What Is a Browser?

Home & Family, Technology
on March 12, 2012

The Internet is like a vast library of valuable material, all of which is cataloged and presented within individual websites. Internet users need some means of accessing all these different sites, and this activity is undertaken by means of a web browser.

A web browser is a software application that allows users to access, retrieve and upload data and resources on the Internet. A number of browsers are currently used globally. These browsers essentially provide the same basic functions, but each comes equipped with different tools and attributes to make Internet browsing easier.

Most popular browsers. Browser usage is estimated by a number of different groups, and there are four main versions used globally. According to Statcounter, in January 2012, the most popular browser was Internet Explorer, with 34.27 percent of the global market. This is followed by Google Chrome, 25.99 percent; Firefox, 22.68 percent; and Safari, 7.98 percent. Safari is currently the only browser listed that has a specific version for mobile Internet browsing.

Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer was launched by Microsoft in 1995, initially as part of the Windows 95 software package. Since its launch, Internet Explorer has been updated a number of times, and the most current version of the browser is Internet Explorer 9. According to Microsoft, Internet Explorer has a number of advantages over other browsers, including hardware acceleration for text and graphics (which loads pages quicker) as well as search suggestions that are presented as you type. Internet Explorer is frequently criticized for its exposure to malware and viruses.

Google Chrome. Google Chrome is one of the newest browsers on the market and was launched in 2008. Chrome uses performance-enhancing software (JavaScript 8), which speeds up web-loading pages. It is also currently the only web browser to feature built-in language translation capabilities and can be used on either an Apple Mac or Windows computer. Chrome cannot be accessed in offline mode, however, so pages cannot be stored and viewed when the user has no Internet connection.

Firefox. Mozilla Firefox was launched in 2004 as an open-source application, which means that it is licensed for free use by anybody, with any operating system. It can be used on both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac operating systems. The Firefox browsing optimizes browsing speeds, without using additional computer memory. It can also be synchronized across multiple devices, so that you can access your favorites and browsing history from any computer. Not all websites are optimized for Firefox, however, and downloads cannot be restarted. If the browser crashes halfway through, users must restart the download.

Safari. Safari was developed by Apple for use on the Mac operating system, but has since been developed to be compatible with Microsoft Windows, too. Safari works across desktops, laptops, mobile phones and tablet devices. The browsing experience on a laptop now mirrors that of an iPhone or iPad by allowing users to swipe across the trackpad to control the screen. Safari also makes it easier to find pages that you have previously visited and will also convert a page to text so that you can ignore the adverts. Some websites, however, do not support Safari, and the software is rarely updated compared to others on the market.