Web browser

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A web browser (Safari) displaying a web page Safari 15.png
A web browser (Safari) displaying a web page

A web browser is an application for accessing websites. When a user requests a web page from a particular website, the browser retrieves its files from a web server and then displays the page on the user's screen. Browsers are used on a range of devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In 2020, an estimated 4.9 billion people have used a browser. [1] The most used browser is Google Chrome, with a 65% global market share on all devices, followed by Safari with 18%. [2]


A web browser is not the same thing as a search engine, though the two are often confused. [3] [4] A search engine is 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. [5] In some technical contexts, browsers are referred to as "user agents".


Navigating to English Wikipedia using a web browser (Firefox)

The purpose of a web browser is to fetch content from the World Wide Web or from local storage and display it on a user's device. [6] This process begins when the user inputs a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), such as https://en.wikipedia.org/, into the browser. Virtually all URLs are retrieved using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), a set of rules for the transfer of data. If the URL uses the secure mode of HTTP (HTTPS), the connection between the browser and the web server is encrypted for the purposes of communications security and information privacy. [7]

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. 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. [8] Cached items are usually only stored for as long as the web server stipulates in its HTTP response messages. [9]


During the course of browsing, cookies received from various websites are stored by the browser. Some of them contain login credentials or site preferences. [10] However, others are used for tracking user behavior over long periods of time, so browsers typically provide a section in the menu for deleting cookies. [10] Finer-grained management of cookies usually requires a browser extension. [11]


Marc Andreessen.jpg
Left to right: Nicola Pellow and Tim Berners-Lee in 1992; Marc Andreessen in 2007

The first web browser, called WorldWideWeb, was created in 1990 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. [12] [13] He then recruited Nicola Pellow to write the Line Mode Browser, which displayed web pages on dumb terminals. [14] The Mosaic web browser was released in April 1993, and was later credited as the first web browser to find mainstream popularity. [15] [16] Its innovative graphical user interface made the World Wide Web easy to navigate 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. [16] Marc Andreessen, the leader of the Mosaic team, started his own company, Netscape, which released the Mosaic-influenced Netscape Navigator in 1994. Navigator quickly became the most popular browser. [17]

Microsoft debuted Internet Explorer in 1995, leading to a browser war with Netscape. Within a few years, Microsoft gained a dominant position in the browser market for two reasons: it bundled Internet Explorer with Microsoft Windows, their popular operating system and did so as freeware with no restrictions on usage. The market share of Internet Explorer peaked at over 95% in the early 2000s. [18] 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 the Firefox browser, first released by Mozilla in 2004. Firefox's market share peaked at 32% in 2010. [19] Apple released its Safari browser in 2003. Safari remains the dominant browser on Apple devices, though it did not become popular elsewhere. [20]

Google debuted its Chrome browser in 2008, which steadily took market share from Internet Explorer and became the most popular browser in 2012. [21] [22] Chrome has remained dominant ever since. [2] By 2015, Microsoft replaced Internet Explorer with Edge for the Windows 10 release. [23] Since the early 2000s, browsers have greatly expanded their HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and multimedia capabilities. One reason has been to enable more sophisticated websites, such as web apps. Another factor is the significant increase of broadband connectivity, which enables people to access data-intensive content, such as video streaming, that was not possible during the era of dial-up modems.[ citation needed ]


January 2023 desktop browser share [24]
Google Chrome
Microsoft Edge
Mozilla Firefox
360 Safe

The current most used browser worldwide is Google Chrome, with a 65% global market share on all devices. [2] Google Chrome is built on Google's free and open-source software project Chromium, [25] and is a major component of Google's operating system ChromeOS. Apple's Safari has the second highest global market share, at 18%, [2] while Microsoft Edge has the second highest desktop share. [24] Safari is based on WebKit and is the default web browser for Mac computers. [26] Introduced in 2015, Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Windows 10 and 11 computers. [23] Mozilla Foundation's Firefox is the fourth most popular desktop browser, [24] and unlike some more popular browsers, is free and open-source. [27]

Some alternative browsers have gained prevalence, due to their increased customization and privacy. [28] Some such browsers also have built-in adblockers. [28] Examples include Brave, Epic, Maxthon, and Opera. [28] The Tor Browser gives access to the Tor anonymity network. [28] Tor allows access to the dark web, repeatedly encrypting traffic for privacy. [28] The alternative browsers have low market share compared to the large browsers; for example, Opera is the highest alternative browser by a wide margin, at a 2.49% market share in October 2022. [2]


The most popular browsers share many features in common. They automatically log users' browsing history, unless the users turn off their browsing history or use the non-logging private mode. They also allow users to set bookmarks, customize the browser with extensions, and can manage user passwords. [29] Some provide a sync service and web accessibility features. [30] [31] [32]

Traditional browser arrangement has user interface features above page content. Wikipedia Homepage Chromium Web browser 36.png
Traditional browser arrangement has user interface features above page content.

Most browsers have common user interface features such as:[ citation needed ]

While mobile browsers have similar UI features as desktop versions, the limitations of touch screens require mobile UIs to be simpler. [33] The difference is significant for users accustomed to keyboard shortcuts. [34] The most popular desktop browsers also have sophisticated web development tools, which allows developers to inspect the webpage operations. [35]


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.[ citation needed ]

Breaches of web browser security are usually for the purpose of bypassing protections to display pop-up advertising [36] collecting personally identifiable information (PII) for either Internet marketing or identity theft, website tracking or web analytics about a user against their will using tools such as web bugs, Clickjacking, Likejacking (where Facebook's like button is targeted), [37] [38] [39] [40] HTTP cookies, zombie cookies or Flash cookies (Local Shared Objects or LSOs); [41] [ better source needed ] installing adware, viruses, spyware such as Trojan horses (to gain access to users' personal computers via cracking) or other malware including online banking theft using man-in-the-browser attacks.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Netscape Navigator</span> Web browser by Netscape released in 1994

Netscape Navigator was a proprietary web browser, and the original browser of the Netscape line, from versions 1 to 4.08, and 9.x. It was the flagship product of the Netscape Communications Corp and was the dominant web browser in terms of usage share in the 1990s, but by around 2003 its user base had all but disappeared. This was partly because the Netscape Corporation did not sustain Netscape Navigator's technical innovation in the late 1990s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Safari (web browser)</span> Web browser by Apple

Safari is a web browser developed by Apple. It is built into Apple's operating systems, including macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, and uses Apple's open-source browser engine WebKit, which was derived from KHTML.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Firefox</span> Free and open-source web browser by Mozilla

Mozilla Firefox, or simply Firefox, is a free and open-source web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation. It uses the Gecko rendering engine to display web pages, which implements current and anticipated web standards. In November 2017, Firefox began incorporating new technology under the code name "Quantum" to promote parallelism and a more intuitive user interface. Firefox is available for Windows 7 and later versions, macOS, and Linux. Its unofficial ports are available for various Unix and Unix-like operating systems, including FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, illumos, and Solaris Unix. It is also available for Android and iOS. However, as with all other iOS web browsers, the iOS version uses the WebKit layout engine instead of Gecko due to platform requirements. An optimized version is also available on the Amazon Fire TV as one of the two main browsers available with Amazon's Silk Browser.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Browser wars</span> Competition between web browsing applications for share of worldwide usage

A browser war is a competition for dominance in the usage share of web browsers. The "first browser war," (1995-2001) pitted Microsoft's Internet Explorer against Netscape's Navigator. Browser wars continued with the decline of Internet Explorer's market share and the popularity of other browsers including Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Opera.

This is a comparison of both historical and current web browsers based on developer, engine, platform(s), releases, license, and cost.

about is an internal URI scheme implemented in various Web browsers to reveal internal state and built-in functions. It is an IANA officially registered scheme, and is standardized.

Mozilla Firefox has features that allow it to be distinguished from other web browsers, such as Chrome and Internet Explorer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Internet Explorer</span>

Microsoft developed 11 versions of Internet Explorer for Windows from 1995 to 2013. Microsoft also developed Internet Explorer for Mac, Internet Explorer for UNIX, and Internet Explorer Mobile respectively for Apple Macintosh, Unix, and mobile devices; the first two are discontinued but the latter runs on Windows CE, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Usage share of web browsers</span> Relative market adoption of web browsers

The usage share of web browsers is the portion, often expressed as a percentage, of visitors to a group of web sites that use a particular web browser.

A browser extension is a small software module for customizing a web browser. Browsers typically allow a variety of extensions, including user interface modifications, cookie management, ad blocking, and the custom scripting and styling of web pages.

A local shared object (LSO), commonly called a Flash cookie, is a piece of data that websites that use Adobe Flash may store on a user's computer. Local shared objects have been used by all versions of Flash Player since version 6.

A web browser is a software application for retrieving, presenting and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web. It further provides for the capture or input of information which may be returned to the presenting system, then stored or processed as necessary. The method of accessing a particular page or content is achieved by entering its address, known as a Uniform Resource Identifier or URI. This may be a web page, image, video, or other piece of content. Hyperlinks present in resources enable users easily to navigate their browsers to related resources. A web browser can also be defined as an application software or program designed to enable users to access, retrieve and view documents and other resources on the Internet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Site-specific browser</span> Software application for browsing a particular website

A site-specific browser (SSB) is a software application that is dedicated to accessing pages from a single source (site) on a computer network such as the Internet or a private intranet. SSBs typically simplify the more complex functions of a web browser by excluding the menus, toolbars and browser GUI associated with functions that are external to the workings of a single site. These applications are typically started by a desktop icon which is usually a favicon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Google Chrome</span> Web browser developed by Google

Google Chrome is a cross-platform web browser developed by Google. It was first released in 2008 for Microsoft Windows, built with free software components from Apple WebKit and Mozilla Firefox. Versions were later released for Linux, macOS, iOS, and also for Android, where it is the default browser. The browser is also the main component of ChromeOS, where it serves as the platform for web applications.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Private browsing</span> Privacy feature in some web browsers

Private browsing is a privacy feature in some web browsers. When operating in such a mode, the browser creates a temporary session that is isolated from the browser's main session and user data. Browsing history is not saved, and local data associated with the session, such as Cookies, Web cache, are cleared when the session is closed. These modes are designed primarily to prevent data and history associated with a particular browsing session from persisting on the device, or being discovered by another user of the same device.

Browser security is the application of Internet security to web browsers in order to protect networked data and computer systems from breaches of privacy or malware. Security exploits of browsers often use JavaScript, sometimes with cross-site scripting (XSS) with a secondary payload using Adobe Flash. Security exploits can also take advantage of vulnerabilities that are commonly exploited in all browsers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Google Safe Browsing</span> Service that warns about malicious URLs

Google Safe Browsing is a service from Google that warns users when they attempt to navigate to a dangerous website or download dangerous files. Safe Browsing also notifies webmasters when their websites are compromised by malicious actors and helps them diagnose and resolve the problem. This protection works across Google products and is claimed to “power safer browsing experiences across the Internet”. It lists URLs for web resources that contain malware or phishing content. Browsers like Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Vivaldi, Brave and GNOME Web use these lists from Google Safe Browsing to check pages against potential threats. Google also provides a public API for the service.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Microsoft Edge</span> Web browser developed by Microsoft

Microsoft Edge is a proprietary, cross-platform web browser created by Microsoft. It was first released in 2015 as part of Windows 10 and Xbox One and later ported to other platforms as a fork of Google's Chromium open-source project: Android and iOS, macOS, older Windows versions, and most recently Linux. It was created as the successor to Internet Explorer (IE).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Progressive web app</span> Specific form of single page web application

A progressive web application (PWA), or progressive web app, is a type of application software delivered through the web, built using common web technologies including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and WebAssembly. It is intended to work on any platform with a standards-compliant browser, including desktop and mobile devices.


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