Web browser

A web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is a software application for accessing information on the World Wide Web. Each individual web page, image, and video is identified by a distinct Uniform Resource Locator (URL), enabling browsers to retrieve these resources from a web server and display them on the user's device.

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.com, that stores searchable data about other websites. But to connect to a website's server and display its web pages, a user needs to have a web browser installed on their device.[3]

As of March 2019, more than 4.3 billion people are web browser users, around 55% of the world’s population.  Their success is in part caused by their flexibility, due to their Turing-complete execution and powerful graphic capabilities.[4]

The most popular browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Edge.

History

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]

NPellow
Nicola Pellow and Tim Berners-Lee in their office at CERN.
Marc Andreessen
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]

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]

WorldWideWeb FSF GNU
WorldWideWeb was the first web browser.[10]

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.

Function

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 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.

Settings

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.

Privacy

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 requires a browser extension.[15]

Features

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:

  • 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 button to reload the current page.
  • A stop button to cancel loading the page. (In some 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. One example is text-only browsers that can benefit people with slow Internet connections or those with visual impairments.

Security

Web browsers are installed on almost all computers. As a result, they are popular targets for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities (security holes). Attackers can use these vulnerabilities to steal information, destroy files, and use computers to attack other computers. Common methods to attack browsers include installing Trojan software or spyware. Instead of actively targeting vulnerabilities, attackers often compromise systems passively when a malicious website is visited.[16]

Certain browser features contain commonly exploited vulnerabilities. They include:

Methods used to secure web browsers and computers in general include keeping browser software updated, installing and using antivirus software, and avoiding malicious content and website-based exploits.[16]    

Market share

Browser Market Map June 2015
Most used web browser by country, as of June 2015.
  Safari
  UC
  Iron
  Opera
  No info
StatCounter November 2018
desktop share[17]
Google Chrome
72.4%
Mozilla Firefox
9.1%
Internet Explorer
5.4%
Safari
5.1%
Microsoft Edge
4.0%
Opera
2.2%
UC Browser
0.55%
Yandex Browser
0.39%
Cốc Cốc
0.20%
Chromium
0.15%
Sogou Explorer
0.14%
QQ Browser
0.13%
Maxthon
0.08%
Mozilla Suite
0.05%
Vivaldi
0.04%
360 Secure Browser
0.02%
Naver Whale
0.02%
Pale Moon
0.02%
mCent Browser
0.02%
SeaMonkey
0.01%
Other
0.06%

See also

References

  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. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "Securing Your Web Browser". www.us-cert.gov. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Desktop Browser Market Share Worldwide". StatCounter.

External links

Amaya (web editor)

Amaya (formerly Amaya World) is a discontinued free and open source WYSIWYG web authoring tool with browsing abilities.

It was created by a structured editor project at the INRIA, a French national research institution, and later adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as their testbed for web standards; a role it took over from the Arena web browser. Since the last release in January 2012, INRIA and the W3C have stopped supporting the project and active development has ceased.Amaya has relatively low system requirements, even in comparison with other web browsers from the era of its active development period, so it has been considered a "lightweight" browser.

Brave (web browser)

Brave is a free and open-source web browser developed by Brave Software Inc. based on the Chromium web browser. The browser blocks ads and website trackers. In a future version of the browser, the company has proposed adopting a pay-to-surf business model.

As of 2018, Brave supports Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. The current version features 20 search engines by default, including their partner DuckDuckGo.

Camino (web browser)

Camino (from the Spanish word camino meaning "path") is a discontinued free, open source, GUI-based Web browser based on Mozilla's Gecko layout engine and specifically designed for the OS X operating system. In place of an XUL-based user interface used by most Mozilla-based applications, Camino used Mac-native Cocoa APIs. On May 30, 2013, the Camino Project announced that the browser is no longer being developed.As Camino's aim was to integrate as well as possible with OS X, it used the Aqua user interface and integrated a number of OS X services and features such as the Keychain for password management and Bonjour for scanning available bookmarks across the local network. Other notable features included an integrated pop-up blocker and ad blocker, and tabbed browsing that included an overview feature allowing tabs to be viewed all at once as pages.The browser was developed by the Camino Project, a community organization. Mike Pinkerton had been the technical lead of the Camino project since Dave Hyatt moved to the Safari team at Apple Inc. in mid-2002.

Chromium (web browser)

Chromium is Google's open-source web browser project. It is a fully functional browser on its own and supplies the vast majority of code for the Google Chrome browser. The two browsers have always had some differences, as indicated by their names: chromium is the metal used to make chrome plating.The Chromium code is also widely used by other parties to create their own browsers. Many vendors use the code in a similar manner as Google, while others simply build it as-is and release browsers with the Chromium name.

The user interface is minimalist because Google wanted its browser to "feel lightweight (cognitively and physically) and fast".

Epic (web browser)

Epic is a privacy-centric web browser. It was developed by Hidden Reflex (a software product company founded by Alok Bhardwaj, based in Washington DC and Bangalore, India) from Chromium source code. Epic is always in "private browsing mode". Exiting the browser causes all browsing data to be deleted. Even during browsing as little as possible is stored. Epic removed all Google tracking and blocks other companies from tracking users.(The browser has no connection with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group that's known as EPIC.)

Firefox

Mozilla Firefox (or simply Firefox) is a free and open-source web browser developed by The Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, Mozilla Corporation. Firefox is available for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, BSD, illumos and Solaris operating systems. Its sibling, Firefox for Android, is also available. 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. An additional version, Firefox for iOS, was released on November 12, 2015. Due to platform restrictions, it uses the WebKit layout engine instead of Gecko, as with all other iOS web browsers.

Firefox was created in 2002 under the codename "Phoenix" by the Mozilla community members who desired a standalone browser, rather than the Mozilla Application Suite bundle. During its beta phase, Firefox proved to be popular with its testers and was praised for its speed, security, and add-ons compared to Microsoft's then-dominant Internet Explorer 6. Firefox was released on November 9, 2004, and challenged Internet Explorer's dominance with 60 million downloads within nine months. Firefox is the spiritual successor of Netscape Navigator, as the Mozilla community was created by Netscape in 1998 before their acquisition by AOL.Firefox usage grew to a peak of 32% at the end of 2009, with version 3.5 overtaking Internet Explorer 7, although not Internet Explorer as a whole. Usage then declined in competition with Google Chrome. As of March 2019, Firefox has 9.57% usage share as a "desktop" browser, according to StatCounter, making it the second-most popular such web browser; usage across all platforms is lower at 4.66% (and then third-most popular overall). Firefox is still the most popular desktop browser in a few countries including Cuba (even most popular overall at 49.7%) and Eritrea with 72.26% and 83.28% of the market share, respectively. According to Mozilla, in December 2014, there were half a billion Firefox users around the world.

Flock (web browser)

Flock is a discontinued web browser that specialized in providing social networking and Web 2.0 facilities built into its user interface.

Earlier versions of Flock used the Gecko HTML rendering engine by Mozilla.

Version 2.6.2, released on January 27, 2011, was the last version based on Mozilla Firefox.

Starting with version 3, Flock was based on Chromium and so used the WebKit rendering engine.

Flock was available as a free download, and supported Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and, at one time, Linux as well.

Support for Flock was discontinued in April 2011.

GNOME Web

GNOME Web (originally called Epiphany until 2012) is a free and open-source lightweight web browser developed by GNOME only for Linux and Unix-like systems.

The browser was forked from Galeon, after developers' disagreements about Galeon's growing complexity. Since then Web has been developed as part of the GNOME project and uses most of GNOME's technology and settings when applicable. It is part of the GNOME Core Applications. As required by the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines (HIG), Web maintains a clean and simple graphical user interface with only a required minimum number of features exposed to users by default. The browser's functionality and configurability can be extended with official and third-party extensions.Instead of developing a custom browser engine, Epiphany originally used Mozilla Gecko until version 2.28, but starting with version 2.20 in September 2007, it is using WebKitGTK. This change allows the relatively small developer community to maintain a sufficient level of modern web standards support. The features of GNOME Web include reuse of GNOME configuration settings, smart bookmarks and web application integration into user desktop.

GNOME Web is default web browser on elementary OS and its source code is available under the GNU General Public License. It is only released as source code and binary builds of the browser are available in the software repository of most Linux distributions and BSD OSs.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome (commonly known simply as 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.

Most of Chrome's source code comes from Google's open-source Chromium project, but Chrome is licensed as proprietary freeware. WebKit was the original rendering engine, but Google eventually forked it to create the Blink engine; all Chrome variants except iOS now use Blink.As of February 2019, StatCounter estimates that Chrome has a 62% worldwide browser market share across all platforms. Because of this success, Google has expanded the "Chrome" brand name to other products: Chrome OS, Chromecast, Chromebook, Chromebit, Chromebox, and Chromebase.

HTTP cookie

An HTTP cookie (also called web cookie, Internet cookie, browser cookie, or simply 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 (such as items added in the shopping cart in an online store) or to record the user's browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited in the past). 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.

Other kinds of cookies perform essential functions in the modern web. Perhaps most importantly, authentication cookies are the most common method used by web servers to know whether the user is logged in or not, and which account they are logged in with. Without such a mechanism, the site would not know whether to send a page containing sensitive information, or require the user to authenticate themselves by logging in. The security of an authentication cookie generally depends on the security of the issuing website and the user's web browser, and on whether the cookie data is encrypted. Security vulnerabilities may allow a cookie's data to be read by a hacker, used to gain access to user data, or used to gain access (with the user's credentials) to the website to which the cookie belongs (see cross-site scripting and cross-site request forgery for examples).The tracking cookies, and especially third-party tracking cookies, are commonly used as ways to compile long-term records of individuals' browsing histories – a potential privacy concern that prompted European and U.S. lawmakers to take action in 2011. European law requires that all websites targeting European Union member states gain "informed consent" from users before storing non-essential cookies on their device.

Google Project Zero researcher Jann Horn describes ways cookies can be read by intermediaries, like Wi-Fi hotspot providers. He recommends to use the browser in incognito mode in such circumstances.

IBrowse

IBrowse was a MUI-based web browser for the Amiga range of computers. It was a rewrite of Amiga Mosaic, one of the first web browsers for the Amiga Computer.IBrowse supported some HTML 4, JavaScript, frames, SSL, and various other standards. It was one of the first browsers to include tabbed browsing.

Lynx (web browser)

Lynx is a customizable text-based web browser for use on cursor-addressable character cell terminals. As of January 2019, it is the oldest web browser still in general use and active development, having started in 1992.

Midori (web browser)

Midori (緑, Japanese for green) is a free and open-source light-weight web browser. It uses the WebKit rendering engine and the GTK+ 2 or GTK+ 3 interface. Midori is part of the Xfce desktop environment's Goodies component and was developed to follow the Xfce principle of "making the most out of available resources". It is the default browser in the SliTaz Linux distribution, Bodhi Linux, Trisquel Mini, old versions of Raspbian, and wattOS in its R5 release. It was the default browser in Elementary OS Freya.In 2019, the Midori project merged with the Astian Foundation.

Mosaic (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.

Mosaic was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign beginning in late 1992. NCSA released the browser in 1993, and officially discontinued development and support on January 7, 1997.Starting in 1995 Mosaic lost market share to Netscape Navigator, and by 1997 only had a tiny fraction of users left, by which time the project was discontinued. Microsoft licensed Mosaic to create Internet Explorer in 1995.

Nokia Browser for Symbian

Nokia Browser for Symbian (formerly known as Web Browser for S60) was the default web browser for the S60 and Symbian mobile phone platform. The browser is based on a port of Apple Inc.’s open-source WebCore and JavaScriptCore frameworks which form the WebKit rendering engine that Apple uses in its Safari Web browser.

Opera (web browser)

Opera is a web browser for Microsoft Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux operating systems, developed by Opera Software. Opera Software is a Norwegian software company publicly listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, with the majority of ownership and control belonging to Chinese Businessman Yahui Zhou, creator of Beijing Kunlun Tech which specialises in mobile games and cybersecurity specialist Qihoo 360. Opera is a Chromium-based browser using the Blink layout engine. It differentiates itself because of a distinct user interface and other features.

Opera was conceived at Telenor as a research project in 1994 and was bought by Opera Software in 1995. It was commercial software for the first ten years and had its own proprietary Presto layout engine. The Presto versions of Opera received many awards, but Presto development ended after the big transition to Chromium in 2013.

There are also three mobile versions called Opera Mobile, Opera Touch and Opera Mini.

Safari (web browser)

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.

Vivaldi (web browser)

Vivaldi is a freeware, cross-platform web browser developed by Vivaldi Technologies, a company founded by Opera Software co-founder and former CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Tatsuki Tomita. It was officially launched on April 6, 2016.Although intended for general users, it is first and foremost targeted towards technically-inclined users as well as former Opera users disgruntled by its transition from the Presto layout engine to a Chromium-based browser that resulted in the loss of many of its iconic features. Despite also being Chromium-based, Vivaldi aims to revive the features of the Presto-based Opera with its own proprietary modifications.As of March 2019, Vivaldi has 1.2 million active monthly users.

World Wide Web

The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information space where documents and other web resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators (URLs, such as https://www.example.com/), 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.

English scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989. He wrote the first web browser in 1990 while employed at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. The browser was released outside CERN in 1991, first to other research institutions starting in January 1991 and then to the general public in August 1991. The World Wide Web has been central to the development of the Information Age and is the primary tool billions of people use to interact on the Internet.Web resources may be any type of downloaded media, but web pages are hypertext media that have been formatted in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Such formatting allows for embedded hyperlinks that contain URLs and permit users to navigate to other web resources. In addition to text, web pages may contain images, video, audio, and software components that are rendered in the user's web browser as coherent pages of multimedia content.

Multiple web resources with a common theme, a common domain name, or both, make up a website. Websites are stored in computers that are running a program called a web server that responds to requests made over the Internet from web browsers running on a user's computer. Website content can be largely provided by a publisher, or interactively where users contribute content or the content depends upon the users or their actions. Websites may be provided for a myriad of informative, entertainment, commercial, governmental, or non-governmental reasons.

Web browsers
Timeline of web browsers

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