How to display website favicons in Safari

Website favicons have been with us for nearly as long as the web itself. And for all of that time most web browsers have displayed them when you arrive at a site, except for Safari. Until now. Although they’re not visible by default, you can make Safari show favicons. We’ll show you how.

What is a favicon?

The word favicon is a portmanteau of favourite and icon and is a way for website owners to specify. the visual identity of their website. In early browsers, favicons were displayed at the left edge of the address bar. But as smart search bars replaced address bars and browsers gained support for tabs, favicons moved to the left of the tab heading. 

Favicons are a useful visual aid to help you identify quickly which tab you want to navigate to when you have lots of tabs open. It’s much easier and quicker to identify a site from an image than a text description.

Why are favicons not displayed in Safari?

Good question! Early versions of Safari didn’t display favicons at all. At least now, you can switch them on. It may be that Apple considered them unnecessary – odd for a company so focused on design and communication. Or, more likely, that it felt favicons – which are often created in gaudy colors and poorly rendered – detracted from Safari’s visual aesthetic. 

How do I display website favicons in Safari?

  1. Launch Safari.
  2. Click on the Safari menu and choose Preferences.
  3. Choose Tabs.
  4. Check the box next to Show website icons in tabs
  5. Close Preferences.

You should now see favicons displayed on the left hand side of all open tabs. They also appear in the Favorites bar.

How to hide website favicons in Safari?

If you change your mind on displaying favicons, it’s easy to hide them again.

  1. Launch Safari if it’s not already open.
  2. Go to the Safari menu and choose Preferences.
  3. Click on Tabs.
  4. Uncheck the box next to Show website icons in tabs.
  5. Close Preferences.

There have been concerns that favicons could be a privacy concern, as its possible for websites to use them to detect whether you are logged into to a platform like Google or Facebook. If you’re concerned about online privacy, you’ll be pleased with some of the additions Apple has included in the newer macOS versions, such as making it harder for websites to ‘fingerprint’ you by detecting fonts in Safari. However, there is more you can do to protect your privacy.

Remove extensions you don’t need

Browser extensions are a favourite way for hackers to hijack web browsers. And while hacking Safari in this way is very unusual, you should be diligent about what extensions you install and review them frequently. The easiest way to check what extensions you have installed and to remove any you don’t want is to use CleanMyMac X. Here’s how it works.

  1. Download, install and launch CleanMyMac X.
  2. Choose Extensions from the sidebar on the left.
  3. Click on Safari.
  4. You’ll see a list of all the Safari extensions you currently have installed.
  5. Check the box next to any you want to get rid of.
  6. Press Remove. 

You should also review launch agents , since they are often hidden and may run processes you don’t know about.

  1. In CleanMyMac X, choose Optimization from the sidebar.
  2. Click ‘View all items’
  3. Choose Launch Agents and check the box next to any you want to remove.
  4. Press Remove.

Favicons play an important part in making it easy to visually identify a website just by glancing at an open tab or at your Favorites bar. It’s unclear why Safari was unable to display them for so long, or why Apple has chosen to have them hidden by default now. Fortunately, it’s easy to display them by using the steps above.

One reason Apple may not be keen on favicons, is that they can be a useful tool in intruding on user privacy. Extensions can also be used to compromise privacy, which is why you should be careful what you install and review them regularly using CleanMyMac X. 

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