A web browser is a special software program (application) used to retrieve files from remote web servers. A web browser can open Web-based HTML files, FTP connections, graphic images and other files. The browser application is smart enough to be able to tell the difference between these files and display them properly. Browsers are also created to be 'intelligent' enough to be able to 'learn' to handle even more types of files using 'plug-ins'.

Web browsers are software. They run on your computer and do not connect you to the Internet. You use a web browser after you connect to your Internet Provider. A browser is not an online service like America Online, MSN or Compuserve. The online service provider provides telephone numbers and dial up connections. A web browser uses that connection to reach across the Internet and download files and information.

Now, you should know that America Online purchased the organization that produced the Netscape browser. Because there was great confusion about what the Internet and Internet Service Providers are, the online service "Netscape" was created to take advantage of the confusion between web browsers and the Internet.

Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer are applications not Internet Service Providers. There now exists a "Netscape" Internet Service Provider.

Browser Applications

The most well known browsers are listed below. InetDaemon.Com does not endorse any browser. The order of the listing of the browsers is in relation to the number of copies of the software installed on computers. Microsoft Internet Explorer tops the list only because it is automatically installed with the operating system and there are no options to remove MSIE from the installation in versions of Windows prior to Windows XP. By U.S. Government court order Microsoft has added a feature to Windows that will allow you to uninstall most of MSIE's functionality; however, Microsoft completely integrated the browser into the operating system and completely removing all functions of the browser would actually damage the operating system, or so was their argument to the court.

Microsoft Internet Explorer
This browser is automatically installed with Windows. No, you don't have a choice about it. You CAN set another browser as your default however. Available for Windows
Mozilla Firefox Free web browser supporting plugins and renders web pages using the Gecko engine derived from Netscape originally. Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix/Solaris
Opera - Originally a strippded-down browser offering less functionality but greater page rendering speed. Available for Mac and Windows

Apple Safari - Web browsing engine using the Apple WebKit rendering engine. Available for Mac and Windows

Google Chrome - Web browser from Search Engine giant Google that uses the Apple WebKit rendering engine, but utilizes additional sandboxing and instance isolation features for better security. Available for Mac and Windows.
Netscape Navigator / Communicator
A free download. AOL/Time-Warner owns Netscape now and appears actively engaged in driving this browser into the ground.
UPDATE: AOL and Time Warner split. AOL succeeded in shutting down Netscape.
  NCSA Mosaic - The FIRST web browser. No longer under active development. Last version 3.0 supports WinNT and 2.1.1 for MacIntosh.
  Hot Java - From Sun Microsystems. No longer under development since Solaris 8 and later are shipped with Netscape.
  Lynx - Text Only - No graphics, tables or frames, but runs from DOS


Browser Functions and Components

Render Engine

Every web browser has an HTML rendering engine designed to read the embeded HTML tags and use those tags to arrange content and format the text on the web page. The rendering engine is the guts of the web browser and no two browsers will render a web page the same way. This is why any good web developer will test the web page in several web browsers (Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla) that run on several different platforms (Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac).


When a web browser downloads a web page, it stores that web page in a special location on the computer called the cache. Storing web pages and the content inside them allows the browser to skip re-downloading that content if the web page have not been changed on the web server. This speeds up the web browsing experience, particularly when hitting the back button to return to the previous web page. The cache contains all the files you have pulled and viewed in your web browser. In most cases, web pages and files are left on your computer until a certain size limit is reached. At that point, the browser will delete older files from previous web sessions and replace them with newer files from whatever web server you are browsing.

If your caching functions are set to the defaults, you will have difficulty with dynamically generated pages. Sites such as CNN and CNBC change the content of their web pages several times a day. The default settings in the web browser will result in your seeing the first web page you browse to for as long as the browser is open. You can change these settings so that in just a minute past when the content changed at the site, your web browser will pull the new web page.

Bookmarks and Shortcuts

To help you find things again later, most browsers offer a bookmark function to allow you to store the address of the page in a list of favorite sites. This list of favorites can be browsed later and when the listed site is clicked on, the site's web page is retreived from the server. Netscape calls these 'bookmarks' and stores them in a bookmarks folder. Internet Explorer calls them 'shortcuts' and stores them in a Favorites list.


Plug-ins are software you can download and install on your computer that extends the functionality of your web browser. Web browsers were designed to support this functionality to allow web browsers to become smarter over time. This plug-in functionality was used to provide additional capabilities.

Plugins run 'applets' or handle different kinds of media files, such as audio (files with names ending in .ogg, .wav, .mp3, .rm, .ram and more) and video (files ending in .avi, .mpeg, .mov and .qt). The Macromedia Flash plugin runs Flash applets (.swf). Sun's Java plugin runs Java 'applets' (.jar).

Microsoft Java Virtual Machine

Microsoft created the Java Virtual Engine to enable Java Applet functionality in Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Sun Java Runtime Engine

This is the runtime engine written and designed by the creators of the Java programming language. This engine is more likely to crash the Internet Explorer browser but works quite well with Netscape.

Macromedia Shockwave

This is the first technology developed by Macromedia to allow multimedia applications created in Director to be displayed in web browsers.

Macromedia Flash

Macromedia Flash allows developers to create multi-media content specifically for the web. Flash applications are designed to be smaller files and to render fast in a web browser. Flash utilizes vector graphics, functionality that will soon be incorporated in many web browsers.

And Dozens more...



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