The latest version of Apple’s Safari browser that ships with macOS 10.14 Mojave brings back the long-awaited favicons to help visually distinguish between multiple open tabs. What’s more, favicons are available for the first time on iPhone and iPad thanks to iOS 12.
What are favicons?
Favicons are small icons that website creators provide for branding purposes. Many browsers make use of them to help visually distinguish tabs, bookmarks, page titles and more.
Favicons are especially useful to users who tend to pin their most-commonly used tabs, which removes a page’s title from its tab. As doing so shrinks the tab dramatically, the only way to visually distinguish between multiple pinned tabs is favicons.
Apple has inexplicably pulled favicons from macOS Sierra and High Sierra although Safari has supported them up to macOS El Capitan. The Cupertino company has confirmed on its developer website and the macOS Mojave Preview page that favicons are back in Safari 12.
Examples of Safari favicons
On iPhone and iPad, favicons are only displayed in tabs.
On your Mac, favicons are used in tabs, window titles, your bookmarks and in the URL bar. Because Safari on iPhone limits the tab bar to landscape mode, you will need to turn your device upside down in order to see website icons across your open tabs.
Here are a few examples of Safari 12 with and without favicons.
Safari 12 on iPhone, with favicons turned on
Safari 12 on iPhone, with favicons turned off
Safari 12 on iPad, with favicons enabled
Safari 12 on iPad, with favicons disabled
Safari 12 on Mac, with favicons
Safari 12 on Mac, without favicons
How to enable favicons in Safari
Favicons are off by default.
To manually enable favicon support in Safari, be sure to read our step-by-step tutorial detailing how to enable favicons in Safari or follow the instructions included further below.
iPhone and iPad
1) Open the Settings app on your iOS 12 device.
2) Tap Safari on the list.
3) Slide the button labeled Show Icons in Tabs to the OFF position.
From now on, Safari will display website icons in any open tabs.
As for your iPhone and iPod touch, the Safari tab bar is limited to landscape mode, meaning you won’t see favicons in portrait orientation.
On iPad, the tab bar is visible in any orientation.
1) Launch System Preferences on your Mac with macOS Mojave.
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”.
You can now identify all your open websites with just a glance.
John Gruber will be happy
Daring Fireballs’ John Gruber is the most vocal proponent of Safari favicons.
Last year, he penned an opinion piece offering a strong critique of Apple’s decision to remove favicon support from earlier macOS editions, here’s a relevant excerpt.
But really, taken as a whole, the response to my piece was about one thing and one thing only: the fact that Safari does not show favicons on tabs and Chrome does. There are a huge number of Daring Fireball readers who use Chrome because it shows favicons on tabs and would switch to Safari if it did.
The reaction was so overwhelming I almost couldn’t believe it.
The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when 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; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs.
I would love to hear Apple’s reasoning for not rendering favicons in Safari’s tabs before.
Favicons in tabs!
— John Gruber (@gruber) June 4, 2018
What about older macOS versions?
Safari 12 ships with iOS 12 and macOS 10.14. The browser is also available for older macOS editions, like macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 and macOS Sierra 10.12.6. In other words, Sierra and High Sierra users who might not necessarily upgrade to macOS Mojave immediately when it releases this fall will still be able to take advantage of the tremendously helpful favicon feature.
Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have long supported favicons. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer files as the first major web browser that implemented favicon support as far back as 1999.
Are you glad that Safari favicons are back?
If you like Safari due to its speed and energy efficiency but dislike the fact that it hasn’t supported favicons for easy tab identification for years, then you should definitely check out the iOS 12 and macOS Mojave software updates when they release publicly this fall.
Are you glad that favicons are back in Safari 12?
Let us know down in the comment section.