Ditch Google’s Blasé Favicon Service, Grabicon Loves You

In high school, I was infatuated with a girl named Virginia. Her curly hair and perky nose gave her a Marilyn Monroe quality that blinded me to the worst thing about her…she just wasn’t that into me.

Eventually, I found the cure. I wish I could say it was self-respect, but the real trick was to find a great girl who actually liked me back!

Google’s Favicon API Just Isn’t That Into You

The biggest problem with Google’s favicon service is that Google never really wanted you to use it in the first place. They created it as an internal tool for their ad networks and such, but some enterprising developers dug through Google’s JavaScript and found the hidden links.

As it turns out, this makes ALL the difference, and it shows in multiple ways:

  • Favicons are only 16 pixels, even when larger sizes are available.
  • Missing favicons result in a very unassuming grey globe.
  • Google can lock down the service any time it wishes.

In these ways, Google is a lot like Virginia:

  • We only did things she wanted to do.
  • Most of my calls went unanswered.
  • Eventually she wasn’t even interested in hanging out as friends.

All of this is because Google’s favicon service was designed for only one customer: Google. And you can’t blame them any more than I can blame Virginia.

I Know Someone Who Likes You!

You need to replace Google’s unsupported, unintentionally public favicon service with something great that loves you back. That something is Grabicon.com. How does Grabicon solve the Google favicon problem?

  • Request icons in the size you want, and you will get them in that size, every time, even when the original site doesn’t provide that size icon. Grabicon “makes it right” by resizing the image in an attractive way.
  • You will always get a unique icon back from Grabicon, even if the original site doesn’t have an icon at all. It will generate a stand-in, so you can use it in your interfaces with confidence.
  • Grabicon doesn’t just like you back, its whole point in existing is for YOU. It’s not going anywhere.

Again, this makes all the difference! You can use Grabicon mobile/web apps and know that it’s giving you more than Google would, and it’s a long-term solution.

How Does it Work?

Grabicon is free for basic usage, and was designed to be a drop-in replacement for Google’s favicon service. Instead of doing this:

http://google.com/s2/favicons?domain=rubycuts.com

You do this:

http://grabicon.com/icon?domain=rubycuts.com

By default, Grabicon will give you 32 pixel icons instead of Google’s 16 pixels, but if you’re really into squinting, just ask for the smaller size:

http://grabicon.com/icon?domain=rubycuts.com&size=16

Since icons are always square, you don’t need to specify height and width separately. Sorry if you were looking for lengthier parameter lists, but that’s really all there is to using Grabicon. It’s a dead-simple, no-brainer Google replacement.

How Does it Look?

It looks awesome. Gemerald.com uses Grabicon, and here’s the difference:

Google Favicons vs Grabicon on Gemerald.com

Google Favicons vs Grabicon on Gemerald.com

I literally swapped out favicon urls using Chrome’s developer tools to make the Google version, so this is as apples-to-apples as it gets. At 32 pixels, there’s no comparison. And you can argue that Google’s icons would definitely look better at their native 16 pixel size, but why would you want that??

Can’t I Build Something Myself?

You can, but again, why? Grabicon is free, and does the hard work for you. Favicons can take 4-6 seconds of redirects and page loads to ferret out, since there are a handful of ways a site can implement them. Grabicon caches results so all users get the benefit of instant icons.

If it sounds like I have an unhealthy love of Grabicon, it’s because I do. It’s my baby. I created it as the first endpoint of a much larger endeavor – making brand integration dead-simple for mobile and web applications. And this endpoint will always be free for basic use. I’m also excited to see Grabicon pop up in apps where Google was never used because it just wasn’t up to the task.

Please try it, and tell me what you think. I hope you’ll be impressed, but I’m always open to hearing about ways to make it better. Enjoy!

Posted in Business.

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