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[[File:Safari 15.png|thumb |right|220x220px|A web browser () displaying a ]]

A web browser is application software for accessing . When a user requests a from a particular website, the browser retrieves its from a and then displays the page on the user's screen. Browsers are used on a range of devices, including , , , and . In 2020, an estimated 4.9 billion people used a browser. The most used browser is , with a 65% global market share on all devices, followed by Safari with 18%.

A web browser is not the same thing as a , though the two are often confused. A search engine is a website that provides to other websites. However, to connect to a website's server and display its web pages, a user must have a web browser installed. In some technical contexts, browsers are referred to as .


Function
The purpose of a web browser is to fetch content from the World Wide Web or from local storage and display it on a user's device. This process begins when the user inputs a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), such as <nowiki></nowiki>, into the browser. Virtually all URLs are retrieved using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), a set of rules for the transfer of data. If the URL uses the of HTTP (HTTPS), the connection between the browser and the is for the purposes of communications security and information privacy.

Web pages usually contain to other pages and resources. Each link contains a URL, and when it is clicked or , the browser navigates to the new resource. Most browsers use an internal of web page resources to improve loading times for subsequent visits to the same page. The cache can store many items, such as large images, so they do not need to be downloaded from the server again. Cached items are usually only stored for as long as the web server stipulates in its HTTP response messages.


Privacy
During the course of browsing, received from various are stored by the browser. Some of them contain login credentials or site preferences. However, others are used for tracking user behavior over long periods of time, so browsers typically provide a section in the menu for deleting cookies. Finer-grained management of cookies usually requires a browser extension.


History
The first web browser, called , was created in 1990 by Sir . He then recruited to write the Line Mode Browser, which displayed web pages on .
(2022). 9780192862075, Oxford University Press. .
The Mosaic web browser was released in April 1993, and was later credited as the first web browser to find mainstream popularity. Its innovative graphical user interface made the World Wide Web easy to navigate 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. , the leader of the Mosaic team, started his own company, , which released the Mosaic-influenced Netscape Navigator in 1994. Navigator quickly became the most popular browser.

debuted Internet Explorer in 1995, leading to a with Netscape. Within a few years, Microsoft gained a dominant position in the browser market for two reasons: it bundled Internet Explorer with Microsoft Windows, their popular and did so as with no restrictions on usage. The market share of Internet Explorer peaked at over 95% in the early 2000s. In 1998, Netscape launched what would become the Mozilla Foundation to create a new browser using the open-source software model. This work evolved into the browser, first released by Mozilla in 2004. Firefox's market share peaked at 32% in 2010. Apple released its Safari browser in 2003. Safari remains the dominant browser on Apple devices, though it did not become popular elsewhere.

debuted its browser in 2008, which steadily took market share from Internet Explorer and became the most popular browser in 2012. Chrome has remained dominant ever since. By 2015, Microsoft replaced Internet Explorer with for the Windows 10 release. Since the early 2000s, browsers have greatly expanded their , , , and capabilities. One reason has been to enable more sophisticated websites, such as . Another factor is the significant increase of connectivity, which enables people to access data-intensive content, such as video , that was not possible during the era of dial-up modems.


Browsers
The current most used browser worldwide is , with a 65% global market share on all devices. Google Chrome is built on Google's free and open-source software project Chromium, and is a major component of Google's operating system . Apple's Safari has the second highest global market share, at 18%, while has the second highest desktop share. Safari is based on and is the default web browser for Mac computers. Introduced in 2015, Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Windows 10 and 11 computers. Mozilla Foundation's is the fourth most popular desktop browser, and unlike some more popular browsers, is free and open-source.

Some alternative browsers have gained prevalence, due to their increased customization and privacy. Some such browsers also have built-in . Examples include Brave, Epic, , and Opera. The gives access to the Tor anonymity network. Tor allows access to the , repeatedly encrypting traffic for privacy. The alternative browsers have low market share compared to the large browsers; for example, Opera is the highest alternative browser by a wide margin, at a 2.49% market share in October 2022.


Features
The most popular browsers have a number of in common. They automatically log browsing history or can be used in a non-logging . They also allow users to set bookmarks, customize the browser with extensions, and can manage user . Some provide a sync service and web accessibility features.

Most browsers have common features such as:

  • Allow the user to open multiple at the same time, either in different browser windows or in different tabs of the same window.
  • Back and forward buttons to go back to the previous page visited or forward to the next one.
  • A refresh or reload and a stop button to reload and cancel loading the current page. (In most browsers, the stop button is merged with the reload button.)
  • A home button to return to the user's .
  • An to input the of a page and display it, and a search bar to input terms into a . (In most browsers, the search bar is merged with the address bar.)

While have similar UI features as versions, the limitations of require mobile UIs to be simpler. The difference is significant for users accustomed to keyboard shortcuts. The most popular desktop browsers also have sophisticated web development tools.


Security
Web browsers are popular targets for , who exploit security holes to steal information, destroy , and other activities. Browser vendors regularly patch these security holes, so users are strongly encouraged to keep their browser software updated. Other protection measures are antivirus software and avoiding known-malicious .

Breaches of web browser security are usually for the purpose of bypassing protections to display pop-up advertising collecting personally identifiable information (PII) for either Internet marketing or , or about a user against their will using tools such as , , (where 's is targeted), , or Flash cookies (Local Shared Objects or LSOs); installing , , such as Trojan horses (to gain access to users' personal computers via cracking) or other including theft using man-in-the-browser attacks.


See also
  • List of web browsers
  • Comparison of web browsers


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