A favicon is a small graphic that is displayed in the web browser next to the web address. Depending on the choice of web browser it can also be seen in the bookmark list (favorites in Internet Explorer) or next to the web page title. The name favicon is shorthand for ‘favorites icon’.
Despite its small size, the favicon file has several technical requirements. There is a special favicon file format that contains the image in a variety of sizes, usually 16 x 16 pixels, but sometimes 32 x 32 pixels combined into the same file, and larger sizes too. The colour palette is restricted to a maximum of 256 colours.
Early versions of Internet Explorer used favicons for bookmarks but they assumed the file was called favicon.ico. By checking the server access logs it used to be possible to tell how many people bookmarked a web site by seeing how many times the favicon.ico file was downloaded. If the favicon file wasn’t there it meant an error was recorded in the server logs. Later versions of web browsers included support for specifying the location of the file and other graphic file formats such as .gif, .jpg and .png. It was then superseded by another definition that complied to W3C web standards. The original method of counting favicon downloads became redundant when newer browsers requested the file on every visit regardless of whether the page was bookmarked or not.
Including a favicon with our web design requires creating a specially formatted graphic and putting two extra meta tags into each web page. It is a nice extra touch and is recommended for popular web sites.
Last updated: Tuesday, 28th February 2012
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