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    Home : Net Life : The Basics : World Wide Web Browsers 
World Wide Web Browsers
Net Life
The Basics
The Internet
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Tools for Using the Internet
The World Wide Web
Web Browsers
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Accessing the Internet
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Web browsers are the software tools used to access, view, and use sites on the World Wide Web. There are many different Web browsers available for almost every computer platform. The most popular is Netscape Navigator.

One function of a Web browser is to interpret the address of a piece of information located on the Internet or World Wide Web. These "addresses" are called URLs or Uniform Resource Locators. Browsers can find the information you seek because URLs provide directions to the computer and directories where a Web document is located, as well as its exact name and how it is to be accessed. For example, the URL "" calls up a file called "pan.doc" residing in the directory "pan" on a computer called "" The "http" indicates that this is a World Wide Web site that uses the HyperText Transfer Protocol.

The URL "gopher://Daves/CodesList" indicates similar information about a file on a gopher site. Web browsers can access other protocols as well as Web protocols such as gopher, ftp, Usenet and others.

Browsers also retrieve requested information. When you access a Web site, the browser actually brings a file called a "Web page" to your computer, but it only keeps the file temporarily while you view it. Browsers can also download or copy files, pictures, sounds and software for you to keep.

World Wide Web pages are written and composed in the HTML page description language. (HTML is the acronym for HyperText Markup Language.) Browsers read the HTML codes and links (called tags) and display the pages appropriately. "Appropriately," however, can mean different things because there are different versions of HTML. What's more different browsers understand more or less sophisticated versions of the language.

For that reason, a Web page will not always look the same on computers using different browsers. Some browsers, such as Lynx , are text-only browsers and will not display graphics at all. They trade aesthetics for greater efficiency and speed. If a document retrieved by the browser contains tags the browser cannot understand, it simply ignores the tags and displays the material as best it can. In order to use the most sophisticated browsers, you must have at least a SLIP/PPP connection to the Internet through your Internet access provider. Even the browsers offered by commercial online services are limited compared to some others. More about Internet access is explained in accessing the Internet.

An overview of the World Wide Web includes many references for detailed information.

For a list of browsers you can download, visit:

For more information regarding the topics discussed above, visit the following sites:

  • CityNet - This site describes the latest browser versions available.
  • The Viewer Test Page - Visit this site to test the functionality of your viewer against the latest features available.
  • A Beginners Guide to URLs - Visit this site for more information about URLs.
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