The Favicon, an Untapped Impression Promotion Trick – Animated Favicons?

A favicon is certainly that little image that a lot of browsers display on the handle range and in the favorites (bookmarks) menus. Tabbed browsers like Firefox and Opera prolong the features of favicons, adding them to their tabs. The name was coined based on Internet Explorer (the first browser to support it) and derives from “Favorites Icon”. Each browser has a unique user interface, and as a result uses the favicon in various ways. The favicon allows an organization to help expand promote its identity and picture by displaying a emblem, a graphical message, etc. Normally, the favicon reflects the appearance and feel of the web site or the organization’s logo.
A traditional favicon is actually a Microsoft Windows ICO file. An ICO file is actually a repository of bitmap like images. They are used because in a few locations a 16×16 pixel image is desired, and often a 32×32 image could be needed. Sometimes a 16 shade image is desired, and often a 256 shade icon is desired.
You probably already knew all of the above.
But did you know that Firefox can display animated favicons? Unless you trust me, open Firefox and head to my site, (there should be a link in the bottom of the article). if you don’t have Firefox, download it, it is a “must have” and you may quickly fall in love with the simplicity and capability of tabbed browsing. Even though you aren’t a designer but only a site owner, in today’s environment you absolutely got to know how your site looks in all browsers. You would think that all websites should look exactly the same, but as browsers are more diverse and more sophisticated, standards are not respected and things will get messy. For example, I simply discovered that a few pages on my webpage don’t look as expected in the most recent version of Opera and must be adjusted.
Ok, I hope right now you noticed my animated favicon in Firefox and came back to the article to learn more about it…
The main reason why you can see animated favicons in Firefox is basically because Firefox abolished the proprietary ICO format in favor of the ability to display any supported image file format in the favicon location, including BMP, JPG, GIF, PNG and… animated GIFs.
So now you know the big technique, the animated favicon is nothing but a tiny animated GIF.
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Here’s a very neat trick, that can actually be used to visualize how any image looks like as a 16×16 pixel icon – once you start designing among those, you will realize that it is very hard to produce a legible image on a 16 square pixels canvas:
Find any page with any graphic that you are interested in. Right click the image and chose “View Photo” from the dialog. A blank page should display together with your chosen image and surprise: you can see a miniature 16×16 copy of the photo as a favicon! Uhh… do I have to mention again that people are doing all this in Firefox?
A hacker’s mind will immediately think of how great it might be to utilize this feature as a conversion tool. Unfortunately, unlike Internet Explorer and Opera, Firefox doesn’t retail outlet FavIcons in .ico documents, the icons are stored in an encoded format immediately in the bookmark file.
You can apply exactly the same principle to animated GIFs and you may notice that a miniature variant of the animation as well plays in the tackle bar and on the tabs.
Perhaps one of many reasons why you don’t see that many sites using animations can be browser compatibility. Animated favicons are not treated at all by WEB BROWSER. A static image will never be extracted from the animation possibly. As an alternative, the default .htm icon (as defined in Windows’ filetypes) will be placed under one’s Favorites – once added, that is. The animations are not supported by Netscape, Opera, Konqueror, Safari; at the very least so it seems during this writing. The Firefox spouse and children seems to be the only friend to animations, yet as browsers evolve, broader support for animation will most likely come along (or, the concept will die).
So, why not take advantage of this *nowadays* and ‘beat the rush’?
Basically, this is one way it’s done:
1. You make a 16×16 animated GIF.
2. You upload the animated GIF to the “root” of one’s site, or to any location.
3. You hardcode in your page the location where Firefox should search for the animation.
That’s really it, “big image” wise.
Unless you feel too creative or simply don’t have time and/or patience, a reputable professional design firm (such as for example Bsleek) will be able to create a nice animated favicon for you. Another option – I don’t endorse it, as your goal ought to be to excel through unique articles and push your personal image out there – would be to find one of the numerous galleries online and often download a ready made animated favicon or take a large animated GIF and resize it and/or edit it in one of the many available tools. There are also sites offering online animated favicon creation from a standard image (have a look at, discover “FavIcon from pics”, they have a straightforward but neat scrolling text feature).
For anyone who is however a fellow do-it-yourselfer, then let’s elaborate and appearance at some techniques and useful tips:
So far as tools go: If you are a lucky proprietor of Adobe’s excellent Photoshop, you then also have a companion application called ImageReady. Linux consumers have Gimp, a remarkably powerful and free graphics program that can easily handle animated GIF design. What many people don’t know is that Gimp is also available for free for Home windows and the Mac. Addititionally there is GIMPShop in the wild, that is a nifty GIMP edition for the photoshop-inclined market (did I mention free?). There are also many specialized GIF animation manufacturers, some freeware, some not.