Favicon

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A favicon /ˈfævɪkɒn/ (short for Favorite icon), also known as a shortcut icon, Web site icon, tab icon or bookmark icon, is a file containing one or more[1] small icons, most commonly 16×16 pixels, associated with a particular Web site or Web page.[1][2] A web designer can create such an icon and install it into a Web site (or Web page) by several means, and graphical web browsers will then make use of it.[3] Browsers that provide favicon support typically display a page's favicon in the browser's address bar (sometimes in the history as well) and next to the page's name in a list of bookmarks.[3] Browsers that support a tabbed document interface typically show a page's favicon next to the page's title on the tab, and site-specific browsers use the favicon as a desktop icon.[1]

Wikipedia's favicon, shown in an older version of Firefox (from 2008).

History[edit]

In March 1999, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5, which supported favicons for the first time.[4] Originally, the favicon was a file called favicon.ico placed in the root directory (e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/favicon.ico) of a web site. It was used in Internet Explorer's favorites (bookmarks) and next to the URL in the address bar if the page was bookmarked.[5][6][7][4] A side effect was that the number of visitors who have bookmarked the page could be estimated by the requests of the favicon. This side effect no longer works, as all modern browsers support the favicon without bookmarking.[6]

Standardization[edit]

The favicon was standardized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the HTML 4.01 recommendation, released in December 1999, and later in the XHTML 1.0 recommendation, released in January 2000.[8][9] The standard implementation uses a link element with a rel attribute in the <head> section of the document to specify the file format and file name and location. Unlike in the prior scheme, the file can be in any Web site directory and have any image file format.[10][11]

In 2003, the .ico format was registered with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) under the MIME type image/vnd.microsoft.icon.[12] Ironically, when using the .ico format to display as images (e.g. not as favicon), Internet Explorer cannot display files served with this standardized MIME type. A workaround for Internet Explorer is to associate .ico with the non-standard image/x-icon MIME type in Web servers.[13]

RFC 5988 established an IANA link relation registry,[14] and rel="icon" was registered in 2010 based on the HTML5 specification. The popular <link rel="shortcut icon" type="image/x-icon" href="favicon.ico" /> theoretically identifies two relations, "shortcut" and "icon", but "shortcut" is not registered and is redundant. In 2011 the HTML living standard[15] specified that for historical reasons "shortcut" is allowed immediately before "icon";[16] however, "shortcut" does not have a meaning in this context.

Legacy[edit]

Internet Explorer 5-10 supports only the ICO file format. Netscape 7 and Internet Explorer versions 5 and 6 browsers display the favicon only when the page is bookmarked, and not simply when the page is visited as in later browsers.[4]

Browser implementation[edit]

The following table illustrates major web browsers supporting different features. The version numbers indicate the starting version of a supported feature.

File format support[edit]

The following table illustrates the image file format support for the favicon.

BrowserICOPNGGIFanimated GIFsJPEGAPNGSVG
Firefox1.0[17]1.0[17]1.0[17]Yes[18]Yes3.0[18]No[19]
Google ChromeYesYes4.04.04.0No?
Internet Explorer5.0[20]11.0[21]11.0[21]No[20]No[20]No[20]No[20]
Opera7.0[22]7.0[22]7.0[22]7.0[22]7.0[22]9.5?
SafariYes4.04.0No4.0NoNo

Additionally, such icon files can be 16×16, 32×32, 48×48, or 64×64 pixels in size, and 8-bit, 24-bit, or 32-bit in color depth.[1][3] The ICO file format article explains the details for icons with more than 256 colors on various Microsoft Windows platforms.

Use of favicon[edit]

This table illustrates the different possibilities where favicons can be displayed.

BrowserAddress barAddress bar drop down listLinks barBookmarksTabsDrag to desktop
Firefox1.0–12.0: Yes[23]
> v13: No[24]
YesYesYes[23]Yes[23]Yes[23]
Google ChromeNo[23]NoYes[23]Yes[23]1.0[23]1.0[25]
Internet Explorer7.0[23]No5.0[23]5.0[23]7.0[23]5.0[23]
Opera7.0[23]No7.0[23]7.0[23]7.0[23]7.0[23]
SafariYes[23]NoNo[23]Yes[23]No[23]No[23]
Wikipedia's favicon, shown in Opera


Opera Software added the ability to change the favicon in the Speed Dial in Opera 10.[26]

How to use[edit]

This table illustrates the different ways the favicon can be recognized by the web browser.

Google ChromeInternet ExplorerFirefoxOperaSafari
 <link rel="shortcut icon"  href="http://example.com/myicon.ico" /> 
Yes[4]Yes[4][20]Yes[4]Yes[4]Yes
 <link rel="icon"  href="http://example.com/image.ico" /> 
YesYes (from IE 11)[21]YesYesYes
 <link rel="icon"  type="image/vnd.microsoft.icon"  href="http://example.com/image.ico" /> 
YesYes (from IE 9)[21]YesYesYes
 <link rel="icon" type="image/png"  href="http://example.com/image.png" /> 
YesYes (from IE 11)[21]YesYesYes
 <link rel="icon" type="image/gif"  href="http://example.com/image.gif" /> 
YesYes (from IE 11)[21]YesYesYes
 <link rel="icon" type="image/x-icon" href="http://example.com/image.ico"/> 
Yes[4]Yes (from IE 9)[27]Yes[4]Yes[4]Yes
favicon.ico located in the website's rootYesYesOptional[28]Optional[29]Yes
precedence: prefer root or (X)HTML linked versionlinked[23]linked[23]linked[23]??

If links for both PNG and ICO favicons are present, PNG-favicon-compatible browsers select which format and size to use as follows. Firefox and Safari will use the favicon that comes last. Chrome for Mac will use whichever favicon is ICO formatted, otherwise the 32×32 favicon. Chrome for Windows will use the favicon that comes first if it is 16×16, otherwise the ICO. If none of the aforementioned options are available, both Chromes will use whichever favicon comes first, exactly the opposite of Firefox and Safari. Indeed, Chrome for Mac will ignore the 16×16 favicon and use the 32×32 version if only to scale it back down to 16×16 on non-retina devices. Opera will choose from any of the available icons completely at random.[30]

Only SeaMonkey doesn’t fetch favicon.ico files in the web site’s root by default.[31]

Device support[edit]

For Apple devices with the iOS operating system version 1.1.3 or later, such as the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad, as well as some Android devices,[32] it is possible to provide a custom icon that users can display on their Home screens using the Web Clip feature (called Add to Home Screen within Mobile Safari).[33][34] This feature is enabled by supplying a <link rel="apple-touch-icon" ...> in the <head> section of documents served by the web site. If the custom icon is not provided, a thumbnail of the web page will be put on the home screen instead.[35]

The recommended basic size for this icon is 60×60 pixels; for best display on the higher-resolution iPhone 4 screen, an icon size of 120×120 pixels is recommended.[34][36][37]

For the iPad and iPad 2, the basic size is 76×76 pixels. For the third-generation iPad, the high-resolution size would be 152×152 pixels.[38]

The icon file referenced by apple-touch-icon is modified to add rounded corners, drop shadow, and reflective shine.[34] Alternatively, an apple-touch-icon-precomposed icon may be provided to instruct devices not to apply reflective shine on the image.[34][35]

With rounded corners, reflective shine
 <link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="somepath/image.png" /> 
Without reflective shine
 <link rel="apple-touch-icon-precomposed" href="somepath/image.png" /> 

As in case of favicon.ico file, browsers and mobile devices do not require any HTML to retrieve these icons.[35] Default location for the files are apple-touch-icon-precomposed.png and apple-touch-icon.png (in order of priority) located in the web site's root.[34][35]

HTML5 recommendation for icons in multiple sizes[edit]

The current HTML5 specification recommends specifying size icons in multiple sizes using the attributes rel="icon" sizes="space-separated list of icon dimensions" within a <link> tag.[39] Multiple icon formats, including container formats such as Microsoft .ico and Macintosh .icns files, as well as Scalable Vector Graphics may be provided by including the icon's content type in the form of type="file content-type" within the <link> tag.

Apple mobile devices running iOS 5 and above ignore the HTML5 recommendation and use the proprietary apple-touch-icon method detailed above. The Google Chrome web browser however, will select the closest matching size from those provided in the HTML headers to create 128×128 pixel application icons when the user chooses the Create application shortcuts... from the "Tools" menu.

Limitations and criticism[edit]

Due to the need to always check for it in a fixed location, the favicon can lead to artificially slow page-load time and garbage 404 entries in the server log if it is nonexistent.[6]

The W3C did not standardize the rel-attribute, so there are other key words such as shortcut icon that are also accepted by the user agent.[11][20]

Favicons are often manipulated as part of phishing or eavesdropping attacks against HTTPS webpages. Many web browsers display favicons near areas of the web browser's UI, such as the address bar, that are used to convey whether the connection to a website is using a secure protocol like SSL. By changing the favicon to a familiar padlock image an attacker can attempt to trick the user into thinking he or she is securely connected to the proper website. Automated man-in-the-middle attack tools such as SSLStrip utilize this trick.[40] In order to eliminate this, some web browsers display the favicon within the tab whilst displaying the security status of the protocol used to access the website beside the URL.[41]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Lane, Dave (9 August 2008). "Creating a multi-resolution favicon including transparency with the GIMP". egressive.com. Retrieved 25 February 2011. [dead link]
  2. ^ "What's with Google's new mini icon?". BBC. 20 January 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2011. "That 16x16 pixel square is the size of the favicon in question, if not the scope." 
  3. ^ a b c Apple, Jennifer. "Favicon — How To Create A Favicon.ico". Photoshopsupport.com. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "How to Add a Shortcut Icon to a Web Page". Microsoft Developer Network. Microsoft. Retrieved 15 March 2010. 
  5. ^ McGrew, Darin (26 April 2007). "Web Authoring FAQ – 8.11. How can I have a custom icon when people bookmark my site?". htmlhelp.com. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Heng, Christopher (7 September 2008). "What is Favicon.ico? Personalise Your Site's Bookmarks". thesitewizard.com. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Creating favicons with Adobe Photoshop and GoLive". Adobe GoLive. Archived from the original on 7 December 2003. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "HTML 4.01 Specification". World Wide Web Consortium. 24 December 1999. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  9. ^ "XHTML™ 1.0: The Extensible HyperText Markup Language". World Wide Web Consortium. 26 January 2000. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  10. ^ Dubost, Karl (October 2005). "Web site meta data profile: favicon, ...". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Dubost, Karl (24 October 2005). "How to Add a Favicon to your Site". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Butcher, Simon (3 September 2003). "Published specification". Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  13. ^ Irish, Paul (15 December 2010). "commit 37b5fec090d00f38de64 to paulirish's html5-boilerplate". GitHub. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  14. ^ "Link Relations". IANA. 
  15. ^ Ian Hickson (19 January 2011). "HTML is the new HTML5". The WHATWG Blog. WHATWG. 
  16. ^ "HTML5 revision r6404". HTML5 Tracker. 
  17. ^ a b c David (19 July 2003). "Mozilla 0.9.6 Release Notes". Mozilla. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Bug 111373: don't allow animated site icons (favicons)". Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  19. ^ Works only on first load of the page.
    Daniel Holbert (14 April 2011). "Bug 366324 – SVG site icons (favicons, shortcut icons) support – comment 22". Bugzilla@Mozilla. Mozilla. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g Davis, Jeff (27 December 2007). "why doesn't the favicon for my site appear in IE7?". jeffdav on code. Microsoft. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f "Fun with Favicons". Microsoft. 7 September 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  22. ^ a b c d e "Opera 7 for Windows Changelog". Opera Software. 28 January 2003. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Francis, Lewis (11 December 2007). "Chart of modern browser support for favicon". informationgift.com. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  24. ^ "Firefox deems favicons risky, banishes them from address bar". Engadget. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  25. ^ "Create Application Shortcuts". Google. 22 March 2013. 
  26. ^ "Opera 10.0 beta 2 for Windows changelog". Opera Software. 16 July 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  27. ^ "IE9 RC Minor Changes List". Microsoft. 11 February 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  28. ^ Firefox only accepts favicon.ico in the web site's root without a <link> tag if the setting browser.chrome.favicons is set to true in about:config. The default value is true. If set to false, these favicons are ignored.
  29. ^ Opera loads /favicon.ico only if Multimedia/Always load favicon option in opera:config is set to 1. See Opera Support page for more details.
  30. ^ Jonathan T. Neal (16 January 2013). "Understand the Favicon". Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  31. ^ Mathias Bynens (14 April 2010). "rel="shortcut icon" considered harmful". Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  32. ^ Mathias Bynens (2 March 2011). "Everything you always wanted to know about touch icons". Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  33. ^ "iPhone Human Interface Guidelines for Web Applications: Metrics, Layout Guidelines, and Tips". Apple Inc. Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  34. ^ a b c d e "Safari Web Content Guide: Specifying a Webpage Icon for Web Clip". Apple Inc. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  35. ^ a b c d McLellan, Drew (17 January 2008). "How To Set an Apple Touch Icon for Any Site". Allinthe head.com. Retrieved 11 March 2011. 
  36. ^ "iOS Human Interface Guidelines: Custom Icon and Image Creation Guidelines, Table 8-1". Apple Inc. Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
  37. ^ "Apple-touch-icon". Apple Inc. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  38. ^ "iPad Apple Touch Icon". Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  39. ^ "W3C HTML5 Editor's Draft 26 June 2012, Section 4.12.4.5 'Link type "icon"'". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  40. ^ Marlinspike, Moxie (21 February 2011). "Defeating Ssl Using Sslstrip (Marlinspike Blackhat)". (see description of video). SecurityTube. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  41. ^ "Firefox version 14 features". Retrieved 18 July 2012. 

External links[edit]