The role of a web browser stands simple – you input a query, and it brings the associated results directly to your device.
However, a lot happens in the backend, from when it retrieves the information from a particular webserver to when it displays the resources onto your window.
On the front end, every browser comes with different feature sets. While some have their eyes set on being a privacy-centric browser, others focus primarily on the customization front (well, there’s now even a gaming browser).
These differences are needed, making each browser easily distinguishable and giving them a unique identity.
The Role of HTTP
However, when it comes to performing their primary task of retrieving and displaying information, uniformity is an element. Every bit of data transferred during this process follows the HyperText Transfer Protocol.
HTTP governs how a particular piece of information, be it text, images, or any other file, should be transmitted to the web. In other words, it acts as a foundation stone for any data exchange across the web.
Webpages in HTML Format
On the other hand, the web pages you access via your desired browser have been written in HyperText Markup Language. It is, again, a standard language that every site across the web needs to follow.
All the rules have been written in the HTML and CSS specifications which the World Wide Web Consortium maintains.
Your browser wouldn’t understand the standard text; instead, it must be supplied with all the HTML information.
So rather than the plain text you see in the front end, the browser is primarily interested in whatever is happening behind the scenes, i.e., the content within the HTML, Head, Body, and other such tags.
Use of Browser’s Rendering Engine
However, they wouldn’t be interested in this HTML data; instead, they need to get hold of the UI element of the associated data to act upon. This is where a browser’s rendering engine comes into the picture.
As soon as it gets hold of the required resource from a webpage, the engine translates that data to a user-understandable format, and hence you can see the desired site, image, or video.
By default, these engines deal with XML and HTML contents effectively, but their domain could be expanded using third-party add-ons.
Furthermore, different browsers use different types of rendering engines. For example, Firefox uses Gecko; Safari uses WebKit, whereas Chrome uses a fork of WebKit (Blink).
URL for every Webpage
However, how would they be identifiable with such a plethora of information across the web? To provide a unique identity to each element across the web, they are assigned a unique address. This is also known as the Uniform Resource Locator (URL).
So every website you see, including an image, video, or document, all have been assigned a unique URL. You need to click on that link, and you will then be able to access it with just a single click.
The Need for Uniformity?
In all of these, you might have witnessed one key thing- there is a common framework specified that each browser needs to be in line with.
For example, HTTP takes care of the data transmission; websites follow the HTML, which is governed by the W3C body. So what was the need for this consistency?
Well, there is a plentitude of information spread across the web, belonging to different world regions. If every browser followed its rules, then a lack of uniformity would have made it difficult for the users to understand the information they were trying to retrieve.
But by maintaining a consistent workflow, every user can get the same information from any device, be it in any corner of the world.
So on that note, we round off this write-up on how a web browser works. Remember that following these web standards doesn’t mean that every web browser needs to be a carbon copy of each other.
They could easily differentiate themselves in the UI/UX front, which they provide, among other things. It’s just that their backend functionality needs to be in line with the rules that have been laid down.
So with that, we conclude this guide. If you have any queries related to the abovementioned information, do let us know in the comments section below.
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