October 26, 2021 Shankari Das

What is a Web Browser?

As we all know, the Web is a vast and powerful tool. Hence everyone must have access to the web. But it is also vital that we all understand the tools we use to access it – the Web Browser.

We use web browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Apple Safari every day, but do we understand what they are and how they work?


What is Meant by Web Browser?

A web browser, also called a browser, is an application used to access and view websites.

A browser is a simple software that is used to access the Internet. Using a browser, you can visit websites and do activities like logging in, linking from one website to another, viewing multimedia, and more. In addition, you can visit one page from another, send and receive an email, and do many other activities.

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Over a few decades, the Internet has changed the way we work, the way we communicate, and the way we interact with one another.

We can send an email to someone worldwide and communicate with anyone sitting anywhere in the world in a short period. In simple terms, the question is whether a web browser or app can get you to that information in the fastest possible time.

There are a few most common browser software you must be hearing about regularly. Browser availability primarily depends on your computer’s operating system, for example, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Ubuntu, Mac OS, among others.

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Web Browser History

You will be surprised to know that early web browsers started before the beginning of the 21st century. Those web browsers came with a text-only browser called Lynx and another browser known as Mosaic.

Later, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator emerged as the two main choices until Mozilla Firefox was launched in 2004.

Meanwhile, Apple’s Safari products launched in 2003 with the use of mobile devices. Safari became the standard operating system for the company’s iPhones only in 2007.

During the same time, Google Chrome has also become a contender in this browser war. With the mission – a competition to power the bulk of end-user activity. Since then, Google Chrome has slowly started to capture the market.


How Does a Web Browser Work

A web browser can take you anywhere on the Internet. The Web Browser retrieves information from other parts of the Web and displays it on your laptop, desktop, or mobile device.

The information is transferred to your Web Browser using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP. The HTTP generally defines how text, images, and video are transmitted on the Web.

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Many people often ask – how does a web browser work? Thanks to the HTTP protocol, the information is transferred to your Web Browser.

This information on the Web is often shared and displayed in a consistent format so that any user, using any browser, anywhere in the world can see the information quickly.

Sadly, not all browsers available today do not make use of the same format. Hence for users, this means that a website can look and function differently because of the difference in Web Browser. Creating consistency between browsers is essential so that any user can enjoy the Internet, regardless of the browser they use. This concept is known as the web standards.

Firstly, the web browser fetches data from an internet-connected server. Next, with the help of a piece of software called a rendering engine – the Web Browser translates that data into text and images. This data is often written in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). The Web Browsers read this code to create what we hear, see, and experience on the Internet.

Hyperlinks are the ones that allow users to follow a path to other pages or websites on the Web. Every webpage, video, and image has its own unique Uniform Resource Locator (URL). This URL is also known as a web address.

When a Web Browser visits a server to fetch data, the web address tells the browser where exactly to look for each item that is described in the HTML, which then tells the browser where it goes on the web page.


Using a Web Browser

Now it might be easy for you to understand that a web browser allows you to view and find websites on the Internet. Even if you did not know it, you are using a web browser right now to read this page.

There are many different web browsers, but some of them are commonly used compared to others. No matter which web browser you prefer to use, you will want to learn the basics of browsing the Web.

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This section will talk about navigating to different websites, creating bookmarks, using tabbed browsing, and more.

1 URLs and the address bar

Each website will have a unique address, called a URL. The URL is like a street address that tells your browser where to go on the Internet. When you type a URL in your browser’s address bar and press Enter on your keyboard – your browser starts to load the page associated with that URL.

2 Links

Whenever you see a phrase or word or on a website that is blue or underlined in blue – that is probably a hyperlink or link for short. You might already know how these links work.

Links help you to navigate the Web. When you click a link, it will usually take you to a different webpage. You may also notice that your cursor changes into a hand icon whenever you hover over a link.

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3 Navigation buttons

The Back and Forward buttons will allow you to move through the websites you have recently visited. You can also see your recent history.

4 Tabbed browsing

This browser feature allows you to open links in a new tab. You can open as many links as you want, and they will stay in the same browser window preventing cluttering of your screen with multiple windows.

5 Bookmarks and history

If you find an interesting website you want to view later, memorizing the exact web address can be hard. Bookmarks, also referred to as favorites, are a great way to save and organize website links for future use.


What Does a Web Browser Do? 

Essentially, a web browser handles HTTP activity between a server and a client. The server is the backbone of World Wide Web use. URLs of ages are like traffic directions for the web browser, and the web browser uses IP addresses and other tools to establish these connections.

In simple terms, your web browser facilitates web surfing. The efficiency of web surfing depends to a large extent on the device you are using.

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New types of web browsers being developed have additional functionality available for their users. Users can use a range of plug-ins that can add features. Some of these plug-ins are linked to security and accessibility. At the same time, other plug-ins are linked with data aggregation or end-user conveniences.

Do you know about web browser development? Some of the biggest, advanced new developments in web browsers deal with cybersecurity. For example, Google Chrome has been a pioneer as it protects its systems against websites that do not have a valid SSL certificate. Thus preventing various kinds of hacking and vulnerabilities.

The primary function of any web browser is to render HTML – the code used to design webpages.

Functioning of a Web Browser

When you type a web page address into your web browser, that complete web page is not actually stored on a server, ready and waiting to be delivered. In other words, each web page that you request is individually created in response to your request.

In simple terms, you are actually calling up a list of requests to get content from different servers or resource directories. These servers store up the content for that page. The web page may be made up from content from different servers and sources.

For example, images might come from one server, text content from a second server, and data scripts from another server. As soon as you move to another page on your browser, the page that you have just viewed disappears. Meaning these web pages are dynamic in nature.


Web Browser Examples

You might agree that web access is as essential as having a telephone number or a home address. So every computer, tablet, and smartphone comes with a web browser application and an internet connection.

You must be knowing the most popular examples of web browsers people use today. You might also have an idea of the different types of web browsers available.

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Here are a few common examples:

1 Google Chrome

Google Chrome is the most popular browser having 70% of the global market share. Chrome’s popularity can be explained by its fast browsing speeds and easy integration with your personal Google account. Few of these features make it the most convenient browser for many people.

Goog;e Chrome also has the largest library of extensions among the leading browsers. The best part of Chrome is that it is a straightforward internet browser to customize and modify.

2 Mozilla Firefox

It was once one of the most popular web browser applications in the US. It is also the successor of Netscape Navigator, one of the earliest commercially successful web browsers.

However, Firefox has recently lost market share to the emerging Chrome and Safari. But despite the drop in popularity, it still has a loyal following as they offer browser features similar to their competitors.

One reason for this internet browser staying in power could be the fact that Firefox runs on open-source software. This feature makes it easy for developers to inspect and update their websites for privacy, security, and usability improvements.

3 Safari

Safari is the default web browser for all Apple devices, be it Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Today Safari is the most popular mobile web browser in America. Safari’s look and feel are consistent across all Apple devices.

4 Microsoft Edge (formerly Internet Explorer)

Replacing the outdated and old Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge is Microsoft’s new browser. Though not very popular, this web browser comes standard with all using Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Microsoft Edge is built on the Chromium browser platform, which also builds Chrome and other browsers.

5 Opera

While never being the popular browser, Opera has built up a steady user base over the years. This is primarily because of the browser’s unique features, like a built-in proxy and ad blocker.

6 Avast Secure Browser

All of the other browsers have their own private browsing modes. But only Avast Secure Browser has made browsing privately and securely its main attribute. The browser has an extensive list of security and privacy features. These features include web tracking and built-in protection against phishing. It also has a built-in ad blocker and offers easy-to-set-up automated security alerts.

Are Security and Privacy Important in a Web Browser?

Now that you know what a browser is, you should also know that privacy and security are essential in a web browser. A web browser is your window to the Web. Just like other open windows in your house or car, an unsecured browser leaves your system vulnerable to security breaches and invasions of privacy.

Hence it becomes all the more critical for you to keep your browsing secure.

Note that many websites use cookies to track your online activity. They use that data for targeted advertising. You can have some control over this because web browsers allow you to delete cookies and also manage your cookie settings.

Additionally, hackers are an ever-present danger online. With so much sensitive information in your web browsers like usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc. – it is important for you to use strong antivirus software. Therefore, making your entire browsing experience private and more secure.

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