What is a web browser?
A web browser (or simply a browser) is a software application that allows internet users to locate and access webpages. A web browser retrieves resources from a web server, displays content to users and lets them navigate the net quickly, easily and safely. In creating a website, one must familiarize oneself with the most popular browsers and their features.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist known as the inventor of the internet, created the first web browser in 1990. Three years later an American team led by Marc Andreessen released Mosaic, the first browser to boast a graphic interface and to achieve significant user base adoption. In 1994 Andreessen founded Netscape Navigator, and a year later Microsoft unveiled Internet Explorer, thereby launching the first browser war.
Internet Explorer won that war around the turn of the 21st Century, but was soon joined by newcomers like Apple’s Safari. In 2008 Google Chrome entered the game and pulled well ahead, attaining a dominant market share position it still retains today. As you consider best practices for how to make a website on Wix, remember that the vast majority of your visitors will arrive via Chrome.
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How does a web browser work?
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) delivers the code for pages and sites and web browsers translate this data into text, images and videos our human brains can understand. That data, fetched from a web server, is typically written in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).
Each page, image and video on the internet has its own Uniform Resource Locator (URL), more commonly known as a web address. To create consistency between browsers, developers have created web standards that allow users to explore the internet on whichever browser and device they choose.
Web browser examples
Google Chrome: Chrome accounts for some 70 percent of global market share across desktops and laptops, leaving its rivals to languish in the single digits. Three key reasons account for Chrome’s dominance: Fast speed, easy integration with personal Google accounts and the biggest selection of browser extensions
Safari: While two-thirds of the world’s computers are PCs and not Macs, Apple’s huge share of the mobile market—chiefly in the form of iPhones and iPads—makes Safari the most popular mobile web browser in the U.S. Just like Chrome and Google accounts, Safari easily syncs across Apple devices.
Microsoft Edge: Launched in 2015, Microsoft’s Edge browser replaces Internet Explorer, the predominant browsers that most consider far behind the technological curve. Edge currently comes standard on the estimated 1.4 billion devices worldwide using Microsoft’s Windows operating system. It operates on Chromium, the Google-built browser platform that also underlies Chrome.
Mozilla Firefox: Mozilla launched in 1998 when Netscape released its source code to developers, and Firefox soon became the scrappy alternative to web-behemoths like Internet Explorer. Today, however, it is the elder statesman of the browser bunch, having marked its 20th birthday in September 2022. It retains a loyal, if modest, support base, particularly among developers who value its open-source software that lets them inspect and update their website security and privacy.
Common features of a web browser
Essentially all web browsers offer basic features like a URL bar, title bar, bookmarking, history and tabs. A URL bar lets users retrieve a certain page stored on a specific server, while a title bar displays the viewed page’s title. Bookmarks save pages that users want to return to later, thus saving them the time of locating and typing out the full URL. Tabs allow users to have several web pages open simultaneously, without having to juggle multiple windows. History displays all the web pages a user visits, enabling easier browsing and also faster page retrieval.
Web browsers and security and privacy
Beyond those basic features, the best browsers keep web users’ data safe. On the front end, many browsers offer privacy features like private browsing or incognito mode (browsing that leaves no trace in a user’s history) and pop-up ad blockers. On the backend, browsers include protection against phishing (malicious sites seeking to steal our data), tracking (sites and advertisers identifying users through cookies) and fingerprinting (sites that capture our device ID and browser profile).