A web browser is not the same thing as a search engine, though the two are often confused.
For a user, a search engine is just 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 2020, an estimated 4.9 billion people use a browser, with more than half of them in Asia.
Main article: History of the web browser
1993 was a landmark year with the release of Mosaic, credited as "the world's first popular browser".
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.
Navigator quickly became the most popular browser.
Eventually the market share of Internet Explorer peaked at over 95% in 2002.
This work evolved into Firefox, first released by Mozilla in 2004.
Firefox reached a 28% market share in 2011.
It remains the dominant browser on Apple platforms, though it did not become popular elsewhere.
Chrome has remained dominant ever since.
In 2011, the first version of HTTPS Everywhere was launched, while NoScript got its main awards and Mozilla launched the stable version of Tor Firefox browser, the free add-on to navigate the dark web.
(Internet Explorer is still used on older versions of Windows.)
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.
Virtually all URLs on the Web start with either http: or https: which means the browser will retrieve them with the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
Web pages usually contain hyperlinks to other pages and resources.
Thus the process of bringing content to the user begins again.
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.
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.
Various network connectivity and privacy settings are also usually available.
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 settings for removing cookies when exiting the browser.
Finer-grained management of cookies usually requires a browser extension.
The most popular browsers have a number of features in common.
Most browsers have these user interface features:
- Allow the user to open multiple pages at the same time, either in different browser windows or in different tabs of 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.
- A search bar to input terms into a search engine. (In some browsers, the search bar is merged with the address bar.)
There are also niche browsers with distinct features.
Main article: Browser security
Browser vendors regularly patch these security holes, so users are strongly encouraged to keep their browser software updated.
Main article: Usage share of web browsers
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web browser.