The Evolution of Modern Web Browsers

Most people use a web browser multiple times in a day. Whether on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop, the web browser is a crucial tool to accessing the internet.

In some ways, web browsers perform the same functions they always did. But there are some changes in browsers that make them look and feel drastically different to a decade ago.

Web Browser Evolution

The concept of a web browser existed from the beginning of the 1990s, as soon as the internet emerged. The first two web browsers to make a significant impact were Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer.

These two browsers dominated the market. Netscape was seen as the top browser for some time, but Internet Explorer eventually took over.

And it was the result of some shady work by Bill Gates and Microsoft. When they released a new version of their Windows operating system, Internet Explorer was integrated into the OS. It was the default option for the user.


Since browsers were quite basic in those days, most people had no reason to go beyond the default web browser. Internet Explorer dominated Netscape and emerged as the top dog.

Firefox and Chrome Emerge

Internet Explorer did not have complete dominance for long. By 2004, Firefox was out and emerged as a serious alternative. It did take a few years for it to gain mainstream traction, but it soon became a favorite among tech enthusiasts who wanted an open source browser experience.

By 2008, Google Chrome had also emerged onto the web browser market. But it had a miniscule share. Internet Explorer was still the top dog, with 62 percent of the market share. Firefox had established around 30 percent of the market, which is hugely impressive considering it was an open source project.

Chrome Explodes Onto the Scene

It took a few years for Google Chrome to position itself as the number one option. Some would argue it coincided with the emergence of Google as the top search engine.

While it was possible to add toolbars to other browsers for native Google searching, it was a lot simpler on Chrome. Type in the words and the browser would take the user to the Google results page instantly.

By 2012, Chrome had caught up to Internet Explorer and Firefox. Five years later, it has the market share that Internet Explorer enjoyed in 2008!

Running Applications in Browsers

Another major change for web browsers occurred with the emergence and increased popularity of web apps. For instance, Google Chrome gives users access to programs such as Docs, Sheets and Slides, which are alternatives to Word, PowerPoint and Excel from Microsoft.

But unlike the Microsoft programs at the time, these were capable of running natively through a web browser. It meant no installation was required on the computer they were being used on.

Now apps are commonplace on web browsers, with users able to process documents, edit PDFs, and even work with photos and videos!

It is incredible to see how different web browsers took over and then lost their market share – while web browsers, in general, became even more powerful.