Chute Unveils Avatars.io, Hosted Avatars for Apps and Web

Chute, the Y Combinator grad that recently pivoted from a photo-sharing app to become a photo-focused backend service provider for other developers, today officially introduced Avatars.io. The new product is a spin-off which arose from developer demand; Chute customers were constantly looking to use its platform to set up their own custom avatar system. Seeing a need for this kind of service as a contained offering, Avatars.io quietly launched with a select developer preview around three weeks ago, and has seen great traction leading up to today’s public launch.

Services can do other things to offload the need for building their own avatar storage and uploading system, including tapping social network integration and turning to existing email-based universal avatar services like Gravatar. But Chute co-founder Gregarious Narain told BetaKit in an interview that it was clear that something was missing, and that was a way to make sure that access to avatars remained dependable (social networks can change their API access, cutting off service) and easy to maintain. Narain said that it became obvious this needed to be a standalone product pretty quickly.

“When we first launched the Chute Platform, we were approached by many developers looking to add user avatars to their apps,” he said. “What was surprising was that this was the only use of photos they had in their application, though it still involved all the work required to upload, store and serve images. As we worked with more and more developers, we found that a huge majority of applications wanted some form of user profile – sometimes it was from Facebook or Twitter, other times it was something custom.”

For developers, tapping into a solution like Avatars.io presents a number of advantages over creating their own solution in-house. “First, we handle all the custom uploads with no server-configuration at all,” Narain explained. “This will save developers a great deal of time by eliminating all of the discrete tasks that are involved in uploading, processing, and serving photos. Second, we offer broad support for avatars, as opposed to a single-source solution. There’s no need to choose just one way to do avatars with us, we give you many options. Lastly, upkeep for social avatars is a huge problem. Developers, even us, tend to store the URLs to where an avatar lives but we usually don’t update them or even know they’ve been changed. Avatars.io stays on top of the changes and keeps everything up to date.”

For Chute, which just raised $2.7 million in financing, this is a clear indicator that they’re committed to growing their engineering and product side, even as they build out marketing and sales operations. Narain shared that developers can expect to see many more new changes related to product in the coming months, too.

The approach Avatars.io is taking, which is inclusive and covers social media sources for avatars as well as Gravatar, is a smart one, since it won’t require that developers switch over their sources or turn off integrations that are already in place in order to take advantage of Avatars.io’s additional management, hosting and serving features. Avatars.io will always provide a free version, the company says, though additional features may become available on a paid basis. In general, it looks like Avatars.io might work best for Chute as a funnel for new customers, who get hooked on the avatar hosting and then explore the company’s additional image-based services for apps and websites.

In its early preview, Avatars.io has already managed to serve five million avatars, at a rate of about 300,000 per day, with more than 200 developers signed up. Today’s wider release should help it add significantly to that impressive starting pool.

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