Meta Stack OverflowMy God—it's full of unicorns!
[+334] [42] balpha
[2010-01-28 17:58:41]
[ discussion gravatar unicorns april-fools ]

Based on this comment [1], I have started building a unicorn avatar maker. It's still quite ugly, and the results aren't different enough yet, but this is what it looks like so far:

Question list [2] / Joel's profile [3] (removed the images from here to make this thing a little shorter).

Is this just way too stupid, or should I go on? If so, any suggestions? I'm thinking of things like backgrounds etc.


Update 2010/01/30: Version 0.2.

Now prettier and with legs, rainbows, and stuff. Examples:

Æther: alt text Jeff Atwood: alt text Troggy: alt text

Update 2010/01/31: Still version 0.2, the images are (almost) unchanged.

But now its on the App Engine for everyone, so go ahead pounding my quota:

Replace HASH by the md5 hash that gets given to gravatar (or any hexadecimal number, really). Don't just copy & paste the above into your browser. I thought this was clear, but looking at the access logs, it looks like I have to explain it.

The ?s=32 parameter can be omitted. The only legal values are 32 and 128; defaults to 32. Other parameters are ignored.

If you take this greasemonkey script [4] and change the substitution line to

$(this).attr("src", $(this).attr("src").replace(/www\.gravatar\.com/, ""));

you'll see meta the way it has been looking to me for the past days: Full of unicorns.

If you just want to replace the identicons, i.e. those users that don't have their own gravatar set up, use this instead:

$(this).attr("src", $(this).attr("src").replace(/(www\.gravatar\.com\/avatar\/)([a-z0-9]*)\?s=(\d+)&d=identicon(.*)$/, "$1$2?s=$3&$2%3fs%3d$3$4"));

Finally, if you just want to see it once, without any greasy monkeys: Paste this

javascript:(function(){$("img").attr("src", function(){return this.src.replace(/www\.gravatar\.com/, "")})})()

into your location bar.

Update 2010/02/14: Version 0.4

I will be deploying a new version later today. Some of you have showcased your own unicorn avatar below using a direct link to These images will then show the updated version. If you want to preserve the historical record by keeping the old version, you'll have to host the image somewhere else, or at least change the image URL. The old ones will be available by passing an additional parameter v with the value 3, i.e.;=3

No new old-version images will be created, but the previously created ones will still be available for a while.

Since the unicorns have their own website by now, this is probably the last update I'll be posting on this question.

Update 2010/04/01

Jeff finally rolled out the Unicorn avatars for us all to enjoy.

(51) way too stupid is just the beginning... - Troggy
(21) Why are those unicorns and not ponies? I'd +1 this if they were ponies. - John Rudy
@state: Leaving away the horn wouldn't be that hard... - balpha
(38) Unicorns are magical ponies. - user27414
(53) Incredibly stupid. But totally worth it just for the big purple Spolsky avatar. - Shog9
(17) I believe it was TheTXI who said something like "Unicorns are the magical weaponized form of ponies". - gnostradamus
(28) If this doesn't bring TheTXI back, nothing will. - user27414
Great. How are you generating these? - Pëkka
(1) @balpha: everyone's a critic. - Paul Nathan
(19) @Pekka: I have a unicorn farm at home and a motion-controllable camera. - balpha
(7) You have way too much time on your hands.... - Michael Kniskern
(2) @State I think you misspelled "Unicorn" as "Union" in your name... On another note: I just influenced the creation of something great and world-changing? AWESOME! - Michael Stum
@blapha I respect your ... creativity ... - C. Ross
@cross: The name is "balpha". And ... thanks, I guess. - balpha
+1 for the shadows alone. But the right cropping in the first image is beautiful, too. - Daniel Daranas
(1) Just don't leave us hanging here balpha. - random
@random: I won't, don't worry. Not much time today, but the weekend is reserved for the unicorns. - balpha
(1) Yes yes yes! Will you post the generator as a cgi so we can see our own? - Ether
(3) @Æther: It's way to unoptimized to generate on the fly yet. I'm thinking about precalculating the top so-and-so Meta users for a start. - balpha
I want my magical weaponized pony already. Sheesh. - Paul Nathan
@Paul: your pony will shoot laser beams out of its eyes? - Ether
My pony will have a stabby thing coming from its head. What more can you want, anyway? - Paul Nathan
(3) Hahahahahahahahaha! This is really, really great. I wish I could upvote it more than once. Jeff Attwood's Unicorn looks really perturbed, though! These Avatars are going to be more difficult than those from gravatar in terms of people wanting a different one - obviously, because faces and expressions come into play. - Pëkka
And I am seriously for introducing this as an (optional, additional) alternative to gravatar on a regular basis, if balpha is willing to put the work into it. I mean, this is really great work technically as well. Setting up all those motion detectors... - Pëkka
And I want mine, too! Pleasepleaseplase. - Pëkka
Is it me, or Æther's and random's are pretty epic? - perbert
@Pekka: Made an exception for you. It's up. - balpha
@balpha: Thanks a lot! - Pëkka
Wow, Aether's icon is awesome! - Paul Nathan
(1) Needs better antialiasing... - Shog9
(2) @shog9: Are you talking about my example images or the app engine ones? The latter ones look better, antialiasing-wise. They are created aliased at twice the requested resolution and then scaled down using the google image api. Should be enough. - balpha
Ah, was just looking at your examples. The appengine-generated images are much better. - Shog9
Now after seeing all the effort put into this, I have to say I am impressed. I like the icon you created for me, I just don't think I can replace Trogdor! though. +1 for your creativity. - Troggy
This is going to hit 50 upvotes real soon. Totally deserved. - Pëkka
(7) @gnostradamus: I just discovered the TheTXI quote. You took it 100% out of context: " Many have mistakenly believed that unicorns are weaponized forms of the pony" -- - balpha
(5) @balpha: I guess he changed his mind later:…;. - mmyers
@balpha: The quote cited by @mmyers is the one I was referencing. I hadn't read the other one. - gnostradamus
(2) Yep, looks like our TheTXI wasn't exactly consistent in his views. - balpha
Or, for a quick test without Greasemonkey: copy the following into the location bar: javascript:$("img").attr("src", function(){return this.src.replace(/www\.gravatar\.com/, "")}) - Arjan
@Arjan: Thanks, I've added that (modulo a small fix because at least on my Firefox, your version replaces the whole page with the function call's return value, which is an inappropriately boring [object Object]). - balpha
(2) Aha, I always use void(..) for that, but indeed I did not test. Shame on me! ;-) (No need for any credits though!) So, the following would work as well, but I guess you know: javascript:void($("img").attr("src", function(){return this.src.replace(/www\.gravatar\.com/, "")})) - Arjan
@Arjan: Actually I didn't know that. I'm not very fluent in JavaScript, so I did the first best thing to get rid of a return value: wrap into a function that doesn't return anything. But I guess I learnt something new today :) - balpha
The website has a typo (in whats-this) - magical weaponized from of ponies - SLaks
(19) This is my most favorite question of all time. Thank you. - Jarrod Dixon
(2) @Jarrod: Thanks for the quite official blessing :) -- @SLaks: fixed, thanks. - balpha
(1) Those horns look like dongs - Jake McGraw
(3) OMG! This is absolutely amazing! I'd love to use these avatars somehow on - Cornify
(1) Eyebrows? Unicorns have eyebrows?!? - dmckee
(2) you made proggit… - Kyle Cronin
Thanks for the link, @Kyle. I have two hours until the bandwidth quota is reset. I guess I should start serving JPEGs now... - balpha
April is only 4 weeks away! Can't wait for my ponyfication fix on The Stacks. - rlb.usa
(2) I wanna upvote this question every time I click on it. - jjnguy
(2) You should get a badge for generating this year's April Fools prank. Although I guess two gold badges are worth something. - mmyers
So wait, are these fully unique? Is there any collision between md5 hashes' unicorns? - Maxim Zaslavsky
Mine looks like a unicorn crossed with a moose. Hmmm. - mmyers
This is incredible. I love it. Can we keep these? - user130690
Can you think of something better on next April's fool? Too stupid to be considered a joke!!! - Diego Dias
I see 1.6e6 ghits for [unicorn avatar]. This page is #5, and is #12. AFAICS they're the top-ranked unicorns with eyebrows out there. - Charles Stewart
I joined meta just to leave this comment and say that the unicorns are awesome!! Really gives the site character! - slugmandrew
Open source please :3 - Steve Robbins
@stevether It is, and has been forever. - balpha
Where is the double rainbow! - TheAlbear
[+201] [2010-02-01 02:22:17] Andreas Bonini [ACCEPTED]

Jeff, you must change the default avatars on S[OFU] to unicorns on April 1st.


Ok this was implemented... I'm sooo happy now :D Thanks Jeff!

(10) except mine. change mine to waffles. - quack quixote
@~quack: it would be for default avatars only, so you can use yours for whatever you want - Andreas Bonini
if you mean i can set mine to a non-default avatar, no, i can't. see this for why: - quack quixote
@~quack: lol, interesting :) Well at least you have a super cool name - Andreas Bonini
(4) oh fishing carp. now this is the most upvoted answer on the page. i swear i'm boycotting SOFU on april fools' if i log in and see unicorn avatars everywhere. - quack quixote
(11) This would require a filter to disallow questions containing "unicorn" and "WTF" in the title on that day. Otherwise it'd be 20 questions up the top of the page with kids asking what the deal is with unicorns. - Igor Zevaka
(15) @Igor: what if I want to ask programming-related unicorn questions? - Andreas Bonini
(7) Wouldn't that be premature pessimization? :)) - Igor Zevaka
(2) What if I want to ask questions about this? - Paul Nathan
and so it is DONE ;) I like it, might as well be permanent... - ChristopheD
Indeed. Very droll. I thought it was alcohol induced... - gbn
I think I got the first "kids asking what the deal is with unicorns" Q in on meta - DVK
I thought someone hax0red my account yesterday. - vivin
I don't like unicorns, probably because I'm not a 6 year old girl. - Tim Williscroft
@balpha, how's that quota at Google Apps doing? :-) - Arjan
@Arjan van Bentem: All good :) - balpha
[+48] [2010-01-29 12:25:17] Matt

Unicorns with fricking laser beams attached to their heads!

(16) I like the way you think buddy. - Daniel May
[+36] [2010-01-28 18:45:25] Paul Nathan

You need more rainbows and sparkles.

nathan unicorn

(6) These could potentially be some of the variable background elements. - snicker
(1) Yep, rainbows are definitely on the list. - balpha
@balpha: where's the web service to view these at? =) - Paul Nathan
(12) I would like to suggest fluffy clouds as well. Some unicorns are into clouds. - snicker
(3) Clouds are also on the list. @Paul: It's at localhost:8080/avatar/[hash] where [hash] is the same on you give to gravatar - balpha
@balpha - LOL! " is where the heart is," but I can't access the service at localhost:8080/avatar !!! - Adam Davis
(8) @PolkaDancingUnicorn: I don't know what you're talking about; works fine for me ;) - balpha
It seems that has its eye on someone else, and surely its neighbour's grass is greener? ;-)… - Arjan
Needs more rainbow. And cowbell. - Andrew Grimm
I want a pony. Why can't I have a pony? - Warren in Toronto
@Warren: Unicorns are magical weaponized ponies. - Paul Nathan
[+29] [2010-01-31 02:58:29] gnostradamus

Sweet! My blood-red unicorn is stabbing at the rainbow.

alt text

He's hardcore! Well, as hardcore as a unicorn can be.

[+23] [2010-01-28 18:03:39] user27414


jon b unicorn

(13) You just want me to accept this answer, don't you? I'm not that easy. - balpha
(6) @balpha - Yes you are. - Adam Davis
(2) You have a nice fish, you don't need unicorns :) - Daniel Daranas
[+21] [2010-01-28 19:05:57] perbert

I want to see mine, so I can start using it right away.

This needs to go live on April, 1st, along with the new pink CSS background colors.

Even better:

alt text

Here's yours: It's likely going to change in later versions, though. - balpha
@balpha: needed more rainbows - perbert
(2) I want mine too! - Pëkka
(7) Your unicornatar looks dreamy/pensive. - random
Pink background colors??? What is this, Slashdot? :) - DVK
@random Unicornatar? LOL! - nyuszika7h
We detected an invalid link in your post, please correct it. (this message will be automatically removed when the link is fixed) - Community
[+21] [2010-01-31 04:38:31] John Gietzen

You should totally submit this to Gravatar, and see if they will add it as an option!

[+18] [2010-02-03 11:27:43] Felix

Mine is a ninja unicorn. Or a ninjacorn. Notice how it's camouflaged!!


+1 for ninjacorn! :) - nyuszika7h
[+17] [2010-01-28 18:40:20] Adam Davis

Needs more googly eyes.

Yay! My very own unicorn!

alt text

I was disappointed earlier to find that the same wasn't done for SO, and this morning I find that you've got one up that does it dynamically!

Now I can see what my SO unicorn would be (since I use different avatars on SO and Meta, of course):

alt text

I'd have to say that's even a bit better than my metacorn.

[+16] [2010-01-28 18:53:33] Jay Riggs

Needs more legs.

Behold, legs on my unicorn!

alt text

My unicorn appears to have anger issues with rainbows.

[+13] [2010-01-30 20:01:55] perbert

There is one missing.


We detected an invalid link in your post, please correct it. (this message will be automatically removed when the link is fixed) - Community
Now what invalid link is there? Community hides in shame - Qantas 94 Heavy
[+13] [2010-02-03 12:14:48] Arjan

Some sites use things like -- at least the homepage of [1] itself does. The following change handles that, also ignoring the case:

replace(/\w*\.gravatar\.com/i, ''

And now that [2] is a true web site, maybe add the Greasemonkey thingy there as well? And, here's a bookmarklet:

function loadJQuery(onload){
  if(typeof jQuery != 'undefined'){
    var h = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0],
      s = document.createElement('script'),
      loaded = false;
    s.type = 'text/javascript';
    s.src = '';
    s.onload = s.onreadystatechange = function(){
        && (!this.readyState || this.readyState == 'loaded'
             || this.readyState == 'complete')
        loaded = true;

    $jq = jQuery.noConflict();
        return this.src.replace(/\w*\.gravatar\.com/i, '');


<a href="javascript:(function(){function%20loadJQuery(onload){if(typeof%20jQuery!='undefined'){onload();}else{var%20h=document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0],s=document.createElement('script'),loaded=false;s.type='text/javascript';s.src='';s.onload=s.onreadystatechange=function(){if(!loaded&&(!this.readyState||this.readyState=='loaded'||this.readyState=='complete')){loaded=true; onload();}};h.appendChild(s);}}loadJQuery(function(){$jq=jQuery.noConflict();$jq('img').attr('src',function(){return%20this.src.replace(/\w*\.gravatar\.com/i,'');})})})()">Unicornify this page</a>

One could also use tricks like used by The Printliminator [3], to fetch both jQuery and another script (with a dummy URL parameter to enforce fetching the latest version each time) to run the actual jQuery replacements as well. That way, you can change the latter when needed.

(But that Printliminator bookmarklet seems to load jQuery no matter what, which I guess could yield problems when mixing versions? Also, using function() rather than void(..) seems easier after all, so forget my earlier comment on that.)


Great! I'll put that on the homepage later on. - balpha
@balpha, thanks for the credits at, but no need for that at all! - Arjan
Unless you explicitly say you want not to get credit, you're getting it. Hey, it's the first time someone wrote a "plugin" for a program I wrote. I've got to brag a little :) - balpha
Also, you where pretty quick to notice -- 17 minutes between deployment and your comment :-) - balpha
[+10] [2010-02-01 03:01:14] dmckee

Bug-eyed, the same color as glow in the dark stickers, every bit as shapely as a gummi bear, and seriously hung up on that rainbow.

alt text

Just horrible.

Add my vote for the 20100401 application date.

(1) +1 for "every bit as shapely as a gummi bear". -1 for supporting the april fools' nonsense. :-/ - quack quixote
[+10] [2010-02-02 17:57:48] Toymakerii


If I had 15 rep I would vote you up.

(1) waaa hoooo!!!! you are upped sir! - Toymakerii
[+9] [2010-01-29 11:54:48] Nadia

Stupidly cute, I love them!

Here is a ponycorn:


hashed unicorn

(11) That pony looks like it's tripping. - random
(3) @random, even better ;) - Nadia
[+9] [2010-02-01 17:48:40] Troggy

Mine looks like it has the sad puppy eyes.

alt text

[+9] [2010-02-03 08:36:34] Ric Tokyo

alt text

I think you could start a new religion with this, at least something like a zodiac style future prediction thing. I think mine says I'm romantic and I will be lucky in finding a new job this year.

Good job.

[+8] [2010-02-01 01:12:08] Jon Seigel

I think mine is on fire.

alt text

[+8] [2010-02-01 18:29:45] rob

Something appears to be wrong with mine.

alt text

(11) Sure, his neck is a little thick, but that's what makes him special. Embrace your mildly deformed unicorn. Love him. - Jay Riggs
(9) @Jay Riggs - I was a bit more concerned about the eye that is floating off into space. - rob
(10) Your unicorn rides to school on the same bus as mine. A very short bus. - dmckee
Could it have jaundice? - Andrew Grimm
[+8] [2010-02-02 03:04:16] Heather

Aww, mine is far away.

alt text

[+8] [2010-02-02 17:36:46] Chichiray

alt text

Oh, I'm purple..

Hmm.. Looks a bit stoned/drugged out of eyes.

(5) You think yours looks stoned? Look at Jeff Atwood's one! - Pëkka
[+8] [2010-02-04 03:36:17] RedBlueThing

He liked being purple, but the other unicorns made him feel inadequate.

alt text

[+7] [2010-02-03 10:22:16] marcgg

My life finally has a purpose

alt text

(4) that's a small horn you've got there - Spoike
[+5] [2010-01-29 15:21:10] AJ.

Get off my gravatar!!!

Aahhhhh! You new one is purple!… - dmckee
[+5] [2010-02-03 02:41:13] Igor Zevaka

My spaced out hippy unicorn:

This is way fun. Unicornatars in Wordpress blog:

You need to add support for 48px for them to work out of the box-ish :))

Awesome! I have added 48 to the allowed sizes. - balpha
Sick, no more blurriness :)) - Igor Zevaka
[+5] [2010-02-08 14:10:54] Mathias Bynens

Favelet / Bookmarklet to quickly view a Unicornified™ Gravatar based on its MD5 hash: (view for draggable link)

javascript:(function(){var%20q=prompt('Gravatar MD5 hash:');if(q){document.location=''+q.replace(/%20/g,'').replace(/@/g,'')+'?s=128';}})();

Here’s mine:

My normal Gravatar My Unicornified™ Gravatar

(1) Are you expecting spaces in MD5 hashes...? - Arjan
Cool, thanks. will even generate the hash for you, if you happen not to have it at hand. - balpha
Arjan van Bentem: Nope. That’s exactly why I am removing them :) I expect people to copy/paste the hashes from I-don’t-know-where, and figured it would be better to remove spaces. - Mathias Bynens
(1) Aha, you're removing them now indeed. ;-) (But the version at JSBin still yields plus-characters. By the way: note that using the at-sign like in @Arjan will give a notification; see - Arjan
[+4] [2010-02-01 17:27:21] John Rudy

Frickin' awesome.

John Rudy's

I wish you had a tail. - Jay Riggs
Looks like none of the full-body ones have tails. - John Rudy
They're all full-body.The camera just doesn't show it all. And yes, they don't have tails yet. - balpha
This is where it goes too far, haha. This is great. April Fool's Joke for sure. - dmanexe
[+4] [2010-02-03 08:02:41] Marc Gravell

Me (primary e-mail)

Me (secondary e-mail)

I could learn to live with it ;-p Fantastic work.

For anyone wanting to swap gravatars; note that the gravatar caching means that changing the image against your gravatar is slow to take effect. Adding a second e-mail address and associating that with a second image is much more effective. Then all you have to do is change you e-mail address (easy) and you have an immediate update. For many e-mail providers (gmail in particular) you can use the + trick to get additional working e-mail addresses - i.e. if your r e-mail address is, you can use (for example).

that explains why your gravatar is different from the unicorn belonging to your gravatar hash :) - balpha
@balpha yes, the one I've posted is for my primary email. - Marc Gravell
[+4] [2010-02-03 12:50:49] Michael Stum

Awesome, mine looks like a nightmarish unicorn from hell :) Now if it only could breath fire...

alt text

[+4] [2010-02-03 14:34:30] scunliffe

A Classic... and April is still like 2 months away!

My little pwn3y (er.. unicorn)

Just like Skittles... Touch the rainbow!

alt text

[+4] [2010-02-09 14:11:55] Cornify

Love it, love it, love it! This is pure amazing! Can I showcase these unicorn avatars on

Sparkles and rainbow hugs to you!

(1) Thanks! Sure you can -- I'd be honored! Let's just hope the Unicornify App Engine quotas survive the Cornify crowds :) - balpha
[+3] [2010-01-31 23:00:48] Alconja

Edit: @balpha - these are awesome btw.

One suggestion though... since you've gone to the trouble of adding a mane & legs, maybe give them a tail (same colour as the main, except a bit bigger & getting thicker towards the end)?

Also, because I think it's appropriate, I've added your greasemonkey script snippet to my Cornify button script [1], so now cornifying will unicornify the gravatar for the relevant question/answer too.

Damn it, my rainbow & unicorn hating workplace is blocking (a conspiracy to be sure).

Now I'm going to have to painstakingly type in my gravatar md5 hash into my mobile phone so I can see mine.

alconja's unicorn


(1) Hopefully imgur isn't blocked for you. - random
@random You're my hero. I must admit, after I typed it in on my phone, I realised... what if I mistyped something? One character wrong & it could be someone else's unicorn I was admiring. I felt like I was cheating. :P - Alconja
re your edit: Thanks :) Yes, tails are definitely on the list for the next version. - balpha
[+3] [2010-02-02 19:16:22] Sean Vieira

HMS Unicorn landing!

Awesome @balpha, thanks! - Sean Vieira
[+3] [2010-02-09 13:44:20] Jake McGraw

My Unicorn

Man, look at the size of that horn.

[+3] [2010-03-22 18:48:49] jmfsg

I love mine! Too bad you can't add it dynamically as a picture

alt text

"Too bad you can't add it dynamically as a picture" -- what do you mean by that? - balpha
@balpha, that I want to add the URL and if you deploy a new version it will be updated (ie: I don't want to add the image to Gravatar) - jmfsg
Ah, understood. Although the current version hasn't been changed for while. BTW, are you seriously telling me the whole unicorn business went by you unnoticed until today? - balpha
@balpha, nope, but it's reaaaaaally slow at work today. - jmfsg
[+3] [2010-03-27 09:51:56] Pascal Thivent

My unicorn is a punk:

alt text

[+2] [2010-02-16 22:02:51] mafutrct

alt text

I find mine awesome <3
Thanks balpha, you rock!

[+2] [2010-04-01 19:56:35] Otto

Wish I'd known earlier. I could have had a WordPress plugin for it out on April 1st.

Plugin will be available soon, I've already got the application in the repository.

Plugin is now in the WordPress repository. Just search for "Unicornify". - Otto
[+1] [2010-01-31 16:42:07] Jared Harley

Now to patiently wait for caches to clean out so I can be unicornified!

Mine's leaping

[+1] [2010-03-31 22:46:04] David Murdoch

next stackoverflow ad:

Do you have a problem with premature implementation? Wish you could satisfy your users but always release too early? We do to.

[+1] [2010-04-01 11:42:04] wbogacz

Ok, so earlier I was thinking these were screencaps:

From the mygotits full of unicorns: I'm thinking they're character screencaps from 'The Last Unicorn', or something similar. they're not exact; it might be some KMart/WalMart Direct-to-DVD thing. Don't forget that Jeff's child would be of that age.

Looks like I had that wrong.

Interesting, but I won't be keeping mine.

[0] [2014-04-02 09:27:04] TheAlbear

Now I love my unicorn..

enter image description here

But is there away to get a DOUBLE rainbow!!!!

Unicorns need double rainbows!!!!