What Is an Internet Browser? Definition and How They Work

A Web Browser Is Crucial to Viewing Websites

Close up of generic Internet browser
Your Web Browser Is Your Gateway to the World Wide Web. 07_av / Getty Images

Definition of an Internet Browser:

An internet browser, also known as a browser or a web browser, is a software program that you use to access the internet and view web pages on your computer. You can think of your browser as your gateway to the internet. If you want to enter online sweepstakes, for example, you must first open their websites in your internet browser.

Without browsers, the internet as we know it today would be impossible.

Before the first graphical browser, Mosaic, was released in 1992, the internet was text-based, bland, and required technical knowledge to use. This narrowed down the number of people interested in using the internet.

Mosaic helped make the internet ubiquitous. The graphical interface made navigating the web easy to understand and the ability to display graphics on websites made them more interesting for browsing.

More internet browsers have continued to be developed over the years, resulting in powerful tools that let you safely and quickly access your favorite websites.

Modern internet browsers have many helpful features. Tabbed browsing, for example, helps you open up many web pages in individual tabs, instead of needing a resource-intensive separate window for each page. This is very helpful if you want to enter sweepstakes faster.

The ability to mute sound in individual tabs is another helpful feature that many modern browsers support.

Which Internet Browsers Are Available Today?

Most browsers are available for free download. The six most popular internet browsers today include:

  • AOL Explorer 

Each of these internet browsers has its own advantages and disadvantages. AOL Explorer is a customized version of Internet Explorer which gives AOL members quick access to news, weather, and other useful information. Chrome and Firefox are quick and powerful web browsers used by millions of people.

Due to the way they are coded, some websites display better in one internet browser or another. For this reason, I recommend having at least two browsers available on your computer, especially if you want to enter sweepstakes. If an entry form isn't displaying in your primary browser, it might work flawlessly on your secondary internet browser.

Many internet browsers support plug-ins, which are helper programs that you can download to customize your browsing experience. Plug-ins can help you fill out forms automatically, check your grammar and spelling, send you reminders, and much more.

Plug-ins can help you work or play online, but not every browser allows them. Firefox and Chrome each allow plug-ins, for example, but not all are available for each system.

The best way to find out which browser is right for you is to download them and play around with them. Which extra features are important for you?

Do websites load quickly and reliably? Is your browser using too many resources and slowing down other programs you're using?

How Internet Browsers Work:

Here's a very quick overview of how browsers work:

  1. You type a website's URL into your browser's address bar; "http://www.thebalance.com" is an example of a URL.
  2. The browser locates and requests that page's information from a web server.
  3. The browser receives a file in a computer code like HTML or Javascript, which includes instructions about how to display the information on that page.
  4. The browser interprets that file and displays the page for you to read and interact with. And it does all of this in just a few seconds, usually.

    If you want a more detailed technical breakdown of how browsers work, check out Behind the Scenes of Modern Web Browsers by Tali Garsiel and Paul Irish on HTML5Rocks.com.