A web browser is application software that is used for accessing resources from the world wide web (WWW). They enable the user to request the document that is stored on a server to be retrieved and then forwarded to the user on the client’s computer. A web browser is also known as an internet browser.
The main function of a web browser is to fetch and retrieve resources from the server over the internet. They also provide an interface and display content for the user. Most of the common features of an internet browser are a bookmark, history, menu, address bar, title bar, etc.
Main functions of the internet browser
1. Sending requests to and retrieving data from the server
Internet browsers are used to fetch and retrieve hypertext mark-up text from the internet to the user device. It can be static like the HTML pages only or dynamic data like data from the form. When the user clicks a button or page it is retrieved from the server and the web browser displays the same content.
2. Displaying webpage content
Web browsers act as an interface for users to interact with web pages. Different internet browsers may display the same web page differently. This depends on how it is designed.
Designers are advised when designing a web page to use different browsers to test how the page will display to offer all users a friendly view from any browser that they will use. Also, different browsers support different font types that give a different view of the same document.
3. Provide navigation facilities for users
Navigation control is another function of the internet browser. All browsers have menus, tabs, and many other features that are used to navigate around the website and the internet generally. The browser allows users to open more than one web page, and print, and save pages among other features.
4. Caching of most frequently accessed data to increase browsing speed.
The web browser saves the content that users retrieve frequently to save time when retrieving data from the server. Instead of getting the page from the server, it retrieves some components that were saved in the client computer for fast operation. The content or components that are saved are those that are less frequently changed. The period of data cached depends on how the browser is set.
5. Provide a secure method of accessing content over the internet
The internet browser provides secure methods for accessing data over the internet. It used different protocols that ensure data is encrypted when it is being transferred from server to client computer
The technical operational part of an internet browser
From the technical point of view, a browser has 3 parts
i) Controller: this is the part that receives input from the user, eg when you click a link with a mouse the controller captures the click and retrieves the resource.
ii) Client protocol: these are the rules that should be followed when retrieving the document and all other mechanisms of its transfers from and to the server.
Examples and types of internet browsers.
- Mozilla Firefox: it is an open source free-to-use web browser developed by the Mozilla foundation. You can read a guide for beginners on how to use the firefox browser here.
3. Microsoft Edge browser: it is a chromium-based cross-platform web browser developed by Microsoft. It is incorporated into Windows 10 operating system. it replaced Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). You can read a detailed beginner Microsoft Edge guide to help utilize the browser better.
How to use an internet browser
First, download the browser from the official website of the respective company and install it on your device. After installation opens the browser and on the address bar type the URL of the website that you wish to visit, and then press enter.
The browser will request to retrieve the webpage from the host specified on the URL. You can open more than one webpage by clicking on the + sign to add another browser tab for use.
Features of a web browser and their functions
This is used to save web pages that users want to remember and use later instead of typing the whole URL they click on the saved bookmark. This makes the retrieval of webpage faster and it enables users to manage the website that they want to revisit.
2. Tools (options)
Most browsers offer a tools menu and a sub-menu option that has many tabs for user use. Most of them have tabs like privacy; where you set privacy issues, security; general; content; programs; advanced, etc depending on the browser.
3. Browser homepage
It allows the user to set the first webpage that will be retrieved every time the web browser loads for the first time. The default homepage of most browsers is the browser company website, but users can change to their preference. If you want you can also add your favorite search engine to your default homepage.
4. Browsing history
History is another feature of the web browser that is used to record all visited web pages. Internet browser automatically saves the visited page, although the user can change settings so that it does not save or delete after every use. History can be used for faster retrieval of the page that you visited early by clicking on the link on the history. It can also be used to audit what the user has been accessing for a given period. The history remains until deleted by the user.
5. View source (code source)
This gives the programmer or any other user a chance to view client-side codes that are used to create the webpage. It generates only client-side code because if server-side codes are provided users can temper information that is a security threat to the website.
6. Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
It is used to enable the user to retrieve a given resource that is stored in a specific server. As its name suggests it locates resources/documents from the web. URL is entered on the address bar of the browser to retrieve a resource. URL has four parts that help in retrieving the document.
Parts of Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
Protocol: //Host:port/path Example: https://www.knowcomputing.com/hardwareparts/storagedevice/harddisk.php
Protocol: it is the rule that the client and server agree to use to retrieve the documents. They can include HTTP, HTTPS, TELNET, Gopher, etc.
Host: It gives the domain name (server address) of where the document is stored. It mostly includes a WWW, but even if WWW is not specified the document can still be retrieved i.e. www.knowcomputing.com
Path: This gives the directory path in which the document you need to retrieve is stored. It gives the specific path of every web page or any other resource on the world wide web.
Port: This is an optional part of the URL. It specifies the port number that the service that you are using is served through. If you using email SMTP use a different port (port 25), HTTP will use a different (port 80), and so on.
7. Address bar: it is another feature that comes with all internet browsers. The bar is a space where a user enters the address of the specific website they wish to visit or a keyword to search on the internet.
8. New Tab: The tab helps users to have more than one web page in the same browser. It is like opening many pages of a book. The plus sign (+) is a keyboard shortcut to creating a new tab.
9. Title Bar: it displays the title of the webpage currently being viewed. It also includes the favicon of the website.
11. Navigation: they are used to move from the previous or next webpage depending on pages that were opened.
12. Refresh button: it is used to reload the web page F5 can be used as a shortcut for the same.
13. Scroll bar: there are horizontal and vertical scroll bars that help the user to move the web page side by side or from top to bottom.
14. Status bar: it is the bar at the bottom of the browser that displays the URL and shows if it is loading or not.
15. Display window: this is the space where the content of the web page is displayed.