Idea of why Safari team should change its original design and add favicons getting big traction among Daring Fireball users. Jhon Gruber wrote that most of his readers think that Safari team should include favicons in its browser. I have different opinion.

Safari should stay as it is, tabs should not have colourful favicons. Option in Preferences is not a good solution neither. Safari design should not follow common pattern where each browser has favicons in its tabs. It doesn’t have tabs on the top and it shouldn’t have favicons either. Here’s why.

I believe Safari designed to be minimal for multiple good reasons. It’s not hard to include them from technical perspective, this is clear design choice.

Why Safari worse with favicons.

Let’s think why Apple designers decided not to include favicons into Safari. I can speculate on many reasons. First that’s coming into my mind is content. Apple wants us to focus on the material. Colourful icons row is another distraction which gets in our way when we reading article or navigating the page. Aesthetics important here. Safari looks nicer, favicons small and noisy. Favicons look cheap. Safari looks professional, it makes website stand out, it doesn’t compete with its content.

Two main arguments from favicon supporters are:

  1. Favicons help to identify tab quickly, find the right tab without need to click or read.
  2. Favicons allow to fit more recognisable tabs in a single window.

I could agree with first argument, it is harder to find the right tab in Safari. But only when people use Safari like they would use Chrome. I believe Safari was created with different workflow in mind.

Web browser is main research tool for me. My goal finding information and returning into apps. My work starts with new Safari window and search query. Then reading and opening new tabs. When need to go back, not trying to use mouse — using hot key command + shift + { to go back, and command + shift + } to go forward. It feels faster than trying to find the right tab, I can see entire pages. I also use command + 1, 2, 3… to open first, second and third tabs and so on.

At some point I need to find particular tab and that’s when I use View > Show All Tabs, another muscle memory combination: command + shift + \. It also works well with iPad and iPhone. Each tab presented as small preview.

Safari window with 6 tabs visible as small page previews.

Safari tab preview is better representation of web pages and its content, from here we can find the right page and close pages we don’t need.

Okay, let’s imagine I had Chrome, then favicons would not help me, some of tabs are from the same domain, which means I have to use keyboard anyway. When you need to click, you need to read title and Safari even has more space to fit it.

The second argument with many tabs in single window is also not a problem. I open new Safari window whenever I have new task at a hand and “Show All Tabs” can help too. Normally I have more than 5 Safari windows open, and this number increases over time. Opening multiple windows allows me to separate my tasks. I close entire windows with one click after task is done.

From what I saw, some Chrome users maximise browser window, this is not how I use Safari, I have many narrow windows so I can see more than one page at a time and hide sidebar distractions behind the scroll area. This also means that I only have tabs I need for a given task.

Option in Preferences is bad solution.

Now answering your possible question, why don’t add option to the Preferences. If Apple designers would ever decide to add the option, it will be enabled by default. Most of people don’t have time and energy to go through settings and fiddle with checkboxes — nerds love it, most of the people don’t. App should be configured in a right way from the start. Hence if Apple designers think that favicons is the right way, they would ship new version with favicons and the will be no option to disable them. Because when you do need to open Preferences, less checkboxes means faster navigation, so there’s no need to search for a toggle.

What if they do it.

I realise that how I use web browser might be not the right way for some people. I see more people use web applications instead of native apps and keep only one maximised window. I spend more time in apps and I use Dock more than I use tab picker. Safari is just another app for me and I don’t do everything there. For math or weather queries Spotlight feels better, I don’t listen to music on YouTube, I use Dictionary app for looking up a definition, I use Xcode documentation window and so on… Safari is just another app for me.

People can change, designers change their opinion. It can happen. It will make me feel sad. Not as much sad as spacial Finder though.