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Browser vs. search engine is a mystery to most

July 7, 2009

As I was helping someone while working the reference desk today, I was reminded of a video I saw last week. It’s about how most people don’t know the difference between a browser and a search engine.

The patron I was helping was trying to access his phone bill online. To get to it, he was going to Google and trying to type the URL into the search box.

I showed him how to type the URL into the address field, and he arrived at his destination, but this made me wonder what happens if someone types a URL (without the http:// prefix) into the search box.

browser vs search

Indeed, its prediction tool works to help you find what you want.  So now I’m really at a loss as to why the patron couldn’t find what he was looking for.  But it’s still interesting that people still don’t know how to use a browser.  :-\ I’m sure the folks at Google figured this out a long time ago!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. neilmac permalink
    November 9, 2009 5:03 pm

    So. could you please fill me in – what is the difference between a browser and a search engine?
    I need to know for a translation work in progress, since I thought they were 2 words for the same thing and don’t want to put my foot in it!
    TIA 🙂

    • November 10, 2009 12:02 pm

      A browser is an application that resides on the hard drive of your computer that allows you to see the Internet. Through your browser, you see web sites like Google, CNN,, etc.

      A search engine is a web site that helps you find things on the Internet. While the purpose of is to sell books and other stuff, the purpose of a search engine is to help you find other web sites.

      What more and more people don’t realize is that they don’t usually need to use Google or other search engines to find a website. Usually, you can just go to the address bar at the top of the browser, and type in www, the the website’s name, then .com, and hit the enter key, for example, You’ll usually end up where you want to be!

  2. neilmac permalink
    November 9, 2009 5:06 pm

    PS:) These 2 definitions sounded pretty samey to me:
    Browser: A web browser is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web.

    Search engine: A computer program that retrieves documents or files or data from a database or from a computer network (especially from the internet)

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