Default profile pics

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Sep 15, 2009, 7:38:53 AM9/15/09
to Twitter Development Talk
I notice today that Twitter has created a new default profile pic;

Great. That's broken some of my algorithms on
(identifying re-used images)
I can fix that. I'll just add the new MD5 to my app config.

But, wait. Did I spot some different colours?
Yes, that example is only one; e.g.2:

a. Can Twitter tell use how many there are of these?
b. How about a user object property "profile_image_default" (true|
false) ?
c. How about Twitter start notifying the developer community of

Adam Cloud

Sep 15, 2009, 11:52:47 AM9/15/09
This is a pretty hostile worded email for someone who is asking for help for a problem that isn't necessarily directly related to the API.

Just saying...

John Kalucki

Sep 15, 2009, 12:00:56 PM9/15/09
to Twitter Development Talk

Twitter deploys dozens of code branches each week, most of which
probably contains at least a few user visible changes. The changelog
is difficult enough to follow internally. Externally, it would be
hopeless. Notifying on each and every change isn't a tractable

Although there is still room for improvement, the Platform team is
committed to notifying on functionality change in the API.

-John Kalucki
Services, Twitter Inc.

On Sep 15, 4:38 am, timwhitlock <>

Jim Renkel

Sep 15, 2009, 12:44:42 PM9/15/09
Factoid, FWIW: so far, I've found 7:

where 0<=x<=6.

Jim Renkel

Jesse Stay

Sep 15, 2009, 12:44:44 PM9/15/09
I don't think it sounded hostile, and it sounded to me like he was proposing it be part of the API, which I agree.  That would be pretty useful information, especially in a constantly changing environment.


Alex Payne

Sep 15, 2009, 1:59:32 PM9/15/09

We specify full URLs to images so that developers don't have to supply
custom code to pull in profile images and background images. It sounds
like you have a pretty unusual use case for our profile images.

For what it's worth, I think we deployed six variations of those
images, but our front end team may deploy more at any time. Similarly,
they may change up the default profile colors and such. That's out of
the control of our team.

Alex Payne - Platform Lead, Twitter, Inc.

Scott Haneda

Sep 15, 2009, 2:17:51 PM9/15/09
to, Twitter Development Talk
I have not looked at this so this is mostly curiosity.

Why use md5 on a moving target? Who knows when someone may resave an
image to compress it more.

I bet 1% compression savings translates to thousands of dollars over
short time.

Isn't the path relatively static?


Maybe you can use the file path?

Do user profile images mantain the same trailing path as the default

Maybe then a 2x daily script that uses curl with regex support to find
if any images up to a point 404. Looks like you have 5-6 known cases.

If you hit a 404 alert yourself, investigate, and make adjustments.

It sounds to me like those images are in control of designers not
developers so I would consider those images hostile at all times.

I agree, has_updated_profile_image would be good for the API. As it is
now, someone could upload a profile pic of the default, and it would
appear as not being updated, when in fact it has.
Iphone says hello.

On Sep 15, 2009, at 4:38 AM, timwhitlock


Sep 19, 2009, 2:37:40 PM9/19/09
to Twitter Development Talk
Thanks all.
Yes, MD5 is unreliable. But it has proven effective in identifying
1,000s of duplicate profile images in spam accounts before a single
byte change throws the checksums off. Looking at the path is certainly
an option, but I was worried that these may change suddenly without
warning. I'll look into it.

My original post is worded aggressively because the Twitter platform*
is consistently letting down people who have chosen to base their
projects on it. I would dare say I was pretty annoyed at time of

* Platform: I refer to not just the API, but everything that makes the
service what it is.
Facebook have managed for years to keep the community informed of
incremental changes. I would consider the addition of 6 new default
profile pics to be a significant enough feature to warrant a short
blog post or some other kind of heads up.

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