Web browser

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Usage share of web browsers as of 2019 according to StatCounter Web browser usage share StatCounter.svg
Usage share of web browsers as of 2019 according to StatCounter

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 particular website, the web browser retrieves the necessary content from a web server and then displays the resulting web page on the user's device.

World Wide Web System of interlinked hypertext documents accessed over the Internet

The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information system where documents and other web resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators, which may be interlinked by hypertext, and are accessible over the Internet. The resources of the WWW may be accessed by users by a software application called a web browser.

User (computing) person who uses a computer or network service

A user is a person who utilizes a computer or network service. Users of computer systems and software products generally lack the technical expertise required to fully understand how they work. Power users use advanced features of programs, though they are not necessarily capable of computer programming and system administration.

Website set of related web pages served from a single web domain

A website or web site is a collection of related network web resources, such as web pages, multimedia content, which are typically identified with a common domain name, and published on at least one web server. Notable examples are wikipedia.org, google.com, and amazon.com.


A web browser is not the same thing as a search engine, though the two are often confused. [1] [2] For a user, a search engine is just a website, such as Google Search, Bing, or DuckDuckGo, that stores searchable data about other websites. However, to connect to a website's server and display its web pages, a user must have a web browser installed. [3]

Web search engine Software system that is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web

A web search engine or Internet search engine is a software system that is designed to carry out web search, which means to search the World Wide Web in a systematic way for particular information specified in a textual web search query. The search results are generally presented in a line of results, often referred to as search engine results pages (SERPs). The information may be a mix of links to web pages, images, videos, infographics, articles, research papers, and other types of files. Some search engines also mine data available in databases or open directories. Unlike web directories, which are maintained only by human editors, search engines also maintain real-time information by running an algorithm on a web crawler. Internet content that is not capable of being searched by a web search engine is generally described as the deep web.

Google Search web search engine developed by Google

Google Search, also referred to as Google Web Search or simply Google, is a web search engine developed by Google. It is the most used search engine on the World Wide Web across all platforms, with 92.62% market share as of June 2019, handling more than 5.4 billion searches each day.

Bing (search engine) Web search engine from Microsoft

Bing is a web search engine owned and operated by Microsoft. The service has its origins in Microsoft's previous search engines: MSN Search, Windows Live Search and later Live Search. Bing provides a variety of search services, including web, video, image and map search products. It is developed using ASP.NET.

As of March 2019, more than 4.3 billion people use a browser, which is about 55% of the world's population. [4] The three most popular browsers are Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Google Chrome 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, and was later ported to Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android. The browser is also the main component of Chrome OS, where it serves as the platform for web apps.

Firefox Free and open-source web browser by Mozilla

Mozilla Firefox, Firefox Browser, or simply Firefox, is a free and open-source web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, Mozilla Corporation. Firefox uses the Gecko layout engine to render web pages, which implements current and anticipated web standards. In 2017, Firefox began incorporating new technology under the code name Quantum to promote parallelism and a more intuitive user interface. Firefox is officially available for Windows 7 or newer, macOS and Linux; its unofficial ports are available for various Unix and Unix-like operating systems including FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, illumos and Solaris Unix. Firefox is also available for Android and iOS, however the iOS version uses the WebKit layout engine instead of Gecko due to platform limitations, as with all other iOS web browsers.

Safari (web browser) Web browser developed by Apple Inc.

Safari is a graphical web browser developed by Apple, based on the WebKit engine. First released on desktop in 2003 with Mac OS X Panther, a mobile version has been bundled with iOS devices since the iPhone's introduction in 2007. Safari is the default browser on Apple devices. A Windows version was available from 2007 to 2012.


The first web browser, called WorldWideWeb, was created in 1990 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. [5] He then recruited Nicola Pellow to write the Line Mode Browser, which displayed web pages on dumb terminals; it was released in 1991. [6]

WorldWideWeb first web browser and editor

WorldWideWeb was the first web browser and editor. It was discontinued in 1994. At the time it was written, it was the sole web browser in existence, as well as the first WYSIWYG HTML editor.

Tim Berners-Lee 20th and 21st-century English computer scientist, inventor of the World Wide Web

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, also known as TimBL, is an English engineer and computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. He is currently a Professorial Fellow of Computer Science at the University of Oxford and Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He made a proposal for an information management system on 12 March 1989, and he implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the internet in mid-November the same year.

Nicola Pellow computer scientist

Nicola Pellow was one of the nineteen members of the WWW Project at CERN working with Tim Berners-Lee. She joined the project in November 1990, while an undergraduate maths student enrolled in a sandwich course at Leicester Polytechnic. Pellow recalled having little experience with programming languages, "... apart from using a bit of Pascal and FORTRAN as part of my degree course."

Nicola Pellow and Tim Berners-Lee in their office at CERN. NPellow.jpg
Nicola Pellow and Tim Berners-Lee in their office at CERN.
Marc Andreessen, lead developer of Mosaic and Navigator Marc Andreessen.jpg
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". [7] 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. [7] 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. [8]

Mosaic (web browser) web browser

NCSA Mosaic, or simply Mosaic, is the web browser that popularized the World Wide Web and the Internet. It was also a client for earlier internet protocols such as File Transfer Protocol, Network News Transfer Protocol, and Gopher. The browser was named for its support of multiple internet protocols. Its intuitive interface, reliability, Microsoft Windows port and simple installation all contributed to its popularity within the web, as well as on Microsoft operating systems. Mosaic was also the first browser to display images inline with text instead of displaying images in a separate window. While often described as the first graphical web browser, Mosaic was preceded by WorldWideWeb, the lesser-known Erwise and ViolaWWW.

Marc Andreessen American entrepreneur, investor, and software engineer

Marc Lowell Andreessen is an American entrepreneur, investor, and software engineer. He is the co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser; co-founder of Netscape; and co-founder and general partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He founded and later sold the software company Opsware to Hewlett-Packard. Andreessen is also a co-founder of Ning, a company that provides a platform for social networking websites. He sits on the board of directors of Facebook, eBay, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, among others. Andreessen was one of six inductees in the World Wide Web Hall of Fame announced at the First International Conference on the World-Wide Web in 1994.

Netscape is a brand name associated with the development of the Netscape web browser. It is now owned by Verizon Media, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications. The brand belonged to the Netscape Communications Corporation, an independent American computer services company whose headquarters were in Mountain View, California and then Dulles, Virginia. The browser was once dominant but lost to Internet Explorer and other competitors after the so-called first browser war, its market share falling from more than 90 percent in the mid-1990s to less than 1 percent in 2006.

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. [9]

Microsoft U.S.-headquartered technology company

Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Its best known software products are the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, the Microsoft Office suite, and the Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers. Its flagship hardware products are the Xbox video game consoles and the Microsoft Surface lineup of touchscreen personal computers. In 2016, it was the world's largest software maker by revenue. The word "Microsoft" is a portmanteau of "microcomputer" and "software". Microsoft is ranked No. 30 in the 2018 Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.

Internet Explorer Web browser developed by Microsoft

Internet Explorer is a series of graphical web browsers developed by Microsoft and included in the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, starting in 1995. It was first released as part of the add-on package Plus! for Windows 95 that year. Later versions were available as free downloads, or in service packs, and included in the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) service releases of Windows 95 and later versions of Windows. The browser is discontinued, but still maintained.

Microsoft Windows is a group of several graphical operating system families, all of which are developed, marketed and sold by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. Active Microsoft Windows families include Windows NT and Windows IoT; these may encompass subfamilies, e.g. Windows Server or Windows Embedded Compact. Defunct Microsoft Windows families include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone.

WorldWideWeb was the first web browser. WorldWideWeb FSF GNU.png
WorldWideWeb was the first web browser.

In 1998, desperate to remain competitive, 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. [11]

Apple released its Safari browser in 2003. It remains the dominant browser on Apple platforms, though it never became a factor elsewhere. [11]

The last major entrant to the browser market was Google. Its Chrome browser, which debuted in 2008, has been a huge success. It steadily took market share from Internet Explorer and became the most popular browser in 2012. [12] [13] Chrome has remained dominant ever since.

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.


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. In the case of https:, the communication between the browser and the web server is encrypted for the purposes of security and privacy. Another URL prefix is file: which is used to display local files already stored on the user's device.

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, the browser navigates to the new resource. Thus the process of bringing content to the user begins again.


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.


During the course of browsing, cookies received from various websites are stored by the browser. Some of them contain login credentials or site preferences. [14] 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. [14] Finer-grained management of cookies usually requires a browser extension. [15]


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.


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. [16]

Market share

Most used web browser by country, as of June 2015.
Google Chrome
Internet Explorer
No info Browser Market Map June 2015.svg
Most used web browser by country, as of June 2015.
  No info
StatCounter November 2018
desktop share [17]
Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
Internet Explorer
Microsoft Edge
UC Browser
Yandex Browser
Cốc Cốc
Sogou Explorer
QQ browser
Mozilla Suite
360 Secure Browser
Naver Whale
Pale Moon
mCent Browser

See also

Related Research Articles

Netscape Navigator web browser

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 2002 its use had almost disappeared. This was primarily due to the increased use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser software, and partly because the Netscape Corporation did not sustain Netscape Navigator's technical innovation in the late 1990s.

Browser wars competition

A browser war is competition for dominance in the usage share of web browsers. The "First Browser War" during the late 1990s 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, and Opera.

Comparison of web browsers Wikimedia list article

The following tables compare general and technical information for a number of web browsers.

Netscape Browser

Netscape Browser is the eighth major release of the Netscape series of web browsers, now all discontinued. It was published by AOL, but developed by Mercurial Communications, and originally released for Windows on May 19, 2005.

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.

Usage share of web browsers relative market adoption of web browsers

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

AOL Explorer, previously known as AOL Browser, is a discontinued graphical web browser based on the Microsoft Trident layout engine and was released by AOL. In July 2005, AOL launched AOL Explorer as a free download and as an optional download with AIM version 5.9. AOL Explorer supported tabbed browsing.

An HTTP cookie is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user's computer by the user's web browser while the user is browsing. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember stateful information or to record the user's browsing activity. They can also be used to remember arbitrary pieces of information that the user previously entered into form fields such as names, addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers.

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

Bookmark (digital) URI stored for later retrieval in any of various storage formats

In the context of the World Wide Web, a bookmark is a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) that is stored for later retrieval in any of various storage formats. All modern web browsers include bookmark features. Bookmarks are called favorites or Internet shortcuts in Internet Explorer, and by virtue of that browser's large market share, these terms have been synonymous with bookmark since the first browser war. Bookmarks are normally accessed through a menu in the user's web browser, and folders are commonly used for organization. In addition to bookmarking methods within most browsers, many external applications offer bookmark management.

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.

Firefox 4 version 4 of web browser Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox 4 is a version of the Firefox web browser, released on March 22, 2011. The first beta was made available on July 6, 2010; Release Candidate 2 was released on March 18, 2011. It was codenamed Tumucumaque, and was Firefox's last large release cycle. The Mozilla team planned smaller and quicker releases following other browser vendors. The primary goals for this version included improvements in performance, standards support, and user interface.

Firefox 2 2006 web browser

Mozilla Firefox 2 is a version of Firefox, a web browser released on October 24, 2006 by the Mozilla Corporation.

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) — sometimes with a secondary payload using Adobe Flash. Security exploits can also take advantage of vulnerabilities that are commonly exploited in all browsers.


  1. "What is a Browser?". Google (on YouTube). 30 April 2009. Less than 8% of people who were interviewed on this day knew what a browser was.
  2. "No-Judgment Digital Definitions: Internet, Search Engine, Browser". Mozilla. 11 October 2017. Let’s start by breaking down the differences between internet, search engine, and browser. Lots of us get these three things confused with each other.
  3. "Difference Between Search Engine and Browser".
  4. "World Internet Users Statistics and 2019 World Population Stats". www.internetworldstats.com. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  5. "Tim Berners-Lee: WorldWideWeb, the first Web client". W3.org. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  6. Gillies, James; Cailliau, R. (2000). How the Web was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web . Oxford University Press. p. 6. ISBN   0192862073.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. 1 2 "Bloomberg Game Changers: Marc Andreessen". Bloomberg. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  8. Enzer, Larry (31 August 2018). "The Evolution of the Web Browsers". Monmouth Web Developers. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  9. "Mozilla Firefox Internet Browser Market Share Gains to 7.4%". Search Engine Journal. 24 November 2004. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  10. Stewart, William. "Web Browser History" . Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  11. 1 2 "StatCounter Global Stats – Browser, OS, Search Engine including Mobile Usage Share" . Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  12. "Internet Explorer usage to plummet below 50 percent by mid-2012". 3 September 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  13. "StatCounter Global Stats – Browser, OS, Search Engine including Mobile Usage Share" . Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  14. 1 2 "Tracking Cookies: What They Are, and How They Threaten Your Privacy". Tom's Guide. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  15. "Alternatives to Cookie AutoDelete extension". AlternativeTo. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  16. "Securing Your Web Browser". www.us-cert.gov. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  17. "Desktop Browser Market Share Worldwide". StatCounter.