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Definition: Web browser

The application program that serves as the on-ramp to the World Wide Web, which along with video streaming are the two major services on the Internet. In order to view a website, its address (URL), such as www.computerlanguage.com, is typed into the browser's search box, and the site's home page is retrieved. The home page includes links to other pages on the site as well as to pages on other sites (see hypertext). Browsers for smartphones are designed to accommodate the smaller screens (see mobile Web browser).

The Most Important Application Ever
No other software application provides the user with more possibilities than the Web browser. It is the pathway to a billion websites that inform and entertain and make available the good, bad, right and wrong and everything in between the world has to offer.

Browsers Have Similar and Different Features
All browsers store the URLs of frequently used pages (favorites), and tabs keep multiple pages open for quick access. See URL and tabbed browsing.

The most popular browsers as of 2020 are Chrome, Safari, Edge, Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox. There are lesser known favorites such as Brave, Vivaldi and Opera, each with their own personality. All browsers can be set to stop third parties from tracking behavior and many have options to avoid ads. Every browser worth its salt supports Windows, Mac and mobiles, and all browsers can be enhanced with add-ons (see browser extension).

Browsers Execute Programs
Browsers generally work the same but if the browser is not in sync with the coding on a website, it can exhibit different behavior, and browsers not updated for years may have problems. All Web pages are embedded with some amount of programming code, and some Web apps are full-blown programs like the ones users install in their own computers. There is little a local app can do that a Web app cannot.

Web Browser History
In 1993, the Mosaic browser put the Web on the map, 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 soon 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, the support staff only has to keep the browser current.