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Browser vs. search engine: What’s the difference?

Browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are software programs used to access the internet through a URL. Meanwhile, search engines, such as Google and Bing, are software applications that employ crawlers to find specific information on the World Wide Web using keywords. Read the article to learn more about the difference between a browser and a search engine.

Browser vs. search engine: What’s the difference?

What is a browser?

A browser, or web browser, is a software application that works as an intermediate between the user device and a web server. It allows you to access and retrieve information from the internet, and displays web pages, images, videos, and other files that a user requests on a webpage.

Browsers let users navigate between pages using hyperlinks and have built-in search features to find information. What’s more, they allow you to bookmark your favorite or the most important websites for quick future access. They also have security features to prevent malware and phishing and employ various extensions, allowing users to configure the web browser according to their preferences.

The most popular web browsers include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Opera.

What is a web search engine?

A search engine is a software application that allows people to find information on the World Wide Web using keywords and phrases. It scans the internet according to the provided criteria and displays a line of results called search engine results pages (SERPs).

Search engines use web crawlers and spiders to access web pages, images, or videos. These results are ranked to provide the most relevant information, focusing on how up-to-date the content is, its relevance to your query, and the backlinking count.

The most popular and trusted search engines are Google, Bing, Yahoo Search, and DuckDuckGo.

The difference between a search engine and a browser

Now that you’re aware of what a web browser and a search engine are let’s discuss the differences between them to ensure your awareness:

  • Purpose. A web browser retrieves content from the World Wide Web, such as websites, images, and videos. A search engine, at the same time, searches the internet according to your queries and provides you with the most relevant results.
  • Usage. Web browsers are made for visiting specific websites directly through a URL, while search engines are designed to find information based on the provided keywords.
  • Installation. While search engines are web-based and don’t require installation, browsers are software applications you need to install.
  • Accessibility. Search engines are accessible from any device with internet connectivity, including computers, tablets, and smartphones. Browsers, once installed, are reachable through the desktop app on your computer, tablet, smartphone, or even smart TV.
  • Components. Search engines employ a complex search algorithm to provide the most relevant search results. It uses crawlers to scan the internet, interprets queries using search query processors, and features a search bar with advanced search options. Browsers use rendering engines that translate HTML files, CSS, and JavaScript into visual web page content. They include web address bars, navigation buttons, bookmarks, and search history.
  • Database. A search engine has a regularly updated database containing millions of web pages. A browser, however, doesn’t have its own database of web content but stores browsing data, such as cookies, cache, and search history.
  • Dependency. Search engines are only available with an internet connection and a browser. They also depend heavily on index web pages and a sophisticated search algorithm. Meanwhile, you don’t need a search engine to use a browser.
  • Data and privacy. A search engine collects bits and pieces of information about you to improve search results and personalize targeted ads. A browser, at the same time, logs your browsing history, downloads, and bookmarks but also offers browsing in a private mode.
  • Examples. The most popular search engines include Google, Bing, Yahoo Search, and DuckDuckGo. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Opera are widely used web browsers.
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