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Apple vandalized my icon in the latest betas

October 14 2021 by Jeff Johnson
Support this blog: StopTheMadness, Tweaks for Twitter, Link Unshortener, PayPal.Me

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post called The Safari extension blues, in which I described how Safari tints many extension toolbar icons with the system accent color, by default blue, and how my own StopTheMadness avoids the tinting. This blog post is a sequel, so if you haven't read the previous one yet, I hope that you'll go back and read it now for essential context. Don't worry, it's fewer than 1000 words, interspersed with pretty (and ugly) pictures.

Extension toolbar icon tinting was introduced in Safari version 14 back in September 2020, and doesn't appear to have changed at all since then… until yesterday. I've been testing the macOS Monterey betas since WWDC in June, and yesterday I updated to the latest beta expecting no big changes, as public release seems imminent given the "Unleashed" event next week. But I was horrified to find a very unwelcome change: Safari has vandalized my toolbar icon. Safari engineers spray-painted it blue.

system accent color blue

The dumbest part of this is that the icon tinting can still be easily bypassed! Here's a screenshot of my intentionally light blue Tweaks for Twitter icon with the system accent color set to red.

system accent color red

By the way, Safari Technology Preview running on the new Monterey beta doesn't vandalize my toolbar icon, but Safari Technology Preview was last updated a few weeks ago (coincidentally on the same day as my previous blog post), so I expect that the next version of Safari Technology Preview will also vandalize my icon. I'm not testing the iOS 15.1 betas, as I only have the time and devices to test major (e.g., 15.0) pre-release versions, but I've been told that Safari has also started to vandalize my toolbar icon in yesterday's new iOS beta.

In my previous blog post, I argued that Apple should drop the icon tinting, because it's confusing to users, ugly, distracting, completely undocumented, and pointless security theater. Instead, Apple chose to take my message and shoot the messenger. To me this feels petty and vindictive by the Safari team. It's just so damn stupid. It's such a shame that a formerly great web browser has fallen under the control of people who have no clue whatsoever about user interface design. Apple seems determined to wreck Safari's UI, and recent changes have inspired widespread condemnation, even from people who are known to defend Apple.

The irony is that for the past week, the Mac App Store has been prominently featuring StopTheMadness, with my untinted icon. My feature is likely to end today at 10am Pacific, not because of this blog post but because the Mac App Store normally changes its features every Thursday at 10am Pacific. The feature story should remain in the Mac App Store indefinitely though. I doubt the App Store editorial team is even aware of Safari extension icon toolbar item tinting — most people aren't aware of its "significance" — and I don't think there's much if any communication between them and the Safari engineering team within the massive bureaucratic Apple organization.

Mac App Store featured app

Mac App Store Discover

Nobody benefits from this additional Safari extension icon tinting. Certainly not me — I now have to pay to get my toolbar icons redone — not my customers, not Safari users, not even Apple. It's madness.

See also my follow-up post Mass confusion and dislike over Safari extension icon tinting.

Support this blog: StopTheMadness, Tweaks for Twitter, Link Unshortener, PayPal.Me

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