A web browser displaying a web page
A web browser is not the same thing as a search engine
, though the two are often confused.
A search engine is a website that provides links
to other websites. However, to connect to a website's server and display its web pages, a user must have a web browser installed.
1993 was a landmark year with the release of Mosaic
, credited as "the world's first popular browser".
Its innovative graphical interface
made the World Wide Web system easy to use and thus more accessible to the average person. This, in turn, sparked the Internet boom of the 1990s, when the Web grew at a very rapid rate.Marc Andreessen
, the leader of the Mosaic team, soon started his own company, Netscape
, which released the Mosaic-influenced Netscape Navigator
in 1994. Navigator quickly became the most popular
In 1998, Netscape launched what would become the Mozilla Foundation
to create a new browser using the open source
software model. This work evolved into the Firefox
browser, first released by Mozilla in 2004. Firefox reached a 28% market share in 2011.
released its Safari
browser in 2003. It remains the dominant browser on Apple devices, though it did not become popular elsewhere.
debuted its Chrome
browser in 2008, which steadily took market share from Internet Explorer and became the most popular browser in 2012.
Chrome has remained dominant
Microsoft released its Edge
browser in 2015 as part of the Windows 10
release. (Internet Explorer is still used on older versions of Windows.)
In terms of technology, browsers have greatly expanded their HTML
, and multimedia
capabilities since the 1990s. One reason has been to enable more sophisticated websites, such as web applications
. Another factor is the significant increase of broadband
connectivity, which enables people to access data-intensive web content, such as YouTubestreaming
, that was not possible during the era of dial-up modems
The purpose of a web browser is to fetch content from the Web
and display it on a user
This process begins when the user inputs a Uniform Resource Locator
(URL), such as https://en.wikipedia.org/
, into the browser. Virtually all URLs on the Web start with either http:
which means the browser will retrieve them with the Hypertext Transfer Protocol
(HTTP). In the case of https:
, the communication between the browser and the web server
for the purposes of security and privacy.
Web pages usually contain hyperlinks
to other pages and resources. Each link contains a URL, and when it is clicked
, the browser navigates to the new resource. Thus the process of bringing content to the user begins again.
Most browsers use an internal cache
of web page resources to improve loading times for subsequent visits to the same page. The cache can store many items, such as large images, so they do not need to be downloaded from the server again.
Cached items are usually only stored for as long as the web server stipulates in its HTTP response messages.
Web browsers can typically be configured with a built-in menu
. Depending on the browser, the menu may be named Settings
, or Preferences
During the course of browsing, cookies
received from various websites
are stored by the browser. Some of them contain login credentials or site preferences.
However, others are used for tracking user behavior
over long periods of time, so browsers typically provide a section in the menu for deleting cookies.
Finer-grained management of cookies usually requires a browser extension
Browsers also usually provide menu items for deleting browsing history
entries, and other potentially sensitive data.
An alternative approach is the private browsing
mode, in which the aforementioned items are not stored by the browser. But this is a temporary option, only activated when using this special mode.
Traditional browser arrangement: UI features above page content
- Allow the user to open multiple pages at the same time, either in different browser windows or in different tabs of the same window.
- Back and forward buttons to go back to the previous page visited or forward to the next one.
- A refresh or reload and a stop button to reload and cancel loading the current page. (In most browsers, the stop button is merged with the reload button.)
- A home button to return to the user's home page.
- An address bar to input the URL of a page and display it.
- A search bar to input terms into a search engine. (In some browsers, the search bar is merged with the address bar.)
Web browsers are popular targets for hackers
, who exploit security holes
to steal information, destroy files
, and other malicious activities. Browser vendors regularly patch these security holes, so users are strongly encouraged to keep their browser software updated. Other protection measures are antivirus software
and avoiding known-malicious websites
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Last edited on 4 May 2021, at 16:32
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