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Browser versus Search Engine

There are a lot of words that get thrown around but it seems 2 of the more confusing are "browser" and "search engine".

Both of them are software.  Both of them are found when using the Internet.  They work together but there is a BIG difference between them.


A browser is a program that takes all the various pieces of a website (pictures, articles, presentation features like color and fonts) and puts them together so that you see them as an integrated website. 

The top browsers in use today (in order of use as of July 2012) are:

  • Google Chrome or just Chrome (the Google in the name is sometimes confusing because Google started as just a Search Engine)
  • Mozilla Firefox (MSN's desktop is a modified version of Firefox)
  • Internet Explorer - also called IE - (AOL's desktop is a modified version of Internet Explorer)
  • Google Chrome
  • Safari
  • Opera
  • AOL (usage is becoming significantly smaller every year)
Search Engine

A search engine does what the name suggests.  It searches for relevant websites based on key words.  If you want to know about something, you type it into the search engine and it will give you thousands (millions sometimes) of websites that have one or more of the key words associated with them. 

The top search engines as of May 2012 are:

  • Google with almost 67% of the searches on the Internet
  • Bing (15%)
  • Yahoo (14%) (Note:  Bing and Yahoo are in the process of merging)
  • Ask (3%)
  • AOL (2%)

Each search engine has a different way of storing information about websites and determining in which order they should be displayed.

There is a whole career path out there now that tries to figure out the secrets of the search engines, particularly Google, and the secrets are continually changing. 

Because the searches try to factor in relevance for a local area (you probably don't care about restaurants in Tokyo unless you're planning on visiting there), a Google search for restaurants in Miami will show the ones in the Miami area, sorted by proximity to the location of the computer executing the search.

How does the search engine know where your computer is searching from?  That's a topic for a different day but let us suffice to say that Google probably knows more about you than your mother!