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    Definitions 3 min read

    What is a web browser?

    A web browser is a software application that allows a connected device communicate with web servers on the world wide web.

    Browsers request files from web servers using HTTP. The server returns the information, which the browser then displays on your device. This includes webpages, images, videos, and other files.

    How does a web browser work?

    A web browser is a client application. It enables your computer or mobile device to surf the internet.

    When you navigate to a webpage, your browser communicates with the hosting web server, using HTTP. The server responds with the files for the relevant page. Your browser then converts this received data into HTML (human readable format) to display to you.

    So your browser acts as a middleman and translator. It requests web pages, communicates with servers and translates raw HTTP data into a format you’ll be able to understand.

    Web browser history

    The first web browser was created in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee. It was named WorldWideWeb, a title that was later changed to Nexus. This was to avoid confusion with the developing internet space.

    The first iteration of the browser was basic, limited to displaying text elements only. This changed in 1992, when Erwise, the first browser to include a Graphical User Interface was developed. This new generation of client software made graphic elements, such as icons, images and buttons, part of the internet end-user experience.

    Features of 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.

    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. However, Google is also the default search engine for Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox browsers. So it’s clear that Google the search engine and Google the browser are separate things.

    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.