Web Browser

According to the Free Encyclopedia a web browser is “a software application that enables a user to display and interact with text, images, videos, music and other information typically located on a Web page at a website on the World Wide Web or a local area network.” They allow users to quickly and easily access information provided on many Web pages at many websites by traversing links, that contain hyperlinks to other Webs. Web browsers format HTML information for display, so the appearance of a Web page may differ between browsers.

They communicate with Web servers primarily using HTTP to fetch webpages. This allows Web browser to submit information to Web servers as well as fetch Web pages from them. ” Pages are located by means of a URL (uniform resource locator), which is treated as an address, beginning with http: for HTTP access. Many browsers also support a variety of other URL types and their corresponding protocols, such as gopher: for Gopher, ftp: for FTP, rtsp: for RTSP, and https: for HTTPS (an SSL encrypted version of HTTP).” The file format for a Web page is usually HTML (hyper-text markup language) and is identified in the HTTP protocol using a MIME content type. Most browsers natively support a variety of formats in addition to HTML, such as the JPEG, PNG and GIF image formats, and can be extended to support more through the use of plugins. The combination of HTTP content type and URL protocol specification allows Web page designers to embed images, animations, video, sound, and streaming media into a Web page, or to make them accessible through the Web page.

In 1992, Tony Johnson released the MidasWWW browser. Based on Motif/X, MidasWWW allowed viewing of PostScript files on the Web from Unix and VMS, and even handled compressed PostScript. Another early popular Web browser was ViolaWWW, which was modeled after HyperCard. However, the explosion in popularity of the Web was triggered by NCSA Mosaic which was a graphical browser running originally on Unix but soon ported to the Amiga platform, and later the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows platforms. Version 1.0 was released in September 1993.

The wars put the Web in the hands of millions of ordinary PC users, but showed how commercialization of the Web could stymie standards efforts. Both Microsoft and Netscape liberally incorporated proprietary extensions to HTML in their products, and tried to gain an edge by product differentiation, leading to the acceptance of the Cascading Style Sheets proposed by Håkon Wium Lie over Netscape’s JavaScript Style Sheets (JSSS) by W3C.

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