According to Mozilla Firefox, a Web Browser takes you anywhere on the internet. Letting you see text, images, and videos from anywhere in the world.
The web is a vast and powerful tool. Over the course of a few decades, the internet has changed the way we work, the way we play and the way we interact with one another.
Depending on how it’s used, it bridges nations. Driving commerce, nurturing relationships, as well as driving the innovation engine of the future. And is responsible for more memes than we know what to do with.
It’s important that everyone has access to the web, but it’s also vital that we all understand the web browser tools we use to access it. We use web browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera and Apple Safari every day. But, do we even understand what they are and how they work?
In a short period of time, we’ve gone from being amazed by the ability to send an email to someone around the world, to a change in how we think of information. It’s not a question of how much you know anymore. But, simply a question of what browser can get you information fastest?
What is a Web Browser?
A Web Browser is basically a software that is used to access the internet. Whereby, a web browser lets you visit websites and do activities within them like login. As well as, view multimedia, link from one site to another, visit one page from another, print, send and receive an email. Among many other activities.
The most common browser software titles on the market are Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Opera. Browser availability depends on the operating system your computer is using. For example, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Ubuntu, Mac OS, among others.
For instance, when you type a web page address such as www.josephmuciraexclusives.com into your browser, that web page in its entirety is not actually stored on a server ready and waiting to be delivered. In fact, each web page that you request is individually created in response to your request.
You are actually calling up a list of requests to get content from various resource directories. Or servers on which the content for that page is stored. It is rather like a recipe for a cake. Whereby, you have a shopping list of ingredients (requests for content). That, when combined in the correct order, bakes a cake (the web page).
The page may be made up of content from different sources. Images may come from one server, text content from another, scripts such as date scripts from another and ads from another. As soon as you move to another page, the page that you have just viewed disappears. This is the dynamic nature of websites.
What is a Search Engine?
A search engine is a software, usually accessed on the Internet, that searches a database of information according to the website user query. The engine provides a list of results that best match what the user is trying to find.
Today, there are many different search engines available on the Internet, each with their own abilities and features. The first search engine ever developed is considered Archie, which was used to search for FTP files and the first text-based search engine is considered Veronica.
Currently, the most popular and well-known search engine is Google. Other popular search engines include AOL, Ask.com, Baidu, Bing, and Yahoo. For users, a search engine is accessed through a browser on their computer, smartphone, tablet, or another device.
Also, today, most new browsers use an Omnibox, which is a text box at the top of the browser. The Omnibox allows users to type in a URL or a search query. You can also visit one of the major search engine home pages to perform a search.
With this in mind, you can read and learn more about How a Search Engine works.
What is Behind a Web Browser?
There are a few main components that make up the browser. For more of a deep dive to understand what happens between A (you clicking a link or typing in a URL) and B (you seeing a fully rendered web page), we can look closer at these elements to understand how web browsers work.
These are standards in all browsers. Although they aren’t technically required, all these elements are usually found on every browser page to ensure usability.
The browser acts as a client to contact the webserver and request information. When you search something on Google and click on a link or enter a URL in the address bar, the webserver locates and sends the information you just requested to the web browser.
It does this by first performing a Domain Name System (DNS) look to find the correct IP address. This basically means that every URL Component has an equivalent set of numbers – the IP address – and the DNS translates it into language so we can type “Google.com” instead of “188.8.131.52”.
The browser engine bridges the UI and the rendering engine. This is where the rendering engine reads the HTML and XML documents and interprets it to make a Document Object Model (DOM) tree and display the content.
The rendering engine of every browser is different, which means a web page will likely look different depending on the browser.
How does a Web Browser work?
A web browser takes you anywhere on the internet. It retrieves information from other parts of the web and displays it on your desktop or mobile device.
The information is transferred using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Eventually, which defines how text, images, and video are transmitted on the web.
This information needs to be shared and displayed in a consistent format so that people using any browser, anywhere in the world can see the information. Sadly, not all browser makers choose to interpret the format in the same way.
For users, this means that a website can look and function differently. Creating consistency between browsers, so that any user can enjoy the internet, regardless of the browser they choose, is called web standards.
When the web browser fetches data from an internet-connected server and it then uses a piece of software called a rendering engine to translate that data into text and images.
Hyperlinks, on the other hand, allow users to follow a path to other pages or sites on the web. Every webpage, image, and video has its own unique Uniform Resource Locator or in short, URL, which is also known as a web address.
Lastly, when a browser visits a server for data, the web address tells the browser where to look for each item that is described in the html. After all, which then tells the browser where it goes on the web page.
What are Website Cookies?
Websites save information about you in files called cookies. They are saved on your computer for the next time you visit that site. Upon your return, the website code will read that file to see that it’s you. For example, when you go to a website and the page remembers your username and password – that’s made possible by a cookie.
There are also cookies that remember more detailed information about you. Perhaps your interests, your web browsing patterns, etc. This means that a site can provide you more targeted content – often in the form of ads. There are types of cookies, called third-party cookies.
The third-party cookies come from sites you’re not even visiting at the time. And can track you from site to site to gather information about you. After all, which is sometimes sold to other companies. Sometimes you can block these kinds of cookies, though not all browsers allow you to.
Nearly all major browsers have a private browsing setting. These exist to hide the browsing history from other users on the same computer. Many people think that private browsing or incognito mode will hide both their identity and browsing history from internet service providers, governments and advertisers. They don’t.
These settings just clear the history on your system, which is helpful if you’re dealing with sensitive personal information on a shared or public computer.
What are the W3C Web Standards?
So why do browsers act differently? Why can you write a web application that works properly on Firefox, but when you pull it up on Safari, certain elements are hidden or unusable?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the standards organization for the web, which has a set of guidelines for browsers to adhere certain to HTML and DOM specifications.
Because it’s not a strict set of rules, they can be interpreted differently by different rendering engines. This is largely why you see discrepancies in-browser experiences. Browsers can conform to the specification while still abiding by their own rules, which can cause compatibility issues.
As browser versions update, many will add in other areas or features not specified in the W3C. Whether this is for competitive advantage or just because of a grey area in the guidelines, it can create cross-browser issues for software teams.
As we already know, the rendering engine is responsible for interpreting and displaying content. Since the rendering engines of browsers are different, the content behaves in different ways. Sometimes these differences are slight, while sometimes they’re major and can even make a web page unusable.
For example, Safari uses WebKit. Meanwhile, Chrome and Opera are both using Blink. Firefox uses Gecko and IE are using Trident. This means that each of these browsers abides by their own rules when it comes to rendering and displaying a web page.
Of course, which can be a huge pain for developers trying to create a consistent experience.
What are Browser Wars?
As mentioned, browser wars have been happening since Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator went up against each other. To be best in the class browser of the ’90s. Netscape had previously been leading the market. But, with the release of Internet Explorer 3, Microsoft took the lead.
Since it was automatically included in the Windows OS, it became the standard for many desktop users. The same situation happened when Safari came to be in 2003. Whereas Macintosh users were previously on IE or Navigator. Safari being preinstalled in Apple’s OS means that it gained control of that desktop market.
After some time of IE beating out Navigator, Netscape made the code for the browser open-source and gave it to Mozilla. However, when Firefox was introduced in 2004, it saw a rapid rise in popularity for a few years.
That is until Google Chrome was released in 2008 and quickly fought to be the favored browser, which we still see today.
Of course, in between, we’ve also seen increased mobile use. And differences in mobile browsers as well as the introduction of HTML5 and CSS3.
This all contributes to the browser wars. Particularly, between Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, as well as Opera. And, recently, Edge to be the preferred browser for surfing the World Wide Web.
That competition comes in the form of frequent browser updates and version releases that you may notice today. As each browser tries to one-up the other in speed, security, features, and design. For developers, many will try to program in a popular browser or a browser with a standard rendering engine. So that the page is cross-compatible.
For example, most people avoid developing in Internet Explorer since it’s known to be so problematic.
What is Modern Browsing?
Today, Chrome still rules desktop browsers while Safari owns the mobile browsing market. However, there still is no defined winner. The browser wars are still going strong and fragmentation is a more prevalent issue than ever due to the frequent updates and releases of different browser versions and operating systems.
Web Browser preferences are also largely dependant on demographics including age, country, and even job. For example, many schools and companies have certain requirements about what devices, operating systems, and browsers users may access and don’t permit individuals to update on their own.
Additionally, web browsers continually update versions hoping to be the next Google Chrome. There’s no saying when one will finally surpass its popularity. Or when another company creates its own browser to enter the mix.
In fact, with the Firefox recent Quantum version, more and more users and considering making the switch in favor of a faster browsing experience. Not to mention, the underdog browsers still capture a distinct user base.
Most major web browsers let users modify their experience through extensions or add-ons. Extensions are bits of software that you can add to your browser to customize it or add functionality.
Notably, extensions can do all kinds of fun and practical things. Like enabling new features, foreign language dictionaries, or visual appearances and themes.
Important to realize, all web browser makers develop their products uniquely. Displaying images and videos as quickly and smoothly as possible. Making it easy for you to make the most of the web. They all work hard to make sure users have a browser that is fast, powerful and easy to use.
Where they differ is why. It’s important to choose the right browser for you. As an example, Mozilla builds Firefox to ensure that users have control over their online lives. And equally too, ensuring that the internet is a global, public resource, accessible to all!
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