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. The most used browser is Google Chrome, with a 65% global market share on all devices, followed by Safari with 18%.
A web browser is not the same thing as a search engine, though the two are often confused. 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. In some technical contexts, browsers are referred to as "user agents."
The purpose of a web browser is to fetch content from the
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. Cached items are usually only stored for as long as the web server stipulates in its HTTP response messages.
During the course of browsing, 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 a section in the menu for deleting cookies. Finer-grained management of cookies usually requires a browser extension.
The first web browser, called
|January 2023 desktop browser share|
The current most used browser worldwide is Google Chrome, with a 65% global market share on all devices. Google Chrome is built on Google's free and open-source software project Chromium, and is a major component of Google's operating system ChromeOS. Apple's Safari has the second highest global market share, at 18%, while Microsoft Edge has the second highest desktop share. Safari is based on WebKit and is the default web browser for Mac computers. Introduced in 2015, Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Windows 10 and 11 computers. Mozilla Foundation's Firefox is the fourth most popular desktop browser, and unlike some more popular browsers, is free and open-source.
Some alternative browsers have gained prevalence, due to their increased customization and privacy.
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. Some provide a sync service and web accessibility features.
Most browsers have common user interface features such as:
- Allowing the user to having multiple tabsof the same window.
- Back and forward buttons to go back to the previous page visited or forward to the next one.
- A refresh or reload and a stop button to reload and cancel loading the current page. (In most browsers, the stop button is merged with the reload button.)
- A home button to return to the user's home page.
- An address bar to input the URL of a page and display it, and a search bar to input terms into a search engine. (In most browsers, the search bar is merged with the address bar.)
While mobile browsers have similar UI features as desktop versions, the limitations of touch screens require mobile UIs to be simpler. The difference is significant for users accustomed to keyboard shortcuts. The most popular desktop browsers also have sophisticated web development tools, which allows developers to inspect the webpage operations.
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.
Breaches of web browser security are usually for the purpose of bypassing protections to display
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Less than 8% of people who were interviewed on this day knew what a browser was.
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Let's start by breaking down the differences between the internet, browsers, search engine, and websites. Lots of us get these four things confused with each other.
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