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Old 12-24-2007, 08:14 AM   #1
dthomsen8
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Default Favicons in actual use

I thought I understood how favicons work, but now I am not so sure.

If I go to a web site in MSIE 7 that has a favicon defined in the (X)HTML, and drag the graphic from the address window onto the desktop, the favicon comes along just fine. The name seems to be the name in the <title>, or if there is a null or no title, the name seems to be the URL.

Since I have Firefox 2 as my default browser, the favicon (or now, desktop icon) works just fine to go to that site using Firefox as the browser.

Although some of the online articles indicate that Firefox uses favicons just like MSIE 5 and up, that doesn't seem to be the case for me in Windows XP Pro, Version 5.1, Service Pack 2.

If a specific URL is important to how favicons work, I will post the specific URL here, but I have tried it with a variety of sites. There seems to be something that I don't know, so here is a request for more information.
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Old 12-24-2007, 01:04 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dthomsen8 View Post
I thought I understood how favicons work, but now I am not so sure.

If I go to a web site in MSIE 7 that has a favicon defined in the (X)HTML, and drag the graphic from the address window onto the desktop, the favicon comes along just fine.
Or anywhere you create a bookmark, whether it's in your favorites or in any other folder (directory). This is what Microsoft invented the favicon for: to associate an icon with a bookmark (internet shortcut). The icon itself is stored in the cache - when it expires it will "disappear" unless the bookmark is renewed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dthomsen8
The name seems to be the name in the <title>, or if there is a null or no title, the name seems to be the URL.
That is merely the default, you can name the shortcut whatever you like: it's just a file name (with a .url extension).

Quote:
Originally Posted by dthomsen8
Since I have Firefox 2 as my default browser, the favicon (or now, desktop icon) works just fine to go to that site using Firefox as the browser.
No, it doesn't. What "works" is just the internet shortcut (it has to, on Windows!), whether or not it has a specific icon associated with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dthomsen8
Although some of the online articles indicate that Firefox uses favicons just like MSIE 5 and up, that doesn't seem to be the case for me in Windows XP Pro, Version 5.1, Service Pack 2.
Firefox uses them, but not just like MSIE - in fact, it uses them quite differently. For instance FF retrieves the favicon (if any) when the page is retrieved, and shows it in the address bar and on the browser tab; IE traditionally retrieved it only when a bookmark was created (in favorites or anywhere else), but stores it in the cache. Possibly IE7 now also retrieves it when the page is retrieved (since it supports tabbed browsing now: it would be copying other browsers' behavior then!) but earlier versions did not do that.

So both browsers do use favicons but they do so quite differently. Both also use Internet shortcuts to open a page in the browser, but they do that similarly because that's how a Windows browser has to behave.

   
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Old 12-29-2007, 10:02 AM   #3
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Default An icon on the Desktop

What I want to do is grab the favicon from the address line on the browser, and drop it as an icon on the desktop. That icon then links to that URL.

If I do that with MSIE, it works. If I do that with Firefox, the graphic is not there.

Here is an attachment with a favicon (top) and a Firefox icon, bottom.
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Last edited by dthomsen8; 12-29-2007 at 10:06 AM. Reason: Changes
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Old 01-05-2008, 03:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dthomsen8 View Post
What I want to do is grab the favicon from the address line on the browser, and drop it as an icon on the desktop. That icon then links to that URL.
Let me try to clarify this in more general terms: what you do is drag the URL from the address line to a folder - any folder, since the desktop is a folder, too (and in IE, if you use Favorites: that's a folder as well!). This works in practically any browser, and the dragging action creates a shortcut for the URL. An internet shortcut is a file with the URL as its content (and not only on Windows, this is true on a Mac as well).

Now, the URL you are dragging may or may not have a favicon associated with it; if not, then how it appears in the browser depends on the browser - it may be just a blank space or it may be an icon for the browser itself... When you drag then the icon in the address line, it serves as a "handle" for the dragging action - but if there is no icon at all you can still drag: the "empty space" is then the "handle".

Finally, on graphical user interfaces, files can have an icon associated with them; that applies to an internet shortcut, too. So what icon becomes associated with an internet shortcut? The default generally is the icon for the browser.

Internet Explorer extends this mechanism by replacing the file's icon with the favicon as stored in the browser cache - if there is one at all. This mechanism has two consequences:
  • if there is no favicon, the shortcut file gets associated with the IE icon;
  • if there is a favicon, it will be associated with the file instead, but only as long as it exists in the cache: if you clear the cache, it's gone; if it expires from the cache, it's gone - and the associated icon for the file will revert to the default browser icon.
Also, IE only retrieves the favicon when you are actually storing a shortcut somewhere (in favorites, or another folder) - at least through version 6. It is shown only in the address line when it has already been retrieved for associating it with a shortcut. This behavior is the original functionality for a favicon as designed by Microsoft.

Mozilla, and its successor Firefox, also uses a favicon, but does so in a different way. For a start, it retrieves the file when loading the page so it can not only be shown in the address line, but also on a tab. When you create a bookmark with these apps, the favicon may become associated with it (again, only as long as it lives in the cache) and be shown in the bookmarks interface. The difference here with IE is that those bookmarks are stored in a single (HTML) file instead of as separate internet shortcut files. But when you create an internet shortcut by dragging the URL to a folder, these apps do not associate the favicon with that file.

So, there are three major differences in how IE and FF (and its relatives) handle favicons:
  1. The moment at which the favicon is retrieved
  2. How bookmarks are stored (internet shortcut files by IE, an entry in an HTML file in FF)
  3. Whether or not any available favicon is associated with an internet shortcut file when one is created by the browser
This is simply a design difference between two major browser families which derives from 1) how bookmarks are stored and 2) the availability of tabbed browsing.

Finally: when you are using an internet shortcut (file), you are really using that file - not the associated icon, though the icon (whether it is a browser icon or a favicon) may provide a "handle" for you to move, copy, or otherwise interact with it: the icon provides merely an interface for you to interact with the file (but its name - which is a file name! - can be used as well). So the icon is not the internet shortcut itself, just like a folder icon is not the folder itself: it merely provides a visual interface for manipulating it.

So:
Quote:
Originally Posted by dthomsen8 View Post
What I want to do is grab the favicon from the address line on the browser, and drop it as an icon on the desktop.
If that is what you want to do, you can do that only with IE, because it was designed to do that whereas FF was designed to do something else - as explained above.

   
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Old 11-19-2009, 09:37 AM   #5
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You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your post.

   
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Last edited by liannagreyson; 11-23-2009 at 05:26 PM.
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