What are Web Browsers?

Web browsers are applications that display Web pages you create with HTML, HTML, and CSS. Many different browsers are available, and most are free of charge. Almost all PC operating systems include a Web browser by default, and most people use the browser that came with their PC.

Major Web Browsers
Starting with Netscape Navigator in the early- to mid-1990s, many Web browsers have come and gone. Today, only a few browsers remain viable. This section names and briefly discusses three of the more popular browsers.

1. Firefox – Firefox is a new, free Web browser that was designed to be fast, secure, and simple to use. Firefox includes powerful features such as tabbed browsing, multiple home pages, and an integrated search feature that lets you search major Web search engines such as Google, Amazon.com, and eBay. You can download Firefox from www.getfirefox.com.

2. Internet Explorer – Because of the popularity of the Microsoft Windows operating system, it should be no surprise that the most popular Web browser is currently Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Although IE is included with Windows, you can also download it from www.microsoft.com/ie.

3. Netscape Navigator – Netscape Navigator was one of the first commercial Web browsers available. Earlier versions of Netscape (versions 4 and prior), though still used by some people, do not support many modern Web standards. It is therefore a good idea to test all Web pages you design in both newer versions of Netscape (such as Netscape 7.2) and older versions (such as Netscape Communicator 4.8). Netscape is available free at www.netscape.com.

Versions
A few years ago, Web browser manufacturers would introduce new versions of their browsers on a frequent basis. Because of the standardization in HTML, XHTML, and CSS, Web browsers today typically offer a major upgrade once every year or two. You should always make sure that your Web pages are viewable with the most popular Web browsers at the current time.

Enhancements
In the early days of the Web, browser manufacturers would introduce enhancements to their Web browsers that only applied to Web pages viewed with that manufacturer’s browser. This practice made writing Web pages difficult because designers had to figure out how to handle users who did not have the browser for which a certain Web site was optimized. In many cases, the users would receive a message saying the site was not supported by their browser. This was more of a concern in the past, before the standardization of HTML, XHTML, and CSS. This should not happen in the future, as most Web browser manufacturers now support most of the latest Web standards.

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