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Web browsers, the focus of this guide, are software programs used to locate, access, and display web pages on a computer screen.

The primary means by which a user accesses the Internet is through a web browser usually referred to simply as a browser.

It is common among non-technical people to confuse a browser with a search engine or thinking of them as one and the same. The difference between a web browser and a search engine is that a browser is software installed on your computer used to display web pages, while a search engine is a website that you use within a browser to perform searches.

Browsers are software installed on your computer or mobile device that are used to display the text, images, and other content from websites. Most computers come with one or more browsers installed, but you can install others. In most cases, a computer will come with a preinstalled operating system (OS), and each OS is associated with a default web browser, which is installed along with the operating system.

For example, Apple computers will come with macOS or the latest version of the Mac operating system, and the default browser will be Safari. However, several other browsers are designed to be compatible with macOS, such as Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, and they can be installed as well, and even assigned default status.

The Microsoft Edge browser is preinstalled with Windows 10, and Midori is the default browser for many implementations of the Linux OS.

However, several popular browsers are not associated with any particular operating system. Although the Chrome browser is the default browser only for Chromebook, which has a very small share of the computer market, it is by far the most popular browser, with nearly seventy percent of the global market using Chrome in October 2019. The next most popular browser is Firefox, although it is the default browser only in some implementations of Linux.

The browser market share isn't an accurate reflection of a browser's popularity, however. A large percentage of computer users never try a browser other than the default browser for their system, and many of them are unaware that there are other choices. There is also the fact that some browsers have versions for nearly every operating system, while others are OS-specific. Safari, for example, is widely popular with Mac users, but the browser is currently only compatible with Apple products.

Microsoft Edge, originally developed solely for the Windows 10 operating system, now has versions for the Xbox One, Android, iOS, and macOS, yet it enjoys a fairly small portion of the browser marketplace. Although Microsoft Windows has a huge portion of the OS marketplace, Windows users seem resistant to Microsoft Edge, a large portion of them replacing Edge with Chrome or Firefox as their default browser.

Although market shares tend to be fairly consistent from month to month, they can change from year to year, and swing widely between decades.

The first web browser was also the first WYSIWYG HTML editor. It was called WorldWideWeb. Created in 1991, it was discontinued in 1994. The second browser ever created is considered to be still active, although I think it's fair to say that few people have ever heard of the Line Mode Browser. First released in 1991, its last stable release was in December of 2013.

Dominating a large share of the marketplace in the mid-to-late 1990s, Netscape introduced several innovations to browser technology, and was compatible with most popular operating systems. In the end, it was beat out by Microsoft Internet Explorer (MIE) and was discontinued in 2007. Interestingly, MIE was itself supplanted by its developer, when Microsoft replaced it with Microsoft Edge for its Windows 10 systems. Although Edge still has a lower share of the market than MIE, its use is in decline and new versions will not be developed.

Whatever the browser, the focus of this guide is on web browsers.

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