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What is a Web Browser? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:05 Definition of a Web Browser
  • 1:34 How Popular Web Browsers Work
  • 2:59 Security Methods and…
  • 3:58 Cookies and Cache
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Raymond Blockmon

Raymond has earned a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and a master's degree in organizational leadership.

A web browser is a software application that people use in order to view web pages on the internet. It can be used to upload or download files on FTP servers. It uses security methods such as SSL and TLS to secure internet traffic. It also uses cookies to store information and it caches web pages to make internet surfing more efficiently.

Definition of a Web Browser

When you want to visit your favorite mall and shop at all the fine retailers, how do you get there? Most of us would prefer to use a car because it's fast, it's convenient, and you can use all the goodies like the air conditioner and the radio. Like a car helps us get to the mall quickly, a web browser allows us to travel through the Internet and visit our favorite websites. And just like we have preferences in cars, we have our own taste in design, function and brand when it comes to websites. Personally, I prefer Acura as my automobile of choice; with regard to traveling the Internet highway, my 'go-to' choice for web browsers is Mozilla Firefox, just as a personal preference.

Some cars have satellite radio where you can download and listen to unedited music. With a web browser, some come loaded with different features, such as a built in FTP client where you can download movies and music files. There is an option to surf the Internet anonymously - which is like riding in your car with the windows tinted - no one can see what you're doing or have in your car. Some cars even utilize encrypted keys that keep your car safe from theft by burglars, much like web browsers have encryption that prevents hackers from looking into your Internet traffic and stealing valuable information. This can include bank accounts, log on names and passwords, and even private emails.

But what exactly is a web browser? A web browser, or 'browser' for short, is computer software application that allows a person to view the Internet. The browser operates at the application layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model.

Popular Web Browsers and How They Work

The most popular web browsers that are used today are Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Apple Safari and the Opera browser. These browsers are free and available for download and use. Web browsers allow users to view resources that are stored on a server. For example, if you were to visit www.google.com, you are actually viewing a file that is displayed using the web browser. This file is drafted using the hyper text markup language, or HTML for short. These files, or web pages as they're commonly known, are pulled from the web server and then translated by the web browser for the user to view. If you don't have a web browser and attempt to view the HTML file, you will see numerous amounts of code lines that may not make sense to the average user. The browser will translate those code lines that makes it easily readable for the user.

Browsers are not just good at viewing web pages, they can also be used to download and upload files as well. Browsers can facilitate the file transfer protocol, or FTP for short. FTPs allow users to upload or download files to web servers using a browser. For example, if I had a deadline to submit my homework to my professor in New York and I live in Georgia, it would take almost a week to be delivered by mail. But the beauty about FTP and using the web browser is that I am able to upload my homework to the server that my professor uses in mere seconds.

Security Methods and Vulnerabilities

So what happens if you wanted to do some online bank transactions? Browsers use the Secure Socket Layer or SSL and the Transport Layer Security or TLS protocols, which provide encryption and tunneling. It allows users to send their information securely without anyone dropping in and stealing information. Using SSL and TLS provides security and is used on almost every web browser.

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