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Web Browser Definition & Meaning

Short for web browser, a browser is a software application used to locate, retrieve, and display content on the World Wide Web, including webpages, images, videos, and other files. As a client/server model, the browser is the client run on a computer or mobile device that contacts the Web server and requests information. The web server sends the information back to the browser, which then displays the results on the Internet-enabled device.

Browsers vs. search engines

Browsers are sometimes falsely equated with search engines. This confusion stems from the fact that the same companies behind the top browsers often have a corresponding search engine. For example, Google Chrome the browser uses Google to display search results, but Google is also the default search engine for Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox browsers. Features of browsers include navigation buttons, toolbars, and password management, whereas features of search engines include query suggestions/autocomplete, multimedia display, and maps integrations.

Today’s web browsers

Today's browsers are fully functional software suites that can interpret and display HTML Web pages, applications, JavaScript, AJAX and other content hosted on web servers. Many browsers offer plug-ins that extend the capabilities of the software so it can display multimedia information (including sound and video) or add security features like anti-phishing filters. Browsers can also be used to perform tasks such as videoconferencing, web page design, and e-commerce transactions. While most commonly used to access information on the web, a browser can also be used as a device’s file explorer or to access information hosted on Web servers in private network.

Although Microsoft Internet Explorer once dominated the browser market, the most-used browsers according to StatCounter (July 2020) are Google Chrome (65.89%), Apple Safari (16.65%), and Mozilla Firefox (4.26%). Other major browsers include Opera and Microsoft Edge, and emerging providers include Vivaldi, Brave, and Tor. Each browser offers a different appeal (speed, device integration, innovation, etc.), and some users find that different browsers suit different needs while browsing on their desktop versus their mobile device.










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