A web browser is a type of software that allows you to find and view websites on the Internet. Even if you didn't know it, you're using a web browser right now to read this page! Watch this video from Google to learn more about web browsers.
For many years, especially in the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, there was one browser that almost everyone used: Microsoft's Internet Explorer. If you used the Internet at that time, you probably clicked an icon like this to access the Web:
Internet Explorer is still the default web browser for most Windows computers, and it comes pre-installed on any PC you buy. But starting in the mid-2000s, other software companies introduced new browsers, including Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. At the time, these browsers allowed for more experimental features. Because of this, web developers began creating websites with browsers like Chrome and Firefox in mind, which meant they didn't always work as well in Internet Explorer.
Microsoft has worked hard to make the most recent version of Internet Explorer (IE 11) compatible with the modern Web. If you have a Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer, you should be able to download the most recent version here. And even if you're already using IE 11, we still recommend trying one of the other browsers below.
It's always a good idea to keep at least two web browsers on your computer or mobile device. This way, if a website isn't working correctly you can try opening the page in a different web browser. More often than not, this trick can solve a lot of problems you might encounter online.
Google Chrome is probably the best web browser right now for PCs. It's free to download, it's very fast, and it's secure. Chrome is also the default web browser for many Android devices.
If you have a Google account, you can even sync your saved passwords and browsing history across multiple devices. And because it downloads updates automatically, you'll always be protected from current security threats and viruses online. If you want to learn more, review our Google Chrome tutorial.
Safari is the default web browser for Mac computers and iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. Aside from being fast and secure, Safari has a lot of unique features. For example, Reader view allows you to see a simplified version of a webpage that's optimized for reading. It's also easy to add articles you find to your Reading List so you can save them for later.
Again, we recommend keeping at least two web browsers on your device. Chrome is a good secondary browser to use on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. It's also important to note that you cannot use Internet Explorer on a Mac or iOS device.
Firefox: This free web browser from Mozilla works on Windows, Mac, and Android. It's built by an open-source community of developers, so it will usually support even the most experimental web features. Like Chrome, it will be updated automatically, so you'll be protected from viruses and other threats online. If you want to learn more, review our Firefox tutorial.
Opera: Originally released in 1994, the Opera web browser has been around much longer than Firefox and Chrome. You may find that some websites don't load perfectly on Opera, but it's still regarded as a fast and secure alternative to your default browser. It's also available for all major operating systems (Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS).