Cloudinary Blog

Placeholder images and Gravatar integration with Cloudinary

Automatically Deliver Alternative Avatar Placeholder Image
Most web sites enrich their graphics by embedding pictures and photos of their model entities - users, articles, movies, etc. The graphic design of such web sites assumes that all these entities have associated pictures, otherwise the result will not look as satisfactory as intended. The graphics designer will not like it and the developer having to handle the boundary case of missing images won’t enjoy this either.
 
To circumvent this issue, you can design default placeholder images for cases where an entity doesn’t have its own image. You are probably well aware of the “egg” placeholder image Twitter uses as its default avatar and the person’s silhouette that Facebook uses for individuals that haven’t uploaded a profile photo.
 
Cloudinary now supports delivering default images when a requested image does not exist. This is especially useful when you want to display a placeholder avatar for users without a Facebook or Twitter profile picture or for users that haven’t uploaded their photo to your application. 
 
As a developer, you no longer have to care whether a picture is available for a certain entity. Cloudinary will automatically detect when an image is missing and deliver the alternative placeholder image through a fast CDN instead. In addition, Cloudinary will occasionally retry to fetch the original image, and use it instead of the placeholder for cases where it is made available at a later time.
 
Specifying default images is done using Cloudinary transformations' 'default_image' parameter ('d' in URLs).
The following URL delivers a 100x100 thumbnail of a profile image with the ID ‘face_left’ while specifying that the image with the ‘avatar’ public ID should be used in case that ‘face_left’ does not exist.
 
 
 
 
When trying to access a non existing ID, the default avatar picture is displayed instead:
 
 
 
Notice that the requested transformation, in this case resizing to 100x100, is done on the default image too, allowing you to upload a placeholder image once and transform it to many desired dimension in your various web pages.
 
Here’s the same example when integrating with one of Cloudinary’s client libraries, in this case Ruby on Rails:
<%= cl_image_tag("non_existing_id.png", 
                 :width => 100, :height => 100, 
                 :crop => :thumb, :gravity => :face, :radius => 20, 
                 :default_image => "avatar.png") %>
You can of course upload multiple placeholder images and use each image as the default for each different kind of model entity.
 
You can also apply the same solution when using Cloudinary’s automatic Facebook profile image fetching functionality. This allows you to specify an alternative default image to be used if the user does not exist on Facebook:
 
 
 

Gravatar Support

You have probably heard of Gravatar., a terrific service that allows you to host a single avatar (profile picture) to be used globally, rather than upload your profile photo on every website that requires it. Any user can sign up to Gravatar with his email address and upload a profile picture. Any website can then access that picture based on an the email address of this user (encoded with MD5 hash for better privacy).

Cloudinary already supports automatically fetching, resizing and delivering Facebook and Twitter profile pictures. We’ve recently added support for Gravatar too. Starting today you can use Cloudinary to fetch your visitors’ Gravatar images, transform these to match your graphics design (non-square pictures, rounded corners, face detection, etc.), use your own default image placeholder for non-existing avatars and enjoy smart caching and fast CDN delivery while automatically refreshing these images when changed.

Embedding Gravatars is done by pointing to a URL like the one below. The 'e3264cf16f34ecd3c7c564f5668cbc1e' string in this example is the MD5 hash for info@cloudinary.com.

.../image/gravatar/e3264cf16f34ecd3c7c564f5668cbc1e.jpg

With Cloudinary you can of course transform the image to any desired dimension:

.../image/gravatar/w_120,h_80,c_fill/e3264cf16f34ecd3c7c564f5668cbc1e.jpg

If you use one of our client libraries, this is even simpler. For example, the following Ruby on Rails command embeds a 150x150 Gravatar for info@cloudinary.com:

<%= gravatar_profile_image_tag("info@cloudinary.com", :width => 150, :height => 150) %>

 

Gravatar supports default images. This allows you to always point to a URL of a Gravatar, based on the user’s email, even if no Gravatar is available for the user. Using Gravatar default images can be done with Cloudinary’s default images support as explained below. Simply specify one of the names of the Gravatar default images as the ‘default_image’ parameter (‘d’ in URLs).

The following example displays Gravatar’s ‘retro’ default image for a given identifier that has no avatar attached:

.../image/gravatar/d_retro/unknown_id.jpg

Gravatar has a cool feature of displaying a different ‘identicon’ for each user based on the given MD5 hash. The following URLs generate 36x36 thumbnails of two different users, while displaying the ‘identicon’ avatar if no Gravatar is available:

.../image/gravatar/d_identicon,h_36,w_36,c_fill/a9a1a6dafde8cf0c7e8ee9b177160939.jpg 

.../image/gravatar/d_identicon,g_center,h_36,w_36,c_fill/e544501b2dd065b385e06a8a8dc7504b.jpg

  

 With Cloudinary, you can also display custom default images you uploaded to Cloudinary. For example, the following URL delivers a Gravatar for the given email and defaults to the uploaded file named ‘avatar.jpg’:

.../image/gravatar/d_avatar.jpg,g_center,h_36,w_36,c_fill/e544501b2dd065b385e06a8a8dc7504b.jpg

Default images and Gravatar support are available now for all our free & paid plans. For easier integration with your existing web-dev framework, make sure to download our latest Ruby, Python & Django, PHP, jQuery or the community contributed Perl or .Net libraries. 

 

Recent Blog Posts

Cloudinary Product Gallery Enables Dynamic Buyer Experience

We live in a world where we spend increasingly more time online. As our routines change and adapt to new trends and technologies, we perform more and more of our daily activities in virtual environments. A key example of this is shopping. There are many reasons why online shopping has become so attractive for many buyers. A near endless variety of products is accessible from the palm of your hand. Customer reviews give buyers more confidence in their decisions. It's increasingly easy to search for attractive prices. And the list goes on. But a customer's desire to "touch" or "feel" the product is an interactive experience that can be hard to overcome when shopping online.

Read more
A Guide to Website Image Optimization and Performance

Part 1 of this series delves into the background for this guide. Here in part 2 are the ins and outs.

Wait, hear me out. I know, we just talked about this: Nobody is sheepishly pleading you, “Please, might we have just one more image on the page?” No, I’m not telling you to pick that particular fight. Instead, use a little smoke and mirrors to avoid requests for images that your audience needn’t render right away and might never need at all while loading them asynchronously—only as needed.

Read more
A Guide to Image Optimization for Website Performance

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the rules of putting images on the web.

For such a flexible medium as the web, software development can feel like a painstaking, rules-oriented game—an errant comma might break a build, a missing semicolon might wipe out an entire page. For a long time, the laws of image rendering seemed similarly cut-and-dry: For example, if your markups contained an img element , the singular content of its src attribute would be foisted on the audience regardless of their browsing context, period.

Read more
Digital Asset Management Platform: Meeting Customer Expectations

Consumers today expect media-rich experiences. No longer a novelty, it’s second nature to swipe through multiple photos on mobile apps, zoom in on product images for a closer look, visualize online travel reviews, socialize cool video clips while browsing, and encounter brand messages when walking into brick-and-mortar stores. These experiences weave together visual cues and clues with relevant content to create meaning and more authentic connections for customers.

Read more
How to Customize Cloudinary's eCommerce Android App

Recently we added the Cloudinary Demo - eCommerce App to the Google Play Store. This app demonstrates the best practices for optimal delivery of images on a storefront, including category pages, product pages, and a shopping cart. At the time, we published Introducing the Cloudinary Demo Android App, Part 1, which provided an under-the-hood tour of how the eCommerce Android App was designed and how Cloudinary was integrated throughout.

Read more