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Definition: Web browser


The application program that serves as the primary method for accessing the World Wide Web, one of the major services on the Internet. In order to view a website, its address (URL), such as www.computerlanguage.com, is typed into the search box at the top of the browser, and the site's home page is retrieved. The home page includes an index to other pages on the site as well as to pages on other sites, and those pages are retrieved by clicking "links" (see hypertext).

All browsers include bookmarks (Favorites) that store the addresses (URLs) of frequently used pages. Tabs are another useful feature that keep multiple Web pages open for quick access (see tabbed browsing).

Browsers Are Similar
The most popular Web browsers in order of 2020 market share are Chrome, Safari, Edge, Internet Explorer (IE), Firefox and Opera. All Web browsers are free, and most have versions for Windows and Mac. Some browsers are also available for Linux.

All browsers offer similar features. The way users interact with a Web page has more to do with the page than the browser. Web pages contain embedded programs that turn them into applications not much different than the software users install in their own computers. See mobile Web browser.

Web Browser History
The Mosaic browser put the Web on the map in 1993, but by the mid-1990s, Netscape Navigator had 80% of the market. Vying for top spot, Netscape and Internet Explorer (IE) constantly added features that fragmented websites into competing camps. In the early days, one often found sites with notices such as "Best Viewed in Netscape" or "Best Viewed in Internet Explorer." IE eventually trumped Netscape, but eventually lost market share to competing browsers. See World Wide Web, Mosaic, Internet Explorer, Edge browser, Opera browser, Firefox, Mozilla, Safari, Chrome browser, Brave browser, Vivaldi browser, hyperlink, HTML and microbrowser.




The Browser Advantage
Instead of maintaining several locally installed applications, a single Web browser application has access to millions of websites and the functionality they offer. Program code such as JavaScript and PHP embedded in a Web page increasingly make it function like a locally installed application. See cloud computing, JavaScript and Web application.