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Sunday, December 8, 2013

1435. What is a browser?

I see lots of different browsers on my friends’ computers. I see Safari on the Mac, and Internet Explorer on Windows. I’ve seen friends using Chrome, Firefox, and others on both platforms. What exactly is a browser and why does it exist? And what browser am I using? I don’t know how to tell.
Stop right now, and start up whatever application you use to browse the Web. Where you type the Web address, enter http://www.whatbrowser.org. This useful site can tell you which browser you’re currently using, and if your copy is up to date. This is useful information!
To quote from whatbrowser.org: “Internet Explorer is a browser. It’s a piece of software on your computer. It lets you visit webpages and use web applications. It’s important to have the latest version of your browser. Newer browsers save you time, keep you safer, and let you do more online.” Putting it as simply as possible, a Web browser is a piece of software that allows you to view Web pages.
In its simplest format, the World Wide Web consists of millions/billions of documents, created using a text-based language called HTML. In order to view these documents, you need some software that can make a request for a specific page to a specific address: Your request for a page turns into a response, which displays the requested page. It’s (obviously) a lot more complex than that, but you can think of your browser as a means of viewing web pages.
People often confuse their browsers with the content displayed in the browser; That is, they equate their browser with Google or Bing. Others confuse the browser with their computer: A browser is not the Windows PC or Mac. As we said before, a browser is nothing more than a piece of software that runs on your computer that allows you to view and interact with Web pages.
Some browsers are platform-specific (current versions of Internet Explorer run solely on Windows computers, and current versions of Safari run only on Mac computers). Others, like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and more, run on both platforms, plus Linux. In addition, you’ll find Web browsers on all smart phones and tablets—iPhones and iPads run Safari (although you can install Google Chrome on these devices), and Android phones and tablets run Google Chrome. Each different browser supports browsing the Web, of course, and each provides its own set of unique features and capabilities.
Some folks like the features in one browser, others prefer another. Each browser maintains its own settings, history, bookmarks, cache, and add-ins; if you have trouble with one browser, you can experiment with another. (To find alternate browsers, search the Web for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox). Ken is partial to Chrome, because it easily synchronizes bookmarks and settings across his Mac, PCs, iPhone and iPad. Chrome maintains all these settings across all the platforms on which he browses. Other browsers can do the same thing (Safari uses iCloud, Internet Explorer can use SkyDrive), but Chrome makes it all truly easy.
Which ever browser you choose, make sure you keep it up to date. New security risks find their way to the public weekly, and it’s important to maintain the most secure browser you can—update regularly!

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