Favicons shown in Safari running on an iPhone X in landscape mode

Apple’s Safari browser that ships with macOS Mojave revives support for favicons. And thanks to the iOS 12 update, favicons in open tabs are available for the first time on iPhone and iPad.

Favicons are basically website icons.

A web developer would upload a favicon to their website for branding purposes because many popular web browsers use these small images to represent your favorite websites in bookmarks, help you visually distinguish between multiple open tabs and more.

Everyone likes favicons

Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have long supported favicons. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the first major web browser to implement favicon support as far back as in 1999.

Safari for Mac used to show website icons in tabs, but favicon support stopped with OS X El Capitan. Moreover, Safari for iOS devices has never supported favicons.

But now, Apple customers can again enjoy favicons in Safari for iPhone and iPod touch in landscape mode, in Safari for iPad in any orientation and in Safari for Mac.

For people who have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs visually.

And as Daring Fireball’s John Gruber put it succinctly, some folks may prefer to see these website icons even if they don’t have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title.

This handy feature requires Safari 12 for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that ships as part of the iOS 12 software or Safari 12 for Mac that comes with the macOS Mojave update.

How to enable favicons in Safari

Off by default, this feature must be manually toggled on for each device separately.

iPhone and iPad

1) Open the Settings app on your iOS 12 device.

2) Choose Safari from the list.

3) Slide the button labeled Show Icons in Tabs to the ON position.

Safari favicons on iOS 12 must be enabled in Settings → Safari

You can now visually distinguish between websites by their icon in each tab.

Oh, and something to keep in mind when you’re wondering why the heck you’re not seeing favicons in portrait orientation: Safari’s tab bar on iOS shows up in landscape mode only.

Mac

1) Launch System Preferences on your Mac computer with macOS Mojave or newer.

2) Click the Safari menu, then select Preferences.

3) Click the tab labeled Tabs.

4) Tick the box next to “Show website icons in tabs”.

Safari favicons on macOS Mojave must be enabled in Safari preferences

Now you can identify all your open websites with a quick glance at Safari’s tab bar.

Favicons on older Safari versions

Favicons require Safari 12 or newer.

Older macOS editions support favicons up to OS X Yosemite. OS X El Capitan, macOS Sierra and macOS High Sierra do not not support favicons out of the box. As mentioned earlier, Safari for iOS devices has never supported favicons in tabs up until iOS 12.

To enable favicon support on an older macOS edition, be sure to download Safari 12 for macOSHigh Sierra 10.13.6 or Safari 12 for macOS Sierra 10.12.6. Alternatively, grab a special developer version of Safari, called Safari Technology Preview, that supports favicons and gives you an early look at upcoming web technologies in macOS and iOS.

The Faviconographer app's splash screen explaining why it needs to use Apple's Accessibility system

Lastly, specialized third-party apps may bring favicon support to older Safari versions.

One such app, called Faviconographer, adorns your open tabs with website icons but it’s more of a hack than an officially sanctioned solution. As noted in our Faviconographer announcement article and tutorial, given the app’s heavy dependency on polling Safari to locate your open tabs, Faviconographer may stop working at any time.

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