Definition of a Web Browser
When you want to visit your favorite mall and shop at all the fine retailers, how do you get there? Most of us would prefer to use a car because it’s fast, it’s convenient, and you can use all the goodies like the air conditioner and the radio. Like a car helps us get to the mall quickly, a web browser allows us to travel through the Internet and visit our favorite websites.
And just like we have preferences in cars, we have our own taste in design, function and brand when it comes to websites. Personally, I prefer Acura as my automobile of choice; with regard to traveling the Internet highway, my ‘go-to’ choice for web browsers is Mozilla Firefox, just as a personal preference.Some cars have satellite radio where you can download and listen to unedited music. With a web browser, some come loaded with different features, such as a built in FTP client where you can download movies and music files. There is an option to surf the Internet anonymously – which is like riding in your car with the windows tinted – no one can see what you’re doing or have in your car. Some cars even utilize encrypted keys that keep your car safe from theft by burglars, much like web browsers have encryption that prevents hackers from looking into your Internet traffic and stealing valuable information. This can include bank accounts, log on names and passwords, and even private emails.
But what exactly is a web browser? A web browser, or ‘browser’ for short, is computer software application that allows a person to view the Internet. The browser operates at the application layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model.
Popular Web Browsers and How They Work
The most popular web browsers that are used today are Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Apple Safari and the Opera browser.
These browsers are free and available for download and use. Web browsers allow users to view resources that are stored on a server. For example, if you were to visit www.google.com, you are actually viewing a file that is displayed using the web browser. This file is drafted using the hyper text markup language, or HTML for short. These files, or web pages as they’re commonly known, are pulled from the web server and then translated by the web browser for the user to view.
If you don’t have a web browser and attempt to view the HTML file, you will see numerous amounts of code lines that may not make sense to the average user. The browser will translate those code lines that makes it easily readable for the user.Browsers are not just good at viewing web pages, they can also be used to download and upload files as well.
Browsers can facilitate the file transfer protocol, or FTP for short. FTPs allow users to upload or download files to web servers using a browser. For example, if I had a deadline to submit my homework to my professor in New York and I live in Georgia, it would take almost a week to be delivered by mail.
But the beauty about FTP and using the web browser is that I am able to upload my homework to the server that my professor uses in mere seconds.
Security Methods and Vulnerabilities
So what happens if you wanted to do some online bank transactions? Browsers use the Secure Socket Layer or SSL and the Transport Layer Security or TLS protocols, which provide encryption and tunneling. It allows users to send their information securely without anyone dropping in and stealing information.
Using SSL and TLS provides security and is used on almost every web browser.The problem with some browsers is that they are prone to malware attacks. Malicious software, or malware, is software that is used to steal, disrupt or damage files on a computer. Just visiting a web page can deliver malware to your computer, and depending on how well the malware was crafted, it can steal your personal information that you have cached on your web browser. Imagine visiting an auto mechanic and they purposely create problems on your car to charge you even more to fix it.
This is the same concept here. Visiting sites with your browser can cause havoc if you’re not vigilant – so be careful!
Cookies and Cache
Earlier I mentioned ‘cache’ – what exactly is that?When you visit a web page for the first time, it may take a little bit of time to load – a few seconds at most, depending on your Internet connection. What is happening behind the scenes is that the browser is reading the files on the server and then storing those files – or caching – them locally on your computer. So the next time you come back to your computer and go to the same site, it loads really quickly.Your browser also saves small files called ‘cookies’. Cookies usually record the important information like log in information, screen names and passwords – even your home address.
Have you ever noticed that when you type into a login field that it automatically populates with your latest entry? This is what cookies provide to the user and web browser. The drawback to cookies is that they can be stolen and used again by someone else. So it is a good idea to delete your cookies every once in a while.
So we now know that Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome are the most popular browsers used today. Browsers work at the application layer of the OSI model, and they read HTML files on web servers.
Browsers also use FTPs to upload or download files with. In order to view and send information securely, browsers use SSL and TLS to tunnel and encrypt Internet traffic.Finally, browsers cache or when the browser is reading the files on the server and then storing those files, web pages to be retrieved easily, and cookies are used in order to remember information making browsing more efficient.