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What is a Web Browser?

Let’s play word association, just like when a psychologist asks you what comes to mind when you hear certain words: What do you think when you hear the words “Opera. Safari. Chrome. Firefox.”

If you think of the Broadway play version of “The Lion King,” maybe it is time to see a psychologist. However, if you said, “Internet browsers,” you’re spot on. That’s because the leading Internet Browsers are:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Apple Safari
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Opera
  • Maxthon

And that order pretty much lines up with how they’re ranked in terms of market share and popularity…today. Browsers come and go. Ten years ago Netscape Navigator was a well-know browser: Netscape is long gone today. Another, called Mosaic, is considered the first modern browser—it was discontinued in 1997.

So, what exactly is a browser?


A browser, short for web browser, is the software application (a program) that you’re using right now to search for, reach, and explore websites. Whereas Excel® is a program for spreadsheets and Word® a program for writing documents, a browser is a program for Internet exploring (which is where that name came from).

Browsers don’t get talked about much. A lot of people simply click on the “icon” on our computers that take us to the Internet—and that’s as far as it goes. And in a way, that’s enough. Most of us simply get in a car and turn the key…we don’t know what kind of engine we have or what features it has…it takes us where we want to go. That’s why when it comes to computers:

  • There are some computer users that can’t name more than one or two browsers
  • Many of them don’t know they can switch to another browser for free
  • There are some who go to Google’s webpage to “google” a topic and think that Google is their browser.

So for some basic browser education sake, let’s cover a few points:

  • Know your browser. Look at the very far-upper-left corner of your screen. You’ll see the name of your browser.
  • Get the latest version. Browsers get updates and updated regularly, usually because computers and technology change fast also. You can check what version of your browser you’re currently using by going to
  • Try a different browser. You can switch to another browser at any time. It won’t affect your computer and it will give you an idea of how they are different.
  • Read browser reviews. You can compare features of the different browsers on websites like You’ll learn what kind of features browsers offer and what to look for.

Give it a try.

Most people stick with the browser that came with their computers. Internet Explorer is a well-known browser because it comes with virtually every PC. Safari is well known to Mac users (Apple computers) because that’s the primary browser on those computers. It’s admirable to be loyal, but feel free to take this new information and explore your browser choices. You never know what you might discover…and what you wish you’d known before.

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