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 URL, enabling browsers to retrieve 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. For a user, a search engine is just a website, such as Google Search, that stores searchable data about other websites. But in order to connect to and display websites on their device, a user needs to have a web browser installed.
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. 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.
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 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.
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.
The last major entrant to the browser market was Google. Its Google 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. It has remained dominant ever since.
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 HTTPS for the purposes of security and privacy. Another URL prefix is file: which is used to display computer file already stored on the user's device.
Web pages usually contain 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.
Common GUI features of browsers: