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Chamberlain Design

What is a Browser?

If you didn’t find that video at least vaguely amusing and/or rage-inducing, this post is for you.  If you did, well done, have a cookie.

In simple terms, a browser is the program you use to view web pages.  You are using one to read this blog post right now.

The confusion between browsers and search engines probably comes from the fact that most people have a search engine as their homepage.  The difference is that a browser is a program used to view web pages, whereas a search engine is a website used to search the web.  Therefore, you visit a search engine using a browser.

If you don’t know which browser you’re using, it’s probably Internet Explorer on a PC or Safari on a Mac because these are the defaults.Logos of the top 5 browsers

The logos above are for the top 5 browsers in terms of usage.  In the order shown, they are: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and Safari.

Different sources disagree on this, but the general consensus seems to be that, ranked in order of worldwide usage, they go like this:

  1. Google Chrome – about 37%
  2. Internet Explorer – about 27%
  3. Mozilla Firefox – about 20%
  4. Safari – about 9%
  5. Opera – about 2.5%

Which you use is entirely up to your choice, but please don’t just stick with the default just because it’s easier.  I personally use Firefox more because I agree with their open-source philosophy than because I think it is the best.  I’d probably recommend Chrome though.  If you use Internet Explorer (IE), please just make sure it’s up-to-date for your security, prettier websites and your web developer friends’ sanity.

In simple terms, a browser works by interpreting the HTML and CSS code to render the page visually.  Without the browser, it would just be code – it needs a ‘translator’ to make it more visual.  The part of the browser that does this is called the ‘rendering engine’.  The rendering engine is different for each browser now:

Chrome also used to use WebKit but split recently.  Blink is based on WebKit, but they’re now being developed separately.  Opera has followed Chrome.  This is all quite recent and complicated so let me know in the comments if I’m wrong.  Dear future self: sort this out.

That’s it for this week, folks.  It’s sunny so I’m going outside now, bye.

1st May 2013

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