, and even more random words specified by site users (the most complex random word generator ever known). So, i am not sure how secure this is. E.g., etc.

Tom R.
September 18, 2012 10:10 AM

MD5 is secure enough to prevent automatic harvesting of email addies from websites. It's not something worth spending any time worrying about.

October 26, 2012 11:37 AM

my task maneger has been disabled and regedit was disabled to,even gpedit.msc could not found

I'm using windows 7 home premium

please help me!!

You likely have malware. Run up to date scans with up to date anti-malware tools. This site has many articles on removing malware, just use search.
January 30, 2013 10:53 AM

I hope you don't mind but I want to see what these GR Avatars will do for me. We will se if this gets through.


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