Web Browsers
Time 2 hrs

Difficulty Beginner
Prerequisites The Internet
Departments Science
Authors Sandra Kuipers
Groupings Individual
Minimum Year Group None

Blurb

Safari, Chrome, Firefox - these are web browsers; incredible pieces of software that allow users to interact with the internet. In this unit, you will explore the history of web browsers, their key features, and why we use them.

License

This work is shared under the following license: Creative Commons BY-SA-NC

Outline

Learner Outcomes
Students will:
  • ...
Competency Focus
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Interdisciplinary Connections
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Reflection
What was successful? What needs changing? Alternative Assessments and Lesson Ideas? What other Differentiation Ideas/Plans could be used?
  • ...
Credits
Any CC attribution, thanks, credit, etc.

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15 mins
What is a Browser?

A web browser is a piece of software that allows a computer user to interact with the World Wide Web. It retrieves information from all over the Internet and sends it to your computer using something called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP. HTTP defines how text, images and videos are sent across the internet. This information needs to be formatted consistently, so that anyone, anywhere in the world, using any browser, can access it. Mozilla, the non-profit organisation behind the Firefox browser, have an article explaining this in more detail here.

Over the years, there have been many web browsers - in this unit, you might even learn about some of the classics! Currently, the most popular browsers in the world are Microsoft Edge and Apple Safari, which come bundled in with new Windows and Mac computers respectively, as well as downloadable browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.

30 mins
Browser History

While some form of the Internet has existed since the 1970s, it wasn't until the early 1990s that it became widely available to the general public.

Take a look at this article from Mozilla and see what you can learn from it.

Take a look at this timeline too!

This timeline (which I am linking, not embedding, because it is HUGE!) shows the popularity of browsers up to 2011. At this point, Internet Explorer was still the dominant browser, but you can see Google Chrome beginning to rise towards the dominant position it is in today.

15 mins
Browser Features

Most modern web browsers have many features that we as users simply take for granted. These include:

  • The ability to click on hyperlinks and follow them to web pages
  • The ability to bookmark pages, allowing you to easily return to your favourite websites
  • A browser history menu that shows pages you've been to before
  • A cache for storing browsing data
  • A private browsing mode that allows you to browse without adding anything to your browser history or cache
  • The ability to open multiple web pages at the same time, either in separate windows or in separate tabs in the same window
  • Buttons for going backwards and forwards through pages, and for refreshing pages
  • A combined address bar and search bar
  • The ability to download files from websites

However, all of these features were once new and novel! Private browsing wasn't introduced until Safari 2.0 in 2005! The first web browsers did not have tabs - those weren't invented until 1994, and until Google Chrome brought along isolated tabs in 2008, if one tab crashed, your entire browser would go down with it! Unimaginable today, but a fact of life for early Internet users.

60 mins
Different Browsers
Evidence

There are many different web browsers out there! A simple search for "list of web browsers" will return a lot of results.

However, you probably use just one browser on your school computer: most likely Safari, Chrome or Firefox. As evidence for this unit, you will need to expand your horizons. Download a new browser - one from the image above or another one you find - and have a play around with it. Take some screenshots of your new browser, put them in a Google doc, and compare them to screenshots of your old browser. Put some red arrows and text on the screenshots if you want, to better highlight different features. Submit this Google doc as evidence for this unit.

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