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Do I need special software to view Web pages?

Last Edit: 10/01/17

Yes you do, they are called 'Web browsers'. It is a task of the browser to retrieve and display the data available on the Web. It does this by finding the address of Web pages through the URI 'Uniform Resource Identifier'system. This system works by the user typing in or clicking on a URL 'Uniform Resource Locator'. Which is basically an address, 'http://www.example.co.uk' is the URL or address of this Web page. A modern browser is now capable of displaying video and images, alongside textual data. They can also be used in private networks, if you wish to share documents to a select number of users.

The first Web browser was developed by the man responsible for developing the World Wide Web: Tim Berners-Lee. The first browser was released in December 1990, and was simple named WorldWideWeb; later, the name had to be altered to Nexus: obviously it was somewhat confusing to name the overall system the World Wide Web and the browser WorldWideWeb. Nexus was never a success, mainly due to it only being a text based browser, with little of the features you find in a modern Web browser.

The Web browser which is acclaimed for revolutionising the World Wide Web and for making it popular is Mosaic; developed at the NCSA and the University of Illinois.

The Mosiac web browser was one of the first browsers to display graphics, and for helping to make the web popular.

As you can see from the above image, Mosaic looks similar to modern day Web browsers. It was one of the first Web browsers to incorporate graphics, and is credited for simplifying the process of browsing the Web and for making it accessible to far more people.

Marc Andreessen developed and replaced Mosaic (as the most widely used browser) with Netscape Navigator, which later morphed into Mozilla and the Firefox Web browser. Netscape Navigator was the most widely used Web browser in the mid 1990's; however, it ran into legal issues with Microsoft, who began packaging their Internet Explorer with their Windows operating system. Netscape believed this was monopolistic behavior, the law courts agreed, but by then Internet Explorer had superseded Netscape Navigator for popularity.

Eventually, Netscape made their Navigator code open source, which was the basis of the Mozilla (free) software community. Web browsers have largely been free software; at present the most popular Web browsers are: Internet Explorer (MS); Google Chrome; Mozilla Firefox; and Opera. Most of the features found in these browsers - such as: bookmarks, address bar, forward/back buttons, refresh, homepage and history - can be traced back to Mosaic and Netscape Navigator.