Understanding Internet Browsers

  1. What is an internet browser?

  2. Why does it matter what internet browser I use?

  3. What internet browser am I using?

  4. What internet browsers are available for me?

What is an internet browser?

An internet browser is how you get on the internet.

It is a program installed on your computer designed to process to process web pages, sites, and applications that are stored and served from all across the world. All of these different resources transmit information through various computer languages across the world wide web to your personal computer. Once received by your computer, an internet browser is used to interpret the language so that all you see is the result: text, images, audio, video, and thousands of different tools.

Because internet browsers are pieces of software owned by different companies, each browser may interpret the language a little differently. Also, because technology and communication change so quickly, you often get older websites that do not work with newer browsers, or the opposite, newer websites and internet applications that are not compatible with older browsers.

Why does it matter?

This is why it is important to know what internet browser you have, and if it is compatible with the websites you are trying to access. Sites like WebCT, which are still well maintained, but also large and complex, may not work with the newest browsers, though most likely they eventually will. It is a good idea on any computer to have at least two internet browsers, so that if you are having trouble seeing or using a web site with one browser, you can easily try another to see if that corrects the problem.

How do I know what internet browser I have?

There are several different ways, but here's the easiest: Visit this link!

What are the different internet browsers available to me?

There are many different internet browsers, and most are free to download and install. Here is a look at the most popular browsers. Click on the title of each to visit the download page for that browser.


Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer is the browser that is installed by default on all Windows computers. If you don't know what browser you're using, there's a good chance it's Internet Explorer. There are different versions of Internet Explorer. The most recent and most untested is IE9, which comes standard on Windows 7 computers. The most reliable version is currently version 8, and if you are running any version older that version 8, we recommend that you upgrade immediately.

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Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is perhaps that most popular alternative to Internet Explorer, and in most cases, is a much more stable browser to use. It runs on both Mac and PC, and is better at giving directions about how to use it and handling errors when they occur. We recommend Firefox 4 as the default browser for using Canvas classes.

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Google Chrome

Chrome is the new kid on the block in the internet browser world, and is quickly gaining popularity. While not quite as customizable and versatile as Firefox, it is just as stable, includes certain plugins like Flash 'baked in' to the software, and updates automatically and silently, so there's no need to continuously check for updates. It also works across both Mac and PC, as Firefox does. Most applications on the internet will run effectively on Google Chrome.

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Safari is the default web browser for all Mac computers. While it is generally more reliable than Internet Explorer, Safari is not as well supported when it comes to internet sites and applications, since it is primarily a Mac-based browser (though there is a PC version). If you use a Mac, and aren't familiar with which browser you use, it is most likely Safari.

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