So this is the first post in my series of “How the Internet Works,” where I hope to go through lots of random jargon-y words you’ll find on the internet and explain them in plain english. The first thing I’m going to explain today is the browser, which is basically your gateway into the internet.
But I’ve noticed many people are confused on what the distinction between the “browser” is and what the “internet” is, and if you aren’t familiar with computers, it’s easy to confuse the two. A long time ago, I bet most people thought that AOL was the internet, but we have come a ways since then.
Ok, so here it is. What is a web browser? A web browser is just a program that runs on your computer that lets you access different websites on the internet. If you don’t know what a “program” is, it is just something running on your computer that is doing something for you.
That’s all there is to a browser. It’s nothing too complicated, but let’s try and clarify it with some analogies.
Imagine you are making a phone call to your parents. You could really call anyone through this whole network of phones, but you call a specific person. The phone that you use is your access point to all of the other people in the phone network, but the phone is not the network. In a similar way, the browser is your access point to all of the different websites on this network, but the browser is not the network.
While we can think of the internet being on a lot of different computers, the web browser is really just on your own computer. And like there are many types of phones you can buy to access the phone network (a flip phone, an iPhone, an Android phone), there are different types of browsers you can use to access the internet. Think of different browsers like different brands of phones.
Browsers are generally free, and have adopted many similar features, even though they don’t really have an exact specification of what they need to be. Some browsers are Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and the evil Internet Explorer. For me, Internet Explorer feels like using a broken abacus when everybody else is using a calculator. Which is a bummer because so many people still use it (according to here and here). I’d recommend Google Chrome, and you can see raunk for the list of Best Web Browsers.
Here is a quick tour of some important parts of the browser. There is the address bar, where you can type the site you want to go to. There is the bookmark bar where you can save favorite sites. There are tabs so you can have many sites open at the same time. And I’ve highlighted the settings icon in Chrome for reference.
If you have any comments, let me know!