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 64% global market share on all devices, followed by Safari with 19%. [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 Web or local storage and display it on the 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 on the Web start with either http: or https: which means they are retrieved with the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). For secure mode (HTTPS), the connection between the browser and web server is encrypted, providing a secure and private data transfer. [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]


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] The lead developers of Mosaic then founded the Netscape corporation, 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 its popular Windows 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; it 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 in many parts of the world, enabling people to access data-intensive content, such as streaming HD video on YouTube, that was not possible during the era of dial-up modems. [24]

Browser market

January 2024
Desktop browser share [25]
Google Chrome
Microsoft Edge

Google Chrome has been the dominant browser since the mid-2010s and currently has a 64% global market share on all devices. [2] The vast majority of its source code comes from Google's open-source Chromium project; [26] this code is also the basis for many other browsers, including Microsoft Edge, currently in third place with about a 5% share, [2] and Opera and Samsung Internet in fifth and sixth place with over 2% each. [2]

The other two browsers in the top four are made from different codebases. Safari, based on Apple's WebKit code, is dominant on Apple devices, resulting in a 19% global share. [2] Firefox, with about a 3% share, [2] is based on Mozilla's code. Both of these codebases are open-source, so a number of small niche browsers are also made from them.


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. [27] Some provide a sync service [28] and web accessibility features.

Traditional browser arrangement has user interface features above page content. Chromium (web browser).png
Traditional browser arrangement has user interface features above page content.

Common user interface (UI) features:

While mobile browsers have similar UI features as desktop versions, the limitations of touch screens require mobile UIs to be simpler. [29] The difference is significant for users accustomed to keyboard shortcuts. [30] The most popular desktop browsers also have sophisticated web development tools. [31]


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 being aware of scams. [32]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Internet Explorer</span> Web browser series by Microsoft

Internet Explorer is a retired series of graphical web browsers developed by Microsoft that were used in the Windows line of operating systems. While IE has been discontinued on most Windows editions, it remains supported on certain editions of Windows, such as Windows 10 LTSB/LTSC. 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. Microsoft spent over US$100 million per year on Internet Explorer in the late 1990s, with over 1,000 people involved in the project by 1999. New feature development for the browser was discontinued in 2016 and ended support on June 15, 2022 for Windows 10 Semi-Annual Channel (SAC), in favor of its successor, Microsoft Edge.

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

Netscape Navigator is a discontinued 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.

Netscape Communications Corporation was an American independent computer services company with headquarters in Mountain View, California, and then Dulles, Virginia. Its Netscape web browser was once dominant but lost to Internet Explorer and other competitors in the so-called first browser war, with its market share falling from more than 90 percent in the mid-1990s to less than one percent in 2006. An early Netscape employee Brendan Eich created the JavaScript programming language, the most widely used language for client-side scripting of web pages and a founding engineer of Netscape Lou Montulli created HTTP cookies. The company also developed SSL which was used for securing online communications before its successor TLS took over.

<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. Firefox is available for Windows 10 or 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) consisted of Internet Explorer and 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 which distinguish it from other web browsers, such as Google Chrome, Safari, and Microsoft Edge.

<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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mozilla Application Suite</span> Discontinued Internet suite

The Mozilla Application Suite is a discontinued cross-platform integrated Internet suite. Its development was initiated by Netscape Communications Corporation, before their acquisition by AOL. It was based on the source code of Netscape Communicator. The development was spearheaded by the Mozilla Organization from 1998 to 2003, and by the Mozilla Foundation from 2003 to 2006.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the World Wide Web</span> Information system running in the Internet

The World Wide Web is a global information medium that users can access via computers connected to the Internet. The term is often mistakenly used as a synonym for the Internet, but the Web is a service that operates over the Internet, just as email and Usenet do. The history of the Internet and the history of hypertext date back significantly further than that of the World Wide Web.

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 Microsoft Edge, 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 bookmarks 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.

<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 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.

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">Microsoft Edge</span> Web browser developed by Microsoft

Microsoft Edge is a proprietary cross-platform web browser created by Microsoft. Released in 2015 as part of Windows 10 and Xbox One, it was initially built with Microsoft's own proprietary browser engine, EdgeHTML, and their Chakra JavaScript engine. Later on, it was ported to Android and iOS as a fork of Google's Chromium open-source project. In late 2018, Microsoft announced it would completely rebuild Edge as a Chromium-based browser with Blink and V8 engines, which allowed the browser to be ported to macOS. The new Edge was publicly released in January 2020, and on Xbox platforms in 2021. Microsoft has since terminated security support for the original browser. Edge is also available on older Windows versions, as well as Linux.

<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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