08/10/2020

After rolling out favicons in mobile search results last year, Google is now adding the little logos next to links in results on desktop browsers as well.

The company says the goal is to make clearer where links will lead
Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images
Google added tiny favicon icons to its search results this week for some reason, creating more clutter in what used to be a clean interface, and seemingly without actually improving the results or the user experience. The company says its part of a plan to make clearer where information is coming from, but how?
To give you an idea of how minimal the change is, heres what it looked like when Google made the same tweak last year to the browsing experience on phones:
In my Chrome desktop browser, it feels like an aggravating, unnecessary change that doesnt actually help the user determine how good, bad, or reputable an actual search result might be. Yes, ads are still clearly marked with the word ad, which is a good thing. But do I need to see Best Buys logo or AT&Ts blue circle when I search for Samsung Fold to know theyre trying to sell me something?
Search results for Galaxy Fold are not clearer for having the favicons
The company tweeted that the change to desktop results were rolling out this week, helping searchers better understand where information is coming from, more easily scan results & decide what to explore. But though the logos have been visible in search results on Googles mobile browser since last year, Googles statement doesnt address how successful or irrelevant the favicons might have been for mobile users.
When Google first launched, its sparse, almost blank search page and minimalist results were an extremely welcome change, compared to the detritus on other search home pages at the time (which persists on sites like Yahoo). Adding favicons makes Googles search results look a little cartoonish, and if we think Facebook users who cant determine a reputable news source from their racist uncles favorite blog are going to be assisted by tiny pictures on Google, well, were likely to be disappointed.
Google does often make changes to search that actually do improve user experience or results, though. In the past few months, Google changed its search algorithm so it doesnt see a search query as a bag of words, improved its results to prioritize reputable news sources, and even added augmented reality results to searches.
If youre intrigued by the new logos in your search results, Google provided instructions on how to change or add a favicon in search results for those who dont know. Lifehacker also provided instructions on how to apply filters to undo the favicon nonsense and revert back to how the search results used to look. You can decide which how-to is the more useful.