six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

Favicons in Safari tabs

A Safari mock-up featuring Pinned Tabs icons (top) and Chrome today.

John Gruber wrote about supporting favicons in Safari tabs the other day, and he makes some good points. I am not a tab-oriented person—it’s rare I have more than a handful of tabs open at once, especially on macOS. But I can see how, with large number of tabs, Chrome keeps scannability by including a site’s favicon on each tab.

If I had to guess why Safari doesn’t support favicons in tabs, I’d say that Apple’s designers probably think most favicons are ugly and contribute to visual clutter. It’s probably why Apple came up with its own SVG-based spec for the Pinned Tabs feature it added to Safari in 2015. Every site has favicons, but Apple chose not to use them—and instead had web developers generate new vector-based site logos for use with this single Safari feature.

(I like Pinned Tabs, and use them all the time, but isn’t it strange that Apple never implemented them on iOS? I have duplicates of several toolbar bookmarks because on iOS, it’s like the Pinned Tabs I have on my Mac simply don’t exist.)

Anyway. this makes me wonder why Apple hasn’t used that new vector icon anywhere but in Pinned Tabs1. Tabs adorned with vector silhouettes would seem to be much less cluttery than a tab bar full of square icons of various colors and qualities. And it would be a very Apple-like move to introduce “icons in tabs”—only to use a format it defined2 rather than the one that pretty much every site has used forever.

If you’re wondering what that might look like, look at the top of this story. It doesn’t look half bad—and fits a bit better with Apple’s design approach.

(Update: John Gruber says no!)


  1. They do appear… in the Touch Bar, tied to Toolbar Favorites. Which is weird. ↩

  2. If a site doesn’t have a Pinned Tabs icon, Safari displays a rounded rectangle containing the first letter of the site, and (when active) uses the dominant color on the site as an accent color.  ↩