A web browser is a software program which you use to browse the internet. You are using a web browser right now, to view this page. Users follow a basic process every time they use a web browser which is:
- Using the web browser interface, you type a URL into the address bar or click a link.
- Your browser asks the domain name system for the IP address corresponding to the URL.
- Your browser requests a web page from the server with this IP address.
- The server responds with the webpage.
- Your browser interprets the webpage and renders it on your screen.
In the early days of the internet the only device that had a web browser was the personal computer. Nowadays PCs, phones, tablets and even smart watches come with web browsers ant internet access.
The most popular modern web browsers are:
Each web browser has its own methods of rendering web pages and executing scripts, and will interpret the same website code a little differently. Because of this, web developers must test their websites on each popular browser, changing code where necessary so that the experience is consistent. This means the following:
- Hacks often have to be written for obsolete browsers which are still in use. This problem is most prevalent with older versions of Internet Explorer. The incompatibilities with Internet Explorer can be such a pain, that we charge extra to ensure compatibility with Internet Explorer 8 and earlier. Thankfully, use of these obsolete browsers is decreasing, in September 2016, just 0.9% of web browsing was conducted using IE8.
- Cutting edge features are often deferred until they are implemented on enough browsers to make it worthwhile to add.
Web browsers aren’t just used by the general public. All modern web browsers have developer tools. These tools can be used for all sorts of analysis including, but not limited to:
- Inspecting the HTML elements.
- Viewing downloaded website files.
- Analyse metrics related to the loading of the web page; including time required, the size and number of the files, and where they come from.
We use these tools every day at Phoenix Web Development. On most web browsers, developer tools can be accessed by pressing
F12 on your keyboard. You can also
right click the browser screen and inspect particular elements of the page. Check them out – nothing bad will happen, we promise.
You can find futher reading about web browsers at the Wikipedia web browser article.