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bertmavisRecently, I got into an e-mail exchange with someone nearly as old as me—I’ll call her Beamer—in which it turned out that Beamer did not understand the difference between a web browser and a search engine.  In fact, when asked “What web browser do you use?” Beamer replied, “Don’t know,” and, apparently, Beamer’s daughter replied “Google!”  Here’s a simple explanation but first let us consider the Book of Knowledge.

HorizontalRuleThere exists a vast collection of Essays on many different topics written by many different people.  These Essays have been assembled into a collection called the Book Of Knowledge, more usually just called the Book.  The creators of the Book decided it would be useless if you could not find a particular Essay within the Book and so they gave each Essay a unique identity called the Start Page Number.   If you knew the Start Page Number you could go directly to the Essay you were looking for and start looking at the content.  To do this, you would first need to open the Book, of course, and then start flipping through the Essays until you reached the Essay you were looking for.  This process is called Book Open and Flip-Through and uses a tool that is called … wait for it … a Book Opener and Flip-Througher!

But there’s a problem with Book Open and Flip-Through.  What if you don’t know the Start Page Number?  How would you find it?  Flip through every Essay starting at the beginning of the Book until you finally discover what you’re looking for?  This could take a very long time and may not produce a result if the topic has not been mentioned within the multitude of Essays that make up the Book.  This problem stimulated a clever group of people in a company named Clever Clogs.  They decided that what the Book needed was an index containing the Essay titles and all the major topics mentioned within each Essay along with the corresponding Start Page Numbers.  Having created the Book index, Clever Clogs first added the index to the Book as yet another Essay and then offered all users of the Book a topic hunting tool called an Index Inspector.   Clever Clogs even had a very special name for their Index Inspector: they called it Clever Clogs!  Clever, eh?  The idea was to use Book Open and Flip-Through to open the Book.  Then open Clever Clog’s own index Essay and use their Index Inspector called Clever Clogs to find the Start Page Number of the Essay you were looking for.

This was a neat idea and caused some other groups of clever people to create their own indexes and Index Inspectors with various imaginative names: Yippee-I’ve-Found-It, Bingo!, Ask-Me-Anything and so on.  In addition, yet more clever people realised that there was money to be made from basic Book Open and Flip-Through tools and they created a range of alternative Book Open and Flip-Through tools called Book Adventurer, Book Frontier, Shiny Metal, Shoot-At-The-Fox, Let’s-Go-Hunting, Silky Searcher, and so on.

And life was wonderful for those seeking knowledge within the abundance of Essays that make up the Book of Knowledge.

HorizontalRuleMakes sense, doesn’t it?  This is the standard way we structure and use a large reference book such as an encyclopaedia or a book on a technical subject.   First we open the book so that we can browse its contents.  Then we turn to the index and search for the topic we’re interested in.  If we find the topic, we turn to the correct page number and start reading.  Now let’s use the magical powers of Microsoft Word’s Find and Replace tool to change a few words here and there to see how we do this on the Web using, first, a web browser to ‘open’ the Web followed by a search engine to locate the website we’re interested in.

Hey presto, let’s wave the wand!

magic-wandThere exists a vast collection of Websites on many different topics written by many different people.  These Websites have been assembled into a collection called the World Wide Web, more usually just called the Web.  The creators of the Web decided it would be useless if you could not find a particular Website within the Web and so they gave each Website a unique identity called the Website Address.   If you knew the Website Address you could go directly to the Website you were looking for and start looking at the content.  To do this, you would first need to open the Web, of course, and then start flipping through the Websites until you reached the Website you were looking for.  This process is called Web Browsing and uses a tool that is called … wait for it … a Web Browser!

But there’s a problem with Web Browsing.  What if you don’t know the Website Address?  How would you find it?  Flip through every Website starting at the ‘beginning’ of the Web until you finally discover what you’re looking for?  This could take a very long time and may not produce a result if the topic has not been mentioned within the multitude of Websites that make up the Web.  This problem stimulated a clever group of people in a company named Google.  They decided that what the Web needed was an index containing the Website titles and all the major topics mentioned within each Website along with the corresponding Website Addresses.  Having created the Web index, Google first added the index to the Web as yet another Website and then offered all users of the Web a topic hunting tool called a Search Engine.   Google even had a very special name for their Search Engine: they called it Google!  Clever, eh?  The idea was to use the Web Browser to open the Web.  Then open Google’s own index Website and use their Search Engine called Google to find the Website Address of the Website you were looking for.

This was a neat idea and caused some other groups of clever people to create their own indexes and Search Engines with various imaginative names: Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com, and so on.  In addition, yet more clever people realised that there was money to be made from basic Web Browsing tools and they created a range of browsing  tools called Internet Explorer, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Silk, and so on.

And life was wonderful for those seeking knowledge within the abundance of Websites that make up the World Wide Web.

HorizontalRuleGeddit?

In summary:

A Web Browser is an application program (nowadays shortened to ‘app’) that is used to browse the many websites that make up the World Wide Web (the ‘Web’) and which are connected together by a complex system of networks called the Internet (short for ‘interconnected network’).   Thus, you don’t browse the Internet. You use the Internet to browse the Web.  Examples of popular browsers are: Internet Explorer, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Silk, and so on.

A Search Engine is an app that enables a search to be made for one or more websites that have been tagged with a series of key indexing terms. For example, if you were searching for my blogging website (this website), you would enter indexing terms (tags) such as Ben Bennetts, long-distance walker, ace writer, superhero … into Google’s search window.  Examples of popular search engines are: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com, and so on.

And don’t forget—you need to open a web browser before you can search for a website, just like you need to open a book before you can search for a given page or topic.

googleOne final comment.  Web browsers come with a default, usually embedded, search engine.  For example, Windows 10’s Internet Explorer includes Microsoft’s own Bing search engine.  If you prefer to use an alternative search engine such as Google, you can go into Settings and change the default to Google.  You can also set Google to be your Home Page.  If you do this, Internet Explorer will open showing the familiar Google interface, as above, thus creating the illusion that Google is your browser.  It ain’t, but I can see where the confusion can arise.

Enjoy your browsing and searching and y’all have a nice day now!

(^_^)

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