Web Browser - Function


The primary purpose of a web browser is to bring information resources to the user ("retrieval" or "fetching"), allow them to view the information ("display", "rendering"), and then access other information ("navigation", "following links").

This process begins when the user inputs a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), for example http://en.wikipedia.org/, into the browser. The prefix of the URL, the Uniform Resource Identifier or URI, determines how the URL will be interpreted. The most commonly used kind of URI starts with http: and identifies a resource to be Retrieved over the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Many browsers also support a variety of other prefixes, such as https: for HTTPS, ftp: for the File Transfer Protocol, and file: for local files. Prefixes that the web browser cannot directly handle are often handed off to another application entirely. For example, mailto: URIs are usually passed to the user's default e-mail application, and news: URIs are passed to the user's default newsgroup reader.

In the case of http, https, file, and others, once the resource has been Retrieved the web browser will display it. HTML and associated content (image files, formatting information such as CSS, etc.) is passed to the browser's layout engine to be transformed from markup to an interactive document, a process known as "rendering". Aside from HTML, web browsers can generally display any kind of content that can be part of a web page. Most browsers can display images, audio, video, and XML files, and often have plug-ins to support Flash applications and Java applets. Upon encountering a file of an unsupported type or a file that is set up to be downloaded rather than displayed, the browser prompts the user to save the file to disk.

Information resources may contain hyperlinks to other information resources. Each link contains the URI of a resource to go to. When a link is clicked, the browser navigates to the resource indicated by the link's target URI, and the process of bringing content to the user begins again.

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Famous quotes containing the word function:

    The information links are like nerves that pervade and help to animate the human organism. The sensors and monitors are analogous to the human senses that put us in touch with the world. Data bases correspond to memory; the information processors perform the function of human reasoning and comprehension. Once the postmodern infrastructure is reasonably integrated, it will greatly exceed human intelligence in reach, acuity, capacity, and precision.
    Albert Borgman, U.S. educator, author. Crossing the Postmodern Divide, ch. 4, University of Chicago Press (1992)

    Every boy was supposed to come into the world equipped with a father whose prime function was to be our father and show us how to be men. He can escape us, but we can never escape him. Present or absent, dead or alive, real or imagined, our father is the main man in our masculinity.
    Frank Pittman (20th century)

    To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; men can only make us feel small in the wrong way.
    —E.M. (Edward Morgan)