What is a favicon?

Posted on January 20, 2020

 

The news that Google is to change how it displays search results and ads on desktop machines has brought a word back into the techie lexicon that had gone a little out of fashion in recent times.

A look on Google Trends shows that search volume for the word ‘favicon’ has gone pretty steadily downwards since 2015, reaching its lowest point of the last five years only a few weeks ago, but what is a favicon?

You probably already know what it is, even if you didn’t know what it was called. ‘Favicon’ is short for ‘favourite icon’, although the stress is on the first syllable, which is pronounced ‘fav’ rather than ‘fave’. It’s the name given to small icons often displayed next to the name of a website.

Below are some examples of favicons taken from my browsing history – the W for Wikipedia, the world for Ecosia, the arrow for Google Trends and the ‘px’ for Pixabay.

These miniature graphics were once almost inseparable from their website, but have suffered a slight decline in the last few years. A table shows that Firefox and Opera have phased out showing favicons in the address bar in the most recent version of their browsers, while Google Chrome has never done so, and nor has Microsoft since its move from Internet Explorer to Edge. Chrome and Opera don’t even display them in the address bar’s dropdown box of recently visited URLs, although all major browsers still use them for bookmarks and tabs.

These browsers may need to rethink their strategies however, now that Google has revealed that favicons will be playing a more important role in displaying results. Since they will be the main distinguishing point between an organic search result and a paid ad, it will be food for thought for website owners who might previously not have given much consideration to favicons, while Google users may want to train their eyes to recognise the new ‘Ad’ indicator, which early reactions suggest is not a hit with everybody.

At Engage Web, we believe it’s important not to throw around terms like ‘favicon’ without being sure that our clients understand what they mean. Adopting the mantra of “Our Industry, Your Language”, speak to us for jargon-free web design and content marketing.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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  • Casey Jamieson says:

    Very interesting.

    I thought the term “favicon” was becoming more popular in recent times, but I suppose I was wrong.

    With companies, freelancers, bloggers, and many others making their own websites, there have been more web designers than ever before. I assumed that an increase in web designers would have increased the number of searches for the term “favicon”. I mean, they are pretty important in my opinion; as many people have said before, a picture can speak a thousand words.

    I often pay more attention to the icon next to the name of the website, to be fair. Favicons are literally the only things shown once you have more tabs than your screen can handle, too. It’s more practical to rely on the picture next to the website’s name than it is to read the names themselves.

    Well, that’s how I see it. The statistics don’t lie, though, even if they do baffle me.

  • […] Set up a favicon. A site without a favicon can slip under the radar. It takes minutes to set up and aids your site in how it displays in the […]

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