Every so often, a seemingly small bug in Apple's operating systems survives the company's annual OS launches and continues to cause users huge frustration from one software update to the next.
The phenomenon of disappearing tabs in Safari is one such problem -– reports of multiple Safari tabs vanishing without a trace go back to at least iOS 13 and the issue still to this day blights the browser experience for some.
While there isn't an accepted solution to the problem of disappearing tabs, there are cases where it might seem that your tabs are gone, when in fact they are just hidden from view. Here are some ways that you may be able to get them back or stop them from disappearing in the first place.
Reveal Hidden Tabs
On iPadOS, for example, if you press and hold the Show Tab Overview button (four squares in a quadrant) in the top-right corner of the Safari window, this will reveal a dropdown menu that includes an option to Merge All Windows.
Select this option, and all of your open tabs should appear in the current window, potentially including some that were not visible in the Tab Overview screen. Why this happens isn't entirely clear, but it may have something to do with the way iPadOS manages Safari windows that have been opened in Split View mode.
Reveal the Shelf
Another action worth trying on iPadOS is pressing and holding the Safari icon in the Dock or on the Home Screen and selecting Show All Windows from the popup menu that appears.
This will reveal any open windows in a shelf directly above the Dock, allowing you to switch between them and potentially reveal any tabs that had gotten lost.
Recently Closed Tabs
If you have an inkling that some of the tabs you're missing have been inadvertently closed, you can always use the Recently Closed Tabs option to re-open them. All you have to do is open up the tab view in Safari and long press on the "+" icon to get a look at all of the tabs that you've recently closed.
Even if you're aware of the gesture, it's worth a reminder that this feature exists in case someone gets ahold of your phone and checks your browser. Even if you've closed out a tab, it's still going to be visible in Safari, unless you were using a private browser window or have cleared your browsing history.
Turn Off Auto-Close Tabs
If you still haven't been able to find some of your tabs, make sure that Safari isn't closing them after a certain duration on your behalf: Open Settings, tap through to Safari -> Close Tabs and ensure that Manually is selected.
Bookmark All Open Tabs
If the above suggestions haven't worked for you, there is a workaround: Consider bookmarking your open tabs after each browsing session. This might sound like more hassle than it's worth, but since iOS 13 Apple has included a one-tap option to just that.
If you're on iPhone, make sure you have a few tabs open in Safari that you want to reference at a later time. Now, select one of those tabs, and in the main browsing window, long press the Bookmark icon (it looks like an open book).
A popup menu will appear at the on the screen from which you can select Add Bookmarks for X Tabs, the X being the number of tabs open.
Once you've tapped this option, you'll be asked to save the tabs in a new bookmarks folder (remember to give it a recognizable name). Alternately, you can choose a location from the existing folder list in which to save the tabs.
If you're on iPad, make sure you have a few tabs open in Safari, then simply press and hold on the address bar and select Add Bookmarks for X Tabs.
To access your bookmarks in Safari at any time, simply tap the Bookmarks icon in the main browsing interface or the sidebar to reveal all of your saved favorites and folders. Press and hold on the folder of bookmarks and select Open in New Tabs, or alternatively, Open in Tab Group if you want them grouped.