An Internet browser is a program that lets you navigate the World Wide Web or view HTML pages on a CD or DVD disc or on your hard disk. [It's likely to be what you are using to view this page if you are reading this on a computer!]
A browser displays web pages, keeps track of where you've been, and remembers the places you might want to return to.
More information is available over the Internet every day, and more tasks can be done. You can buy books, check on your bank account, buy and sell stocks, even order pizza over the Internet. But you have to have a browser to do it.
|Internet Explorer||Google Chrome|
Internet Explorer is no longer the most popular browser [June 2012]. Mozilla FireFox has evolved from the original favorite browser, Netscape, and has become the favorite of many. But, Google's Chrome is ahead of these and still gaining market share. Safari is the browser that comes with Apple computers.
Browsers that are built into devices such as smart phones and tablets may be unique to the manufacturer or they may be simplified versions of PC browsers.
Modern browsers include many of the same features, such as tabs instead of separate windows to make it easy to move between several open pages, a list of previously viewed pages (History), a list of places you want to be able to get back to (Favorites or Bookmarks), the ability to install add-in programs to view videos in various formats or to interact with web pages.
Which browsers are most popular changes over time. No one can actually count all of the visits to web sites! All of the numbers are estimates based on just a part of what is really happening in the world.
The numbers you hear about depend on:
The numbers below are from three different sources - sites using a particular statistics tracker, a single web educational site, and sites of the USA government.
StatCounter Global Stats gets their statistics from the log files of the sites of its more than 2 million members around the world. Members install StatCounter to analyze data about visitors to their web sites. There were over 10 billion page views a month. That's a lot of data!
The graph below is a screen shot that shows the statistics from January 2009 through January 2018.
Chrome is green and is clearly the current winner of this set of statistics. IE is blue and started high but has fallen quite low. Firefox is orange. This is a good chart to see the change over a number of years. Sometime in 2012 is when Chrome passed IE.
These statistics are only for visitors to the W3Schools site, which is a resource for people who are writing web pages. So the visitors to their pages are more likely to be in the "techie" group of browser users - and are probably picky about their browser, too! What the 'techie' people favor tends to become popular with the general population after a while, but not always.
The site did not have charts and did not break down the data between desktop and mobile browsers. I took the numbers from their site and averaged the monthly percentages for each year. Then I made some pie charts. How do these statistics compare to the values from the other source, StatCounter?
For more statistics, including mobile browsers: w3schools.com stats
People and businesses from around the world access the huge number of web sites attached to the US government. So this is a different population than the previous examples of statistics on browser useage, but Chrome is still the winner.
For more on using a browser, see the section Working with the Web: Browser Basics