Technical Observations – Overview of Browsers

Many people think that C. S. Lewis’ “Woods Between the Worlds”, Alice’s rabbit hole, the trans-warp conduits of Star Wars, and the Iconian gateways of Star Trek are harmless children’s fables. Little do they realize that they initiate a similar experience when opening their browser and enabling instant access to over 4.45 billion pages of data! Browsers today give us access to the internet?a vast, interwoven system of servers, IT systems, private networks, consumer power grids, university libraries, government databases, malware, trolls, hackers, and scammers.

The internet is a massive place. As we speak, one quarter of the world is surfing Facebook, and five hundred million people (more than the US population) are on the social media site Google+. At this moment, over three and a half billion people can access so much data that it would take a fast reader (reading a page a minute) 8,466 years reading non-stop 24/7/365 to read every single word ever posted on the internet.

So what enables us to reach so vast a field of information so quickly and easily? You may have guessed the answer: a web browser. A program that does nothing but display content for viewing, yet gives us the capability to reach places unknown.

But what, exactly, does a web browser do, how does it function, and why is it so important? Almost everyone who owns a computer knows that a web browser, in its simplest sense, displays data that is put up by others around the world. As an AU student, you already know the basics of the browser of your preference. But have you thought about different web browsers and how they might help (or hinder) your academic development at AU? Different browsers, even put out by different companies, mainly do the same basic things, but with some notable exceptions (as you will find out!). Over the next several instalments I will be taking you on a journey into the “portals” that help draw humanity together in the 21st Century.

We will start with Chrome, Google’s browser, that can be used on almost all devices today. Next we will take a peek at Firefox, designed and built by Mozilla, and used mainly by geeks and other developers. Leading the race in the Apple lane, we’ll look at Safari, why it didn’t make the cut into the Windows environment, and what makes it a much-loved necessity for Apple users worldwide. Hopping over to Microsoft’s own web browsers, Internet Explorer and Edge (Project Spartan), we will look at why there are two, what the differences are, and why one is the butt of all the jokes from the tech community. We will also look at the last of the browsers that make up the forefront of advancing web technology, Opera. Rounding out our discussion will be a talk about mobile browsers for the phone and tablet, what differences are in them versus the desktop versions, and what can and cannot be done with them.

I invite you on a journey of discovery, as we take a look at the browsers that enable us to reach information and ideas that we never would have known. I hope you enjoy the upcoming series, and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment or contact me!

Dakota Soares is an entrepreneur taking his BSc through AU, and has many interests including music, information technology, and chicken producing.

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