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Web browser

Software application for accessing information on the World Wide Web

A web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is a software application for accessing information on the World Wide Web. When a user requests a web page from a particular website, the web browser retrieves the necessary content from a web server and then displays the page on the user's device.

A web browser is not the same thing as a search engine, though the two are often confused. For a user, a search engine is just 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.

Web browsers are used on a range of devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In 2020, an estimated 4.9 billion people use a browser, with more than half of them in Asia. The most used browser is Google Chrome, with a 66% global market share on all devices, followed by Safari with 17%. Other notable browsers include Firefox and Microsoft Edge.

History

Main article: History of the web browser

The first web browser, called WorldWideWeb, was created in 1990 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. He then recruited Nicola Pellow to write the Line Mode Browser, which displayed web pages on dumb terminals; it was released in 1991.

Nicola Pellow and Tim Berners-Lee in their office at CERN.
Marc Andreessen, lead developer of Mosaic and Navigator

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 browser.

Microsoft debuted Internet Explorer in 1995, leading to a browser war with Netscape. Microsoft was able to gain a dominant position for two reasons: it bundled Internet Explorer with its popular Microsoft Windows operating system and did so as freeware with no restrictions on usage. Eventually the market share of Internet Explorer peaked at over 95% in 2002.

WorldWideWeb was the first web browser.

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 Firefox, first released by Mozilla in 2004. Firefox reached a 28% market share in 2011. Apple released its Safari browser in 2003. It remains the dominant browser on Apple platforms, though it did not become popular elsewhere.

Google 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 ever since.

In 2011, the first version of HTTPS Everywhere was launched, while NoScript got its main awards and Mozilla launched the stable version of Tor Firefox browser, the free add-on to navigate the dark web.

Microsoft released its Edge browser in 2015 as part of the Windows 10 release and rebuilt it as a Chromium-based browser in 2019. (Internet Explorer is still used on older versions of Windows.)

In terms of technology, browsers have greatly expanded their HTML, CSS, JavaScript, 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 YouTube streaming, that was not possible during the era of dial-up modems.

Function

The purpose of a web browser is to fetch information resources from the Web and display them on a user's device.

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: or https: 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 is encrypted for the purposes of security and privacy.

Once a web page has been retrieved, the browser's rendering engine displays it on the user's device. This includes image and video formats supported by the browser.

Web pages usually contain hyperlinks to other pages and resources. Each link contains a URL, and when it is clicked or tapped, 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.

Settings

Web browsers can typically be configured with a built-in menu. Depending on the browser, the menu may be named Settings, Options, or Preferences.

The menu has different types of settings. For example, users can change their home page and default search engine. They also can change default web page colors and fonts. Various network connectivity and privacy settings are also usually available.

Privacy

During the course of browsing, browsing history 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 settings for removing cookies when exiting the browser. Finer-grained management of cookies usually requires a browser extension.

Features

The most popular browsers have a number of features in common. They allow users to set bookmarks and browse in a private mode. They also can be customized with extensions, and some of them provide a sync service.

Most browsers have these user interface features:

There are also niche browsers with distinct features. One example is text-only browsers that can benefit people with slow Internet connections or those with visual impairments.

Security

Main article: Browser security

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.

Market share

Main article: Usage share of web browsers
NetMarketShare October 2020
desktop share
Google Chrome
69.53%
Microsoft Edge
9.71%
Mozilla Firefox
7.15%
Internet Explorer
4.53%
Safari
3.92%
QQ browser
1.49%
Sogou Explorer
1.35%
Opera
0.9%
Yandex Browser
0.84%
UC Browser
0.29%
Other
0.29%

Other topics

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Web browser, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (view authors).


Date of last edit: 2021-01-28T19:33:04.000Z