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As a friend of mine says, "What's up widdat?"
how do they get their favicon to show up without the metas
Actually, it's only necessary to have the favicon.ico in the root directory for most browsers. The meta tag enables alternate names/paths to be used. However, there have been several in-depth discussion about it in the past that tend to put more importance on the meta tag.
I usually start with a 160x160 box in PhotoImpact or PhotoShop and once done, I resize gradually down to 16x16. Takes quite a bit of trial and error.
They had a smilie making contest here with similar constraints in size and colors and I wasn't very impressed with even the winning results.
I hadn't seen this.
I agree, making icons is HARD. We've had to do it here for some of the software our company makes, and it takes FOREVER. It can be done, but 16x16 is just brutal. There's no room for anything. I don't really mind the Google one... I don't really look at those anyway.
border-top: 1px solid #11CC33;
border-left: 1px solid blue;
border-bottom: 1px solid #11CC33;
border-right: 1px solid red;
font: 15px Georgia, Times New Roman, Times, Serif;
<div class="icon"><span class="text">G</span></div>