What is a browser?

Spencer Batten poses for a picture at the Infomedia office

In this episode, Spencer Batten breaks down what a web browser is, how it interprets code and data in order for you to view a website, and why it’s important for a web developer to test across all modern browsers for consistency.

What is a browser? It’s something we use every day to access the web and view websites — essentially, it’s a window to the world wide web. A few examples of web browsers are Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, and Opera. For anyone who accessed the internet in the 1990s, Netscape was a common browser!

A browser takes the code, images and data that a web server sends and turns these into the webpage you see when you type in a URL. Websites are served up from a web server, which is like another computer that takes information and puts it in a format that your computer can read. This information includes HTML (raw data of what text is on a page), CSS (style sheets that format the data with fonts and colors), and JavaScript. JavaScript actively runs while you’re viewing a webpage in order to do things like run sliders or allow autofill functionality. In other words, HTML is the nuts and bolts of a website, CSS is the “pretty stuff” and JavaScript is the “fancy stuff”.

All browsers work a bit differently. You may see certain items displayed differently on a website depending on which browser you’re using. It’s a common practice for web developers test websites in every modern browser in order to make sure there is consistency no matter what browser someone is using to view a website. Modern browsers follow certain standards and don’t support old versions of HTML or CSS.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is no longer considered a modern browser, and using it falling out of practice. It doesn’t support many of the newer parts of the coding languages that developers use. Microsoft does not support Internet Explorer anymore, and it is no longer updated. It would be a disservice for a web developer to build a website for Internet Explorer, since it heavily limits what you can have on your website. While Infomedia can build for Internet Explorer, clients must relay this need before the website is ever built. Retrofitting for Internet Explorer is very difficult. An analogy we like to use is building a new car from scratch with a bluetooth sound system, then the customer asking for a tape deck instead after the car is already built.

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