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What is a Web Browser?

Aside from a stable internet connection and an appropriate device, there is only one thing that is absolutely necessary to access the world wide web: a web browser. Find out today what is a web browser.

04 Aug, 21 by Antoniy Yushkevych 9 min Read

List of content you will read in this article:

Currently, the entire world is completely dependent on the web. In the last decade, there has been a tremendous shift from paperwork to digital work. Right? Well, as they say, change is the only constant!

Every day we see change and adapt to it. In the same way, the evolution of a web browser has been gradual. This article covers the overall aspects related to a web browser. 

First, let us begin by understanding the workings of a web browser. 

 

The backbone of the World Wide Web or WWW is the HTTP activity that takes place between the client and server. A web browser handles these activities constantly and maintains the network on the web. 

The web addresses that you type in the address bar are known as URLs. These URLs are nothing but traffic directions given to the web browser. The browser then uses these addresses, or more appropriately, IP addresses, to create the connections.

A web browser has ample functions that provide you with easy accessibility in working over the web. Every web browser helps you to search the web but nowadays along with that, there are additional features for you too. For instance, plugins, security, accessibility, etc. Besides, there are other functionalities like data aggregation or end-user conveniences. 

Now that you have a basic understanding of the working of a web browser, let us hop on to our next segment!

 

Initially, a text-only browser known as Lynx came to the market. At the same time, Mosaic evolved too. A few years later, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator were launched. The internet explorer changed the course of time completely and brought a revolution. Later in 2004, the launch of Mozilla Firefox gave a tough competition to Internet Explorer. 

Further, in the year 2008, Google launched its web browser, Google Chrome. It became a sensation. At present, it is known as the most widely used web browser across the internet. Then came Safari, invented by Apple Inc, especially for Apple devices.  After that Opera was launched and subsequently in 2015, Microsoft Edge

Moving on to the next segment, here are some of the most common features of web browsers. Take a look:

Home button: The home button helps you to go to the predefined homepage of any website.

Refresh button: You can reload the web pages of any website by using the refresh button. At times due to the caching mechanism, you are unable to know the updated information. In such cases, when you hit the refresh button, you are able to see that particular information.

Stop button: if you wish to disconnect the connection between the web browser and the server you can use the stop button. For instance, if there is any outside attack of malicious content on the browser, you can protect yourself with the help of this button.

Web address bar: the space where you enter any web address is known as the web address bar.

Bookmarks: bookmarks help you to save a particular website on your device for later use. 

Tabbed browsing: you can access multiple websites on a single window with the help of tabbed browsing. For instance, whenever you search for a topic on your browser, you get a list of options in front of you. You can open several tabs by clicking right on every link. This is tabbed browsing.

Furthermore, you know how a structure compiles and executes the overall functioning of any software. Right? In the same way, there are various essential components that form the backbone of a web browser. 

The architecture of a web browser consists of the following:

  • User interface
  • Browser engine
  • Rendering engine
  • Networking
  • Javascript interpreter
  • Data storage

User interface: there are several options like menu, bookmarks, address bar, etc. that assist you in your work. The area which consists of these options is known as the user interface.

Browser engine: A browser engine forms a nexus between the user interface and the rendering engine. 

Rendering engine: whenever a user requests an articulate set of information, the rendering engine displays the content on the screen. At times, it also uses several plug-ins or extensions. For instance, Google Chrome uses WebKit, whereas Internet Explorer uses Trident.

Networking: whenever you enter any URL in the address bar, networking helps to retrieve that address with the help of internet protocols such as HTTP or FTP.

Javascript interpreter: JavaScript interpreter is used to translate the JavaScript code present in the content of a website. The translated code is received by the rendering engine and is further displayed on your screen.

Data storage: A browser uses data storage to contain all the information locally in the form of cookies. There are several storage mechanisms. For instance, IndexedDB, WebSQL, FileSystem, etc. 

After holding a decent grip over the basic features of a web browser, let us dive into the development phase of web browsers for a better understanding. 

 

At present, the hot topic in the field of web technology is cybersecurity. Cybersecurity holds a great significance in the journey of IT. The same is applicable to web browsers also.  Let us see how!

When we talk about Google Chrome, it strongly protects the systems against suspicious sites or the ones that do not possess SSL certificates. The main purpose of an SSL certificate is to protect the website against potential threats of hacking and other vulnerabilities. Therefore, Chrome takes no risks and avoids such sites. 

Additionally, other web browsers are also in the race to provide security to their users by implementing such factors in order to diminish malicious attacks. Now, you must know that there are several new innovations. For instance, the idea of browser isolation. It implies that the internal network activity is separated from web browser activity. 

But what is the purpose of such activity?

Well, when the activity of the browser is kept outside of a firewall, the internal network receives great protection. 

Along with this, not only the security but there are several web coding languages that have also shown a significant evolution. For instance, HTML5 and CSS have modernized and enhanced the overall site design. Constant improvisations are done in the web browsers that suit the audit requirements and needs of the internet. 

Now, let us quickly look at different types of web browsers. Here is the list.

 

  • WWW-World Wide Web: It was launched in 1990. Endowed with some basic features and a less interactive user interface
  • Mosaic: It was launched in 1993. The graphic interface was better than the previous launch. It was stated as the world’s first popular browser.
  • Netscape Navigator: The launch year was 1994. It came loaded with an advanced licensing scheme.
  • Internet Explorer:  It came to market in 1995. Later, it was added to the Microsoft Windows operating system. 
  • Mozilla Firefox: It was launched in the year 2002 by the Mozilla foundation. 
  • Google Chrome: It entered the market in 2008. Since then, there is no looking back. It is ruling the web world. 

Moving a step further. You may have come across the term secure browsing. Now, what does it actually mean? Let us analyze. 

 

Whenever you use the web browser, there is always a potential threat of cyber-attacks that may cause you a great deal of harm. Right? So to combat it, secure browsing comes with the use of special security architecture to protect your system from these potential threats.  It’s a phenomenon that consists of several types of tools offered by either the owners of the web browser or tech companies. 

Browsers offer you significant resources for the purpose of secure browsing. For instance, Mozilla Firefox helps you to attain more add-ons and plug-ins in order to escalate the security of your browser. It also includes options like Noscript, Adblock Plus, etc. Whereas, Google Chrome states itself as a secure browser as it warns you against sites that may pose a serious threat to your system or contain some kind of malware. 

Additionally, Facebook also offers secure browsing. You just need to head towards the Facebook security settings. In a nutshell, secure browsing is all about monitoring the various controls and settings of web browsers. 

 

The importance of a browser needs no words. The only gateway to the surfing world is a web browser. As you can see, the evolution of the web browser has provided us with the best features. Innovations keep taking place with time, and we are here to befriend them as they come.

We hope that this article helps you to understand the basic concept of a web browser and its workings. Keep learning, keep evolving!

Antoniy Yushkevych

Master of word when it comes to technology, internet and privacy. I'm also your usual guy that always aims for the best result and takes a skateboard to work. If you need me, you will find me at the office's Counter-Strike championships on Fridays or at a.yushkevych@monovm.com