If you’re like me, you probably use Google on a regular basis.   Google is a website, but did you know Google also has a “Web Browser”?

You may have heard the term “Web Browser” before, but do you know what it means?   In simple terms it’s a program that opens web pages.   Just like you would use a program such as Microsoft Word to open documents, you use a Web Browser to open web pages.

You may also not be aware that there are several options when it comes to web browsers.  If you have a windows PC, it comes with Internet Explorer – I.E. (a blue “e” icon) and more recently with the Microsoft Edge browser.   Google “Chrome” is one of the most popular alternatives, which as you can probably guess, defaults to Google’s search engine.

The browser is your starting point on the web, and you can choose which page you start with when you open your browser.   This is called your Home Page and most people set it to be a search engine such as Google.   Microsoft have their own search engine, called Bing and instead default to that with I.E. and Edge (because they can!).

So how does a web browser work?   Well they date back to 1990 when W3C director Tim Berners-Lee announced the first browser called WorldWideWeb which was later renamed to be called Nexus due to confusion with the World Wide Web!

A browser interprets HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) which is a standard for defining how a web page looks.  It’s a set of instructions that describe how a page looks.   You can see what HTML looks like for yourself – when you have a web page open, right click on the page and there should be an option to view the source.   This will show you the raw code that the browser converts into a formatted page.

Let’s take a really simple example of HTML and I’ll explain how it works:

This is an example of some <strong>cool</strong> HTML

Notice the “strong” in brackets?  That’s markup and tells the browser that the word cool should be bold.  Congratulations – you understand some HTML!   You now know one of around 250 “tags” that tell a browser how the page should look.  If you’re interested, you can find the others here:


HTML is a standard that declares how tags should make a page look, however these standards are open to interpretation.   For example, Microsoft and Google might have a different view of how the <strong> tag should work.   How “bold” is bold?  This is a simple example, but some tags are highly complex in how they work and interact with other tags.   These differing interpretations can lead to a web page looking different in different browsers.  The “interpretation” is done by what’s called the browser “engine”.  This is the underlying algorithm that’s used to convert HTML to a good-looking web page.  For years, the assorted web browsers have been using their own engines in what was known as the “Browser Wars”.  However, the move towards a unified standard has led to the Google WebKit engine becoming the dominant winner.   In an unexpected move, Microsoft have recently announced that their next Edge browser will be based on the Webkit engine.   That means that a web page in Edge will look just the same as a page in Google Chrome.

Now you’ve probably visited a page where objects on the page have been animated in some form?  I’ll give you an example of a website I’ve personally worked on (a fun site!):


This is a combination of HTML and JavaScript.   The JavaScript tells the browser how to perform actions when the page loads.   So now you have a combination of layout (HTML) and actions (JavaScript).

Before JavaScript became popular, another technology called Adobe Flash was used to animate web pages.   Flash is gradually being phased out as it was slow and vulnerable to hackers.  Adobe, the company who developed Flash have announced that they are officially ending support of it in December 2020.   There’s a lot of older web pages out there that still use Flash.

If you have a website that still uses Flash – get in touch and I’ll help you update!